Scrum Rules: The Daily Scrum Is Time-Boxed to 15 Minutes

June 10, 2020
5 minute read

The Daily Scrum is designed to dramatically improve transparency among Scrum Team Members and their stakeholders who are interested in observing the meeting.

There is a fixed limit of 15 minutes on the duration of the meeting – 15 minutes (or less) is sufficient for each Team Member to take a turn and briefly answer each of the three questions required in the meeting. The time-box helps the Team Members to be brief, to be focused, to be on-topic and to be respectful of other Team Members’ time. If the Daily Scrum takes longer than 15 minutes, some Team Members and stakeholders will stop feeling like the meeting is worth the time investment, particularly since it is daily. Even five additional minutes for a 12 person team adds up to a person-hour of time lost every day! Losing people’s interest or respect for the meeting will decrease transparency and can hamper the team in numerous ways, including the Scrum Master’s ability to see and deal with obstacles in a timely manner.

The intended outcomes of the Daily Scrum include:

  1. Team Members gain better understanding how they might work together for the next 24 hours (not all of it being “work” time, of course). Including Development Team Members who will synchronize and coordinate their work; the Scrum Master who will note and then systematically dissolve obstacles; and everybody will gain better understanding how the team is trending toward the Sprint Goal.
  2. Artifacts such as the Sprint Backlog may be updated.
  3. The team may collectively become aware of any obstacles which put their Sprint Goal at risk.

Conducting the Daily Scrum effectively requires practice. Being that the event occurs daily, it is essential that the team get good at using the time-box for its intended purpose – and nothing more. For example, Team Members might be tempted to discuss all the work underway and share the tasks they are “doing” rather than focus on activities which resulted in direct progress toward their Sprint Goal (e.g. tasks that have gotten “done”). As well, Team Members might be tempted to use the event for problem-solving or planning – thus enter conversation rather than turn-taking. Team Members might develop a habit of “reporting” their progress to a specific person rather than simply making transparent their progress and obstacles. Or stakeholders might be tempted to interject or ask questions. All of those pitfalls erode the effectiveness of the Daily Scrum and can quickly lead to boring/disengaging, micro-managed, or long-winded meetings.

The Scrum Master must help the team follow the time-boxes. There are several ways that the Scrum Master can do this.

  1. The Scrum Master must be hyper-aware of time and have facilitation skills to ensure the time-box is followed. The Scrum Master should use a countdown timer during the meetings and regularly remind the meeting participants of the amount of time remaining for the meeting.
  2. The Scrum Master must prepare for these meetings by reminding everyone about the meeting before it starts, by ensuring that all the necessary materials are ready (e.g. note cards for a retrospective technique), and by reminding participants of the intended purpose of each event.
  3. For the Daily Scrum, in particular, the Scrum Master needs to ensure that the team’s Sprint Backlog is visible and editable by all Team Members. A physical task wall using note cards and stickies is strongly recommended – but if the team has chosen a digital tool then a Scrum Master should evaluate the tool with consideration for these 12 essential features.
  4. The Scrum Master should strongly discourage late arrivals to these meetings. Late arrivals often result in re-hashing topics which have already been covered.
  5. The Daily Scrum should occur physically in the team’s space so that all tools, materials, documents, and charts are near at hand. This proximity and convenience of information will ensure that the meeting flows smoothly and with minimal interruption.
  6. And the Scrum Master may have to use aggressive facilitation with individuals who cause meetings to go past their time limit. Individuals who habitually arrive late, dominate discussion, or insist on arguing points that the rest of the team has moved past should be advised in no uncertain terms that such behavior is damaging the team’s ability to work effectively.

The Daily Scrum is a 15-minute time-boxed event… — The Scrum Guide

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Bruce Power
Capital One
Equitable Life of Canada
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