Why is my Daily Scrum taking more than 15 minutes?

15 minutes for a Daily Scrum doesn’t seem like a lot of time for some people, and we struggle to understand why that is.

It seems to boil itself down to a couple of common problems. We’ll explain in this video blog.

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Robb: Greg, 15 minutes for a Daily Scrum really doesn’t seem like a lot of time for some people, and I struggle to understand why that is. But it seems to boil itself down to a couple of common problems. Like why is our Daily Scrum taking more than 15 minutes? One of them seems to be around this idea of dividing and conquering. In Sprint Planning everybody takes a different thing and we all run in our own separate directions. And we come to the Daily Scrum and we feel like we have to report our status to the Scrum Master. And so everyone goes around the room answering the 3 questions. And it takes 25 minutes. Have you ever seen that?

Greg: Yes, and not only does it seem to be the three questions that just go on and on forever, but then you have people jumping on saying, ‘Oh! I know how to solve that!’ Because you’ve got a bunch of developers who want to talk about the status updates like I need to help you with that. So everyone’s eager to pitch in their two cents as to solutions along the way. Just bogs it down even more.

Robb: Yes, and to me, the root of all evil on this one is not having a good Sprint Goal. I know I always go back to Sprint Goals. I don’t know why I love Sprint Goals so much.

Greg: It’s a broken record, but a good one.

Robb: A good broken record. When you don’t have a Sprint Goal, we all come into this meeting, and we’re again dividing and conquering. We don’t have any reason to work together, and we don’t have a reason to measure our progress collectively.

Greg: It’s true. I think about this too. With the Sprint Goal and having Product Backlog items that may or may not align with Sprint Goals, because once in a while that does happen when you’re building out your Sprint plan. That could be really distracting to be talking about something that’s, you know, focused towards where we’re going as a product and something else that’s heavy on the, say, technical debt spectrum, and then you got all this context switching that even happens during a Daily Scrum. So not only is it like everyone in their own silo, dividing and conquering, but now you have split context. I’ve seen that come up as well.

Robb: Another thing is when people don’t use visualizations in that event when they’re not in a Daily Scrum looking at common practices that are burned down charts or some sort of a visualization of the work flowing through. Kanban boards, some people call them Scrum boards, but ultimately some sort of like “to do”, “doing”, “done”. Some sort of a flow that shows work going through the Sprint when they don’t have the visualizations it can sometimes take longer because we have to talk about everything.

Greg: Visuals are nice. Even as an observer, I like knowing what’s going on and a visualization can be a quick tip. So other things visualizations can do is keep you from having to answer 20 questions after Daily Scrum because you didn’t demonstrate anything and you got people who are curious about, “how’s it going?” And you have to answer that question five, six different times. If I can see it, I kind of know how it’s going.

Robb: Definitely. Designing a solution sometimes hijack this event as well. So you can design at any time. After the meeting we can still talk to those that are relevant to the design discussion, but if Johnny and Susie in the middle of a meeting with eight people are off trying to design some perfect solution while the six of us are waiting around, like, (Looking at invisible watch) ‘What are they doing? I need a donut.’

Greg: So the other thing I think is funny is a lot of people think that this 15 minute Daily Scrum is the only time you can talk throughout the entire day about the plan for the day. And to me that just blows my mind. This is to get a kickstart with the best idea of how the day might play out. If we’re not checking in a little before lunch, after lunch, and before the end of the day to see where we’re at. I feel like that’s just kind of common sense. This is to kickstart the day with a good idea of what the plan might be. It’s not a permanent plan for the day. Likely it will change cuz we’re going to learn stuff throughout the day. So 15 minutes doesn’t need to be 15 minutes to anchor a 100% guarantee plan for the day. It just needs to get you kick started. Is that fair?

Robb: Just enough to get going until the next Daily Scrum. Yeah. So to sum it up, I suppose: dividing and conquering, watch out for that; focus on a Sprint Goal and that’s going to shorten up those Daily Scrums; use those visualizations and make sure that we see progress and so we don’t have to ask if there are impediments we can see impediments; and be careful about design discussions especially if you got people that aren’t relevant to that discussion in the meeting have those after this Daily Scrum. You know, call it the after party and hold the room for an hour and use the last half an hour for all your design discussions.

Greg: Bonus donut!

Robb: Cool! Well I guess that wraps that one up.

Robert Pieper

Robert Pieper has been a licensed Scrum.org Professional Scrum Trainer since 2014 and National Public Speaker since 2013. Robb holds an MBA from Marquette University and an Electrical Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Robb has 15 years of professional software development experience with a passion for making Scrum work delivering real products and services
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