Good ideas in a Daily Scrum

Someone asked on LinkedIn the other day how to handle technical discussions in a Daily Scrum meeting that is ending early: do you use the free time, or defer the discussion for after the meeting?

To me, that’s an easy call. You do not have time for technical discussions in a Daily Scrum, the same way you do not have time to talk about last Sunday’s football game in traffic court. It’s not a matter of time, it’s a matter of focus and appropriateness.

Think it through

You’re the Scrum Master, you’ve got maybe four developers, a couple of dedicated testers, and perhaps a manager or two in the room. A developer starts talking about implementing a new interface or where to optimize the database layer. The testers aren’t directly interested, the managers don’t understand what the optimization is for, and you as Scrum Master are simply not particularly affected by the outcome.

This kind of conversation violates the chicken/pig rule: You’ve got people in the meeting who may be “involved” but they are not committed to dealing with the solution. They should not be participants in that meeting and yet they’re stuck there, because it’s the Daily Scrum.

You’ve essentially turned pigs into chickens!

For those just tuning in

The Daily Scrum, also known as “the standup,” is a brief meeting at the beginning of the work day at which every team member is asked the following Three Questions:

  1. What did you get done yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. What obstacles, if any, do you have with #2?

It’s called a “standup” because you should be able to get through this all fast enough for people to not need seating. Since a good Scrum team is normally not more than about nine people, a Daily Scrum shouldn’t last more than fifteen minutes, maybe half an hour if the Three Questions if the obstacles are more complicated than usual.

What’s a Chicken?

The term comes from the joke about a meal of ham and eggs: “The chicken is involved but the pig is committed!” A “pig” is in the meeting because he’s committed to the project and his daily tasks are on the agenda. A “chicken” is in the meeting because she’s involved in the outcome of the project, but it’s not her day-to-day job.

There’s a Scrum rule that chickens don’t talk. They can listen and observe, but it’s not their meeting.

Thus, sidetalk

Carrying on a technical conversation in a Daily Scrum, even if you think you have time, is that you don’t really have time. Any pig not personally “committed” to that technical issue loses his pigginess.

So no

The Daily Scrum is not the time for “good ideas,” no matter how useful those ideas turn out to be. By definition, there is no such thing as “extra” time in a Daily Scrum. As brief as it is, the standup is a mild imposition on team members; it’s not entitled to more time than strictly required. If you have time for problem-solving in a particular day’s Scrum, then it’s already over!

What do you think? Have you had standups finish early, run late, or get sidetracked? Let it all hang out in the comments.