How to run an awesome Scrum meeting

In agile planning, scrum meetings mark the phases of a particular project. There are a few types, but the thread holding them together is the daily stand-up. Where do you start with setting up daily stand-ups? What should they look like to maximize collaboration of team members and value for the project? I answered these questions and more to equip new developers and veterans alike for successful scrum meetings. From contextualizing the stand-up in the greater project to an appropriate time limit, find useful advice to make your daily stand-ups successful.

What is a scrum meeting?

A ‘scrum meeting’ applies to different types of meetings agile teams old. There are typically four types of agile scrum meetings: sprint planning meeting, daily stand-up, sprint review, and sprint retrospective. The sprint planning meeting kicks off the cycle by determining objectives for a sprint while daily stand-ups take place throughout a sprint. At the end, a sprint review meeting presents product results to stakeholders. After the sprint review, the team meets for the sprint retrospective. Here they dive into how they worked together throughout the sprint and determine changes to improve collaboration in the future.

In a sprint planning meeting, the team may look at the sprint backlog – a list of work to be completed to meet goals for the sprint. The list is compiled based on the product backlog and focuses on tasks tied to the current sprint rather than the entire product backlog. While the entire team collaborates to build the list, the tasks should align with the sprint goal set by the product manager. The daily update or daily scrum stand up looks at the tasks at hand for yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The sprint review is less about presentation and more about collaboration. It involves team members presenting their progress to important stakeholders. The sprint retrospective looks back and offers space to reflect on what went well and what could be better in the next sprint.

A daily scrum meeting sits in the middle of planning and retrospectives. It consists typically of a brief daily gathering of team members, including the scrum master, developers, and the product owner. The purpose of the meeting is to offer status updates on progress while identifying potential roadblocks. The scrum master typically asks three questions to each meeting participant to take the pulse of the sprint progress.

You can visualize this meeting structure as traveling by car on a highway. The end destination – or project goal – is miles ahead. To relay your position and estimated arrival time more succinctly to the friend waiting at the destination, you provide info on your surroundings. You just passed a specific mile marker, you know there is one exit to take for your destination, and you see brake lights ahead indicating a slowdown that could impact your journey. Each piece of info – what happened, what’s next, and potential obstacles – forms a complete understanding for the person (or people) waiting at the destination. Without one, interested parties can start to lose understanding of the progress.

Setting up for success

Aside from holding sprint planning meetings to build out the timeline, there are a few actions you can take to prepare for a daily scrum meeting.

The meeting is typically led by a scrum master, if there is one, and attended by members of the development team. Also known as a daily stand-up because some teams nix the chairs to help keep it brief. Be mindful of any ‘no meeting day’ policies and stick to one time to hold them – typically each morning.

How to run a great daily scrum meeting

If you’re just starting out with daily stand-up meetings or even starting the practice with a new team for a new project, it’s helpful to set expectations at the first meeting.

Some expectations or norms to set could include:

  • Passing a figurative – or literal – baton to designate who is presenting. You can organize speakers in alphabetical order by name, present round robin style, or choose a physical token to pass.
  • Allowing one team member to speak at a time
  • Arriving on-time
  • Setting a timer, typically for 15 minutes, to designate the start and end of the meeting
  • Deciding a policy for phones, laptops, or other electronics
  • Choosing ‘stand up’ or ‘sit down’ policy

The scrum master is responsible for collecting the expectations and making sure team members – and any daily scrum meeting observers – understand them. Regardless of your team’s list of expectations, make sure everyone’s update answers these three questions:

  1. What did you accomplish yesterday?
  2. What’s on the calendar for you to accomplish today?
  3. Are there any obstacles in your way?

The scrum master can build a visual of the expectations and answers to the three questions, often called a scrum board. Team members can contribute to the visual by updating tasks in the stand-up. Whether analog or digital, the visual should be easily accessible by the entire team and have its own place in the meeting. A remote scrum team may rely on screen sharing a digital scrum board while in-person teams can use a conference room or team area whiteboard to record updates.

The most basic scrum board has three columns with tasks underneath: ‘to be done,’ ‘in progress,’ and ‘done.’ For a physical board, large sticky notes can function as tasks to be moved throughout the columns.

Table any discussion outside of these answers. Revisit any discussion in other scrum meetings on planning, reviews, and retrospectives. Meeting observers should remain just that and avoid weighing in. Extraneous input and discussion often lead to larger questions unanswerable in the allotted time and may affect more than daily tasks. Obstacles are inevitable, especially establishing appropriate focus time to complete tasks. Find solutions to roadblocks – like Clockwise for focus time – in other scrum meetings. This keeps stand-ups brief and focused on status updates.

The daily stand-up is one type of meeting in the lifecycle of a project. It takes the pulse on a project to help the team understand exactly where it stands. This includes any observers joining the meeting. Setting up successful stand-ups starts with proper planning and setting expectations. From there, the routine sets in and team members gain a sense of mission related to the sprint goal that can result in a better project experience for all involved.

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