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One Way To Reboot Your Daily Scrum

Sticky notes on wood representing a stylized Sprint backlog.jpegThe Daily Scrum is not just an Event, it’s an opportunity. One that can be used by Scrum Teams to replan, refocus, and align on what matters most - the priority work, Sprint Goal, and removal of what stands in their way.

When done well, your Daily Scrum can be the most important 15-minutes (or less) of the workday. 

However, if your team loses sight of the Daily Scrum’s purpose, it can become 15-minutes (or more) of lost time. “The Daily Scrum can often be treated as a gussied up version of a status report,” says Scrum Inc. Consultant Scott Downey, “and that is not the point”. 

Downey has earned a reputation for quickly booting up, or rebooting Scrum Teams. His ability to turn underperformance into high-productivity has led some to call him the ‘General Patton of Scrum’. 

Seizing the opportunity at each Daily Scrum is a key part of his approach.

One Question, One Priority

There is just one question that matters at a Scott Downey facilitated Daily Scrum, “How do we get the highest priority item on our backlog done today?” 

Why? Because that’s all that matters at any given moment. 

The rest of the Sprint Backlog is important, but the priority is placed on the most valuable work the Scrum Team can drive to done in any given Sprint. If it is not completed, but lower priority items are, at best the Sprint could be considered a partial success. 

Lower priority items are discussed, but only if the timebox allows. 

There’s another reason Downey cites for focusing on just one question, “I was looking to create social pressure on people who were perusing the backlog for ‘my kind of work.’ And they're working on priority eight, meanwhile, they could be helping on priority one.”

And it worked. “The focus was no longer on what one person did. The focus became what we achieved on priority #1.” 

Not only does the use of a single question keep Scrum Teams aligned and focused on the priority item in the Sprint, it also leads to more swarming and increases process efficiency - two common characteristics of highly-productive Scrum Teams.

Plan, Then Replan As Needed 

Here’s how the 2020 Scrum Guide describes the Daily Scrum: 

The purpose of the Daily Scrum is to inspect progress toward the Sprint Goal and adapt the Sprint Backlog as necessary, adjusting the upcoming planned work.

Note that two of the three clauses in that sentence are about replanning the Sprint. 

So, when was the last time your Scrum Team did just that? Do you even consider it an option at your Daily Scrum?

Fully capitalizing on the opportunity each Daily Scrum presents may take a shift in mindset, or in Downey’s case, changing the name of the Event. “I haven’t always called it the Daily Scrum,” he freely admits, “sometimes I call it the replanning session.”

Same Event. Same timebox. But the new name can convey a greater purpose. 

When bootstrapping Scrum Teams, Downey advises them to use Sprint Planning to establish their Sprint Goal and their prioritized Sprint Backlog, but then do just enough planning to get to their next Daily Scrum. At that point, he tells them, “you’re going to plan and replan just enough to get to their second Daily Scrum,” and so on. 

And these replanning sessions are lead by those who do the work. The Product Owner is there to answer questions, the Scrum Master facilitates, but team members are the driving force. Downey adds that they should talk to each other in the most efficient way possible. “I don’t care if they’re talking in binary code if that’s the most effective way for them to communicate.” 

Like Scrum itself, Downey’s approach to a great Daily Scrum is simple to understand but difficult to master. With practice, both can revolutionize the way you work.

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