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Why a scrum master should not facilitate the daily scrum

The problem that I frequently see crop up is that people have a tendency to treat the Daily Stand-up as simply individual reporting. “I did this . . . I’ll do that”—then on to the next person. The more optimum approach is closer to a football huddle.

Photo Credit: Klean Denmark, CC BY-SA 2.0

The daily stand-up meeting (also known as a “daily scrum”, a “daily huddle” etc.) is simply: the entire team meets every day, at the same time for quick just-in-time planning that gets them closer to the sprint goal.

I am an advocate of coaching the agile team to facilitate the daily scrum rather than facilitating it.  Early into joining a team, I introduce them to Round Robin or Pass the token/barton or walk the board. They experiment and decide what works best for them as a team. A Scrum Master should not call on the next person at the daily scrum rather, should give total attention to what the team says.  Moreso, as a facilitator, you don’t call out people. This situation takes me back to my “Bingo caller” job.

Here is the story. Some years ago, I used to volunteer at a Day Center for the Elderly in the UK and engaged them in activities. One of my favourites and I believe theirs is the Bingo Game. I was the Bingo caller, though I won’t say I was good at calling out the numbers because I often forget the nickname that goes along with each number. If you are familiar with the bingo game, you know what I am talking about. My favourite was 1 and 6, 16, Sweet 16-, never -been- kissed!

When playing the game, your eyes are on the card and from time to time, you look at the Bingo caller but never the people in the room with you. The participants are waiting for numbers to be called and notice nothing else going on around them. So, when a scrum master makes it their responsibility to always call out names at the Daily scrum, rather than coaching their teams on how to facilitate the meeting, they turn to a bingo caller!  You have the team waiting for their name to be called and their attention is on the Scrum Master rather than their team member who is speaking.

When a scrum master facilitates the daily scrum, here is what happens:

  1. The team reports to the scrum master- knowingly or unknowingly

  2. You interrupt the person speaking- breaking the chain of thought when you call out the next person.

  3. You are prone to asking to follow- up questions which set examples for others to follow

  4. You come across as directing the team- telling them when to speak or not

  5. It takes away observing the team dynamics- what you should notice 

  6. You are not empowering your team to become self-managed (see Scrum Guide)

A scrum master should not feel the need to delegate ‘facilitating the daily scrum’ when not available, for there are 2 instances when a scrum master should not facilitate:

  1. When the team is able and willing to facilitate the meeting i. e growing to self-manage

  2. When there is a conflict situation where the Scrum Master can’t remain neutral

Here are a few suggestions of what you could do during the daily scrum meeting

  1. Spend your time fully listening to your team member speak rather than thinking of the next person to call or who you haven’t

  2. Hold yourself from asking follow-up questions until they finish the daily scrum.

  3. Note how many times that your team member hasn’t met their commitment /forecast

  4. Motivate/acknowledge the team. Tip: After the last person has spoken, the team may not immediately realize that the meeting is over. Signal the end of the stand-up with a throwaway phrase or some other action- end the meeting on a high note. A team I worked with clapped to show the end of the daily scrum.

What is your opinion on facilitating the daily scrum? Share your experience here, I love to read from you.

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