Daily Scrum in large teams (15+)

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Daily Scrum is a vital meeting in Scrum methodology. It helps to organize work and synchronize activities of the team for next 24 hours. It also brings major value in teams which are not strictly following Scrum ideals or who are not using Agile practices. While Scrum teams are advised to be composed of 3 to 9 people, you might want to use the Daily Scrum meeting in a team as big as 15, or even more. You are probably wondering right now: will it work? The answer is of course: it depends. While it is a challenge to conduct such meetings successfully it is possible in most cases.

With a team of such size timeboxing the meeting becomes even more important. Not only is the tendency to make meetings longer quite strong but the costs of it are also significant. If we were to assume that an average meeting would take 20 minutes of developer time, then 5 hours are consumed everyday (in case of a 15 person team). A good practice is to timebox each person separately. You can set the limit to 1 minute or 45 seconds and use a stopper or simple smartphone app to automatically ring every time someone reaches the limit. Then the next person talks or in exceptional cases the topic is shortly followed.

As there is not much time to talk it is vital that every person focus so as to not skip any of the three essential points of a Daily Scrum:

  • what I did yesterday,
  • what I will do today,
  • impediments of which I am unable to overcome alone.

Skipping any of them significantly lowers the value of the talk. To do to it properly team members should prepare a little bit before the meeting. 2 minutes is usually enough to think about all three points and gather thoughts on how to present them. If some team members still have problem with it they should write those points down upfront.

To increase the value of the meeting participants should focus on the functional level of what they have done and what they plan to do. While sometimes it is good to mention some technical tricky details, other team members usually have no idea what you were working on exactly during the previous day. Thus presenting the overall picture and possible impact is advised. While everyone has less than a minute to talk it is very important to avoid non meaningful sentences like “I am still doing the same” or, my favourite one, “I had a problem related to the task which I have been working on since two days ago. Fortunately, I was able to solve it. Now I have two other small problems but I should be able to deal with them today”. Such sentence waste the time of almost everyone in the team except a few people who are aware of task details. Team members should remember that the Daily Scrum is held for synchronization and self organization purposes – it is not about proving that they were working hard the previous day.

With such a big audience, it is critical to make everyone engaged. People have a tendency to focus on themselves, talk their part and turn off their brains. There are several ways to maintain focus during the meeting:

  • introduce a token – the main rule is that only the person holding the token is able to speak. Token can be passed randomly or according to some rules, like for example: it is not allowed to pass the token to a person next to you and every third person in the circle. Moreover, demand that the team actively counteract against a deadlock,
  • introduce a fun factor – you can use a set of funny tokens. Check for example this set of plush vegetables from IKEA. You can also throw the token in funny ways, sometimes even simultaneously targeting several people. You can also introduce some commentary jokes comparing how the team is able to catch the flying token and is able to handle specific day issues. Encourage the whole team to do the above things – people love to make others smile and laugh,
  • be a hustler – keep the meeting fast paced. Do not forget that you have to do it in a sincere and hearty manner – any signs of nagging will have a really bad effect. On the other hand, do not be afraid to sincerely push forward team members who are reducing the pace.

Do not forget to analyze what is going wrong and act accordingly. Remember or note which team members have the biggest problem with providing input and as a consequence value for the whole team and coach them separately. Usually a few quarter of an hour sessions can improve their Daily Scrum performance drastically. Let them know what they are doing right and what they can improve upon. Show them how other team members might perceive them and what they can do to change it. If several people have quite similar problems (or even the whole team) point them out in a sincere manner before one of the meetings. I personally find it very effective to remind the whole team of all the Daily Scrum principles once a month.

A Daily Scrum meeting is very helpful not only in Scrum teams. Applied correctly, it can bring tremendous value. It will not only synchronize and keep all participants on the same page but also build common focus on the overall goals of the team. The positive impact on motivation is clearly visible. Moreover, as everyone knows what work is currently ongoing and what the short term plans are a lot of great ideas and improvement emerges.

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