How do you approach stand-ups with distributed teams?
Welcome to part 29 in our scrum master interview questions series where John McFadyen answers common questions asked of scrum masters in interviews and client engagements.
The daily scrum or stand-up serves a simple purpose. It is designed to bring the developers together and allows them to plan, to coordinate, and to bring up any problems or impediments that may prevent them from achieving their sprint goal.
In essence, to ensure that they are all working on the most valuable work, and are able to quickly and easily pivot in the event that something disrupts the flow of work.
Your role as a scrum master or agile coach.
In the beginning, the team may need your help.
You bring the team together, you teach them the purpose of the daily scrum, and show them how to run a successful meeting.
You could facilitate, initially, but your goal is to get the team to lead the daily scrum themselves as soon as possible. From there, you may guide and coach as necessary, but this stuff isn’t hard and the team will figure out what to do and how to do it effectively relatively quickly.
So, as a scrum master, you aren’t an essential component of the daily scrum, nor should you aim to be.
What changes in a distributed or online environment?
Truthfully, not a lot changes at all.
Sure, it’s a new medium and there may be a few meetings where the team find their feet, but it is essentially the same as a daily stand-up in person.
The team lead the meeting by talking about what is planned for the next 24 hours, what has been achieved, and what may stand in the way of progress. What may need an assist from the scrum master or someone outside of the team to progress.
Sure, there are always difficulties associated with technology and remote work.
- Do we put cameras on?
- Do we need a certain standard of audio and video quality?
- Does everyone have the necessary hardware to facilitate the daily scrum?
- Does everyone have a quiet place at home, free of disruptions, for the daily scrum?
And so forth.
But these are relatively easy to sort out.
It’s simply a matter of creating an agreement on how it will work, what is necessary, and that everyone agrees to carve out 15 minutes a day, in a quiet place, to participate in the daily scrum.
Again, you work with talented professionals, and you could iron these elements out in a single meeting. As a scrum master, you could take the list of hardware or software requirements to the correct person in procurement and get that sorted out for the team in no time at all.
The team will follow the same format, regardless of medium, and you will often hear them talk around the three most popular topics.
- What I am working on over the next 24 hours.
- What I intend to work on next to advance the sprint goal.
- What is blocking me from achieving that.
Simple. Effective. Proven.
Engagement in the daily scrum.
Sometimes, in a remote working scenario where a daily scrum is presented via digital mediums, it can be deathly quiet.
Nobody wants to kick off the meeting and there can be different etiquette based on different cultures in different regions. That’s fine, it will take a few daily scrum’s to sort that out, and people will look to scrum values and principles to guide their participation.
They key is engagement.
You want people to contribute and you want everyone to leave the meeting knowing that they have been heard, that their concerns or impediments have been noted, and that they will receive the help they need.
As a scrum master, you may call a separate meeting to address the lack of engagement and discover what is preventing people from contributing. You may find that it’s a teaching moment, followed by a coaching moment, and soon everyone is back on track and contributing to the daily scrum.
You may address some cultural differences, and again, simply address those and coach people as necessary to overcome those barriers in pursuit of agile values and principles being lived and breathed in the scrum team.
It won’t take too long to sort this out and get the team back on track, regardless of medium.
I work with teams to understand what works best for them, what produces the best results and outcomes for the team, and what format or delivery method brings out the best of everyone.
We don’t have to do things a certain way or follow the dogma of daily scrums, we simply need to identify what produces the best results for our team and allow them to work with that.
Technology to support the daily scrum.
At Agile Centre, we include Slack in our daily scrum because it allows certain people to quickly and easily document what they have planned, what stands in the way, and they like the paper trail which documents their progress and challenges.
Some people work in different geographical regions and can’t make the morning daily scrum, and so they simply update the team via slack and are able to ping people who could help them resolve a problem or address a potential impediment.
We achieve the purpose of the daily scrum and we’ve got some documentation to guide others who are not part of the daily scrum. If others see an opportunity to contribute value or assist with an impediment, they simply let us know via slack and we are good to go.
Some teams choose email, whilst others prefer a digital tool or software to achieve the same result.
Whatever works best for your team, in your unique application, is a great outcome.
About John McFadyen
If you are interested in becoming an agile coach and value mentored, coach-driven skills development in your journey to mastery, visit our Growing Scrum Masters website.
For more information on John McFadyen, connect with John on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnmcfadyen/.
If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master and want to achieve internationally recognised and certified accreditation as a scrum master, visit our Certified Scrum Master (CSM) course page.
If you are already a scrum master and want to upskill to a more advanced level of knowledge and agile coaching capability, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM) course page.
If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to validate and certify your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master (CSP-SM) course page.
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