Bottom line: asking the right Daily Scrum questions is crucial to ensuring this event is valuable. The traditional model follows three conventional questions: yesterday’s work, today’s plans, and impediments. This pattern has found global recognition among practitioners of Scrum and general agile delivery techniques, but it could be a barrier to getting the most value out of the Daily Scrum.
The Wrong Daily Scrum Questions
Earlier versions of the Scrum Guide suggested the following three questions as an example of how a Daily Scrum may be facilitated:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What are you going to do today?
- Are there any impediments in your path?
While these questions were intended to be one possible example of a Daily Scrum structure, many teams took them and ran with them as a mandatory, and often mindless, ceremony. That’s one of the reasons why they were removed from the most recent revision of the Scrum Guide.
These questions and the Daily Scrum at large aim to ensure Sprint Goals are met consistently and risks are mitigated sooner. With that said, asking the same thing in every Daily Scrum can quickly become redundant and robotic. The event can devolve into a mindless ritual of people justifying their existence by giving a tell-all of their work the day before or simply responding with “no blocks” to avoid diving into today and tomorrow.
The Right Daily Scrum Questions to Ask
Think of the three Daily Scrum questions mentioned above as a starter pack. They are not bad in themselves, but you should go beyond them. The questions below can form a guiding framework for the best Daily Scrum questions.
Are we on track to achieve our Sprint Goal?
At times, speaking of yesterday’s effort and today’s work is not enough to show the Scrum Team where they are in achieving the Sprint Goal. This is a more direct question. Using a visualization tool such as a Sprint Burndown Chart can be helpful here.
Also, consider if there is a way to accomplish the Sprint Goal with less work. Get away from just doing all the things as “requirements” instead of being goal-focused.
What’s standing in the way of our goal?
This is a refined way of asking the team members about obstacles and hindrances. However, it takes the focus off the individual and focuses on the group as a unit. That way, the challenge of one member becomes the burden of the whole team. As a result, members will be more willing to help whenever there is a weak link.
Moreover, this question helps the team adapt by making changes to undesirable variances realized along the way.
Where could I use help?
It is common for some team members to unknowingly pick up a heavier workload than the rest. Many Developers won’t mention this as an obstacle when asked about impediments due to the fear of being considered lazy. Silence may also come from a feeling that once a team member volunteers for work they now own it and must see it to completion. In Scrum, the Developers always own the work collectively. There is no individual ownership of work by any Developer on that team.
Switching the question to “Where could I use help?” gives the team more confidence to highlight areas where they would need help. The earlier the team addresses such a challenge, the better the team’s performance in terms of value delivery and risk mitigation. This question can also bring to the surface opportunities to collaborate, share knowledge, and grow each other’s skills.
If I had a million dollars, what blocker would I remove first?
Some blockers are due to a limitation on resources. Developers may be sensitive to discussing such obstacles, especially if the Product Owner or the boss is around. Another reason this can happen is when Developers feel like all their options are limited and out of their control.
The aim of this powerful question is to break the self-limiting structures in their mind to open a world of possibilities without normal restrictions. While it’s unlikely your boss would ever give you a million dollars so easily if they did, what could you do with it? You might just find there’s an option you discover that is doable without a million dollars.
Another powerful question might be, “If I had 10,000 extra minutes to spare, what blocker would I address?” Again, getting back to removing the limits is normally considered when problem-solving just to get some ideas flowing.
Do I find this event valuable?
Remember when we said that team members should not be put in a mandatory position where they “have to” do something? Well, the Daily Scrum could feel like a compulsory ritual for some who don’t see the need for it.
This question is effective in getting to know where individual members stand. What’s more, the feedback from such a question would offer insights on how to increase the value of the Daily Scrum event. You can think of it like a miniature Sprint Retrospective, focused solely on the Daily Scrum.
A common reason for Developers to feel the Daily Scrum lacks value is because it feels like a way to micromanage their work, especially if project managers, senior leaders, or other managers are in attendance. The Daily Scrum is for Developers. The only reason a Scrum Master needs to attend is to show the Developers why the meeting is valuable, and how to keep it within the 15-minute timebox.
Another common reason Developers find no value in the Daily Scrum is that the team has no Sprint Goal, and a Sprint Goal is very important for a team to have a reason to work together.
Is there anything I’m holding back from saying?
The Daily Scrum is a chance for each Developer to lay everything on the table. Here is one perfect way to open that door if it helps with progress toward the Sprint Goal. When teams fail to meet their goals, it’s often for reasons that everyone is aware of, but no one is willing to talk about. Having the courage to speak the unspoken can be the difference between just doing a bunch of work, and achieving the Sprint Goal as a team.
Asking the Right Questions and Having the Right Answers
Remember, “Hmmm… Daily Scrum questions static, should be not.” – Yoda (Probably). Scrum allows for diversity, freedom, and flexibility–the questions you ask will (and should) naturally change depending on the circumstances.
Taking the right steps and/or realizing the flaws in your project management lifecycle can be challenging but it’s absolutely necessary for your team’s overall success. That’s where we can help.
At Responsive Advisors, our team of Scrum experts has extensive experience leading teams through Agile transformations. We’ve seen it all–mind-numbing meetings, poor guidance, and stalled workflows. More than just asking the right questions, it’s understanding the Scrum framework and how to appropriately navigate it to reap the benefits.
Whether you need an entry class to understand what you’re getting into or are in search of a guide to help your team, we’re here for it.