The Standard Three Questions of the Daily Scrum Falls Short

The more I work with agile teams one thing that consistently pops up is how teams run their daily scrum and the common practice of asking and answering the “3 standard questions”. I realize the scrum guide “suggests” using “What I did yesterday,” “What will I do today” and “Do I see any impediments” however these questions fall short of helping teams really achieve the intent of what a daily scrum is meant to accomplish. Even tacking on the “…to meet the Sprint Goal” doesn’t quite get the teams where they need to be. The intent of the daily scrum is to inspect and adapt the sprint plan. The Sprint Goal is meant to keep the team focused on delivering value and more importantly delighting customers.

The standard questions don’t foster collaborative conversation to support these intentions and tend to lead to status reporting. As I go through my agile coaching training and learn about powerful questions, I ponder what questions could be asked during the daily scrum that would actually facilitate more collaborative discussions towards inspecting and adapting the sprint plan. In addition, these questions should also get the teams talking more about delivering value and delighting customers. As I posed this question to other scrum master and coaches, some good examples emerged such as:

  • “How did you solve customer problem X yesterday?”
  • “What will you do on this story today to get closer to delighting our customers?”
  • “I have this blocker. How can we remove this barrier I’m experiencing?”
  • “What capability in this story did you deliver yesterday?”
  • “What capability for this story will you deliver today?”
  • “How will we test this capability today?”

Why are these questions better than the standard 3? They require teams to really think about what they are doing and how that relates to the end-user, value and customer satisfaction. They also require teams to think around how they can help one another and where adjustments need to be made in their sprint plan. These questions foster conversation beyond standard answers such as “I’m working on that” or “I’m testing that” or “I’m almost done with that one”.  The Daily Scrum has always been a great challenge for teams especially those that are just starting out or don’t understand the true intent of the Daily Scrum. In reality the point isn’t to get them to answer questions about their work but to talk about how they are going to DO their work together and progress work forward. Questions can help facilitate that however naturally discussing delivering value and delighting customers is really what teams and scrum masters should strive towards. How do you get teams to hold conversations rather than answer questions?

Imagine an entire team that thinks like product owners and knows how to test and build software. What would that be like? When teams think in terms of problems they are solving for their customers and end-users and supporting the overall product vision and strategy, they tend to hold different conversations about what they are doing. They focus more on the outcomes and value rather than outputs and they also understand WHY they are doing it. Challenge your team to think more about building a product rather than delivering software. See where the conversation takes them and how much more productive their conversations become.

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