Daily Scrum Meetings — Why They Suck and How We Can Reform Them

Is Scrum, as a project management methodology, broken by default, or do we just suck at holding Scrum meetings? We’re leaning towards the latter.

Scrum Isn’t Broken — You’re Just Doing It Wrong

Image source: Barnes & Noble

In all honesty, we don’t believe any project management methodology is inherently good or bad. 

It all comes down to the type of project you’re working on and the company culture. And we like Scrum, but not to the point where we’d be prepared to overlook the multitude of problems with the three-decade-old daily standup concept.

Here’s why Scrum is “broken”

The main reason why most people in agile companies have that looming feeling that Scrum is leading them down the wrong path is that we’ve deviated so much from the original concept.

At their core, daily scrum meetings — or daily standups, if you prefer — are supposed to be short, sweet, and to the point. The initial idea behind daily standups was to have a quick, 15-minute daily meeting where each team member takes a minute or two to talk about three things:

  • What they accomplished yesterday
  • What they’re working on today
  • What problems they’re facing that are impeding their progress

The reform we’re proposing — Stand-Up 2.0 — aims to streamline daily standups. One of the ways in which we believe this can be accomplished is by dropping the “what I worked on yesterday” from the meeting topic list. 

Devs often do two dozen different things a day, and it sometimes takes five minutes to simply list out all of the previous-day activities. Plus, they don’t particularly enjoy the notion of having to take the time to either write everything down or try to recall exactly what they worked on the previous day. 

Above all, it doesn’t even make much sense. Nobody wants to hear what everyone in the company worked on every single day — we have project management tools for that. The fact that they’re often not used correctly is a different issue altogether, but we’ll get to that in a second. 

The main thing we want to highlight here is that a daily standup shouldn’t be a status update. The purpose of a daily Scrum should be to share relevant information regarding the project, get an idea of how well it is progressing, and voice potential concerns or talk about issues that are hindering the project’s progress.

LinearB is building the dashboard for the daily stand-up for modern dev teams

Click here to get early access.

What Scrum meetings actually are

In reality, daily standups have evolved into something far more complex, which most people see as a necessary evil rather than a way to improve collaboration. 

The main issue is that daily Scrums have become a lot more time-consuming than most companies have initially intended them to be. Whereas, in theory, daily Scrums should take around 15 minutes, the reality is that they often take much longer, sometimes even breaching the one-hour mark. 

It’s obvious why this is incredibly frustrating for both the Scrum Master, the devs, and everyone else involved. Most of the time, you’re in the middle of something and are entirely focused on the task at hand, but the daily Scrum forces you to break concentration and spend half an hour just sitting there listening to stuff that, frankly, nobody cares about.

In larger organizations, a handful of people are always late to the daily meetings, further solidifying the feeling that everyone’s merely wasting their time. Then there’s the issue with project managers, product owners, VPs, and other higher-ups asking dumb questions about the project because they often don’t understand what it is the devs do and how the software is supposed to work. 

This leaves very little time for people to ask meaningful questions and seek help that they need. Here are a few examples of the issues devs might run into: 

  • Not being able to complete every task on time and needing to understand which task is the most important to prioritize
  • Someone else is behind schedule, which may impact what they are currently working on
  • Marketing may change the launch plan, making the devs wonder how that decision will impact what they’re working on

The issues with Scrum meetings

The main issue with daily Scrums stems from the disconnect — whether real or perceived — between the devs and the company’s higher-ups.

It’s not uncommon for product managers to show up to a meeting and ask about stuff that they care about, completely overlooking or ignoring the things devs find essential. 

While we have to acknowledge the fact that product managers don’t know anything about coding, we can’t make peace with the fact that questions like “When is this feature going to be implemented?” often do more harm than good. 

We asked 100+ dev teams what they thought about their daily stand-up.

Learn what they thought.

In these situations, devs often feel pressured, given that project managers often cannot comprehend all the coding and troubleshooting that needs to go into developing a new feature or updating an old one. 

There’s also the fact that devs often don’t feel comfortable asking for help. We don’t mean to generalize, but from our experience, devs are usually introverts who don’t enjoy speaking up in big meetings and discussing their issues with the bosses who don’t have a clue about development. 

Plus, devs like to troubleshoot — it’s a fun activity for them. While project managers and other higher-ups can’t help with the development itself, this often leads to devs not voicing their opinions and talking about other issues they might run into. The result is far from optimal, with devs spending a ton of time trying to solve an issue someone else could’ve solved for them in less than 15 minutes. 

Main Issues With Daily Scrums
Project ManagersDevs
Don’t have accurate dataDon’t understand the issues devs faceCare about the stuff they deem important, overlooking the stuff devs want to talk aboutTypically introverts who don’t like talking in big meetingsDon’t feel comfortable asking execs for helpLike troubleshootingOften feel like daily Scrums are a complete waste of time

Establishing a dialog

One possible solution for this is developing a dialog. Even if the executive team doesn’t understand the development, devs should still talk about the problem they’re facing. It is still something that’s slowing down the progress of the project, and the higher-ups should be made aware of it.

Devs don’t need to get into details — they can simply briefly describe the problem, talk about possible solutions, and give a rough estimate of when the issue will be resolved. This practice will help the project managers and other execs understand that development is fluid and that devs often run into unexpected hurdles they need to figure out how to jump over, while at the same time giving them better insight into where the project is currently at. 

Data from our survey shows us that over half of the participants aren’t happy with their current daily Standups. Most of them view daily Scrums as a necessary evil, rather than a way to improve collaboration and help overcome any issues, which should be their main purpose. 

How people feel about daily standups

The main change most people want to see is a shift of focus from a status report to talking about accomplishing goals, overcoming obstacles, and making the necessary adjustments to ensure progress on the project.

A big issue with the way daily Scrums are held is the fact that nobody wants the daily meeting to be a status update. A simple Slack message can do the job if that’s the only thing bosses expect out of daily Scrums. 

Devs also don’t like wasting time recalling and talking about what they did yesterday. They like to automate things and strongly prefer DevOps over manual updates. With the ability to automate everything through DevOps, coupled with the fact that they feel like they can’t talk about their problems, devs today are increasingly perceiving daily Scrums as pointless.

So, why do daily Scrums still exist?

As a project management methodology, Scrum first saw the light of day in 1993. That’s almost three decades that daily Scrums have been around. 

Over those 27 years, the Scrum meetings have stayed exactly the same, while the technology and automation evolved beyond our wildest imagination. With both the processes, the environments, and the products changing, why shouldn’t daily standups follow suit?

The main reason why daily Scrums are still around is that managers just love them. This stems from the fact that they are too lazy to read the dashboards, so they make the devs recite them on the meetings. 

For managers, product owners, VPs, and other higher-ups, verbal daily status updates are simply the easiest way to go about it. This puts a lot of stress on the devs since the execs give away a strong vibe of not caring in the slightest about the fact that everyone else despises these meetings.

Managers just want updates on the progress of the project and other stuff they care about, which they should easily be able to find in Jira, Asana, Trello, or whatever project management software the company is using. 

And that’s where the biggest problem stems from — the fact that managers don’t want to look at Jira and that the devs don’t want to update it!

The lack of a unified source of information

Instead of pointing fingers at the devs, the Scrums master, project managers, VPs, or anyone, really — we should: 

  1. Look at the situation and try to find the root cause of the problem
  2. Develop mechanisms that would enable us to make daily Scrums as valuable as they were intended to be

We’ve wrestled with this issue for a while now, and the conclusion we drew is that the problem stems from the fact that there is no single source of truth — there are two. 

What we mean by this is that managers and devs rely on different tools to update and monitor the progress of the project. Managers turn to Jira, Asana, Trello, Monday, etc. to see the status of the project at a glance. 

The trouble is, while the information stored within any of these project management tools is easy to read, it’s often not accurate or up-to-date. This is because devs heavily rely on Git — GitHub, GitLab, bit bucket, etc. — which are accurate, but impossible to read if you’re not a developer.

That’s why companies often find themselves in a situation where there’s a fundamental lack of communication — devs don’t update Jira, while managers can’t read Git. The two don’t integrate with each other, meaning that there are two separate sources of information, making status updates during daily Scrums a necessity. 

How do we solve this lack of automation issue? This is where LinearB steps onto the scene!

LinearB is a comprehensive software that correlates the data from the two sources and presents it in a way that makes sense for both the managers and the devs. Through easy-to-use filters, anyone can access the information that they care about instantly. You can read more about LinearB features here.

Our platform connects Jira (or other PM software) stories, Git branches, and PRs so that anyone can see the progress report on any given task without having to interrupt the devs’ work and ask dumb questions that devs would have to spend 15 minutes explaining to any non-dev.

Devs can highlight potential issues they run into and show when they are blocked, giving managers the much-needed insight and opening up the opportunity to discuss these issues during daily Scrums, using:

  1. Cycle time
  2. Work in progress (WIP)
  3. Action filters
  4. Risky branches filters
  5. Lightning PRs
  6. And other incredibly useful features

This is how LinearB can help reform daily standups. We believe that daily Scrum meetings should be far more than a simple status update — people should talk about things that matter, explain why they are blocked, and talk about how they can get help.

By unifying the two information sources, LinearB prompts devs to ask questions and request information from product owners — something along the lines of “Is this branch crucial for our clients and their happiness?”

Most organizations don’t encourage their devs to think strategically, as they do not share valuable information with them. With our approach, devs can write code that aligns with the business goals perfectly! 

Daily Scrums Reimagined
Daily Scrums TodayDaily Scrums with LinearB
Lengthy and time-consumingDiscussing irrelevant topics that don’t drive progress; a waste of timeNot considering the problems devs run intoWasting precious timeShort, sweet, and to the pointFocusing on things that really matterEncouraging discussion about the problems and solutionsEnhancing collaboration and fast-tracking project progress

The smarter, more efficient way to do daily Scrums

LinearB offers a comprehensive solution that merges PM tools with Git to create a unified platform where everyone can get the info they need in seconds. 

This eliminates the need for holding nonsensical, time-consuming meetings that provide absolutely no value to anyone other than the managers who want specific information. 

By having all of the relevant, accurate, up-to-date data all in one place, LinearB significantly reduces the time necessary to recall what everyone did yesterday. In fact, the status updates can be completely eliminated from the meeting agenda, opening up more opportunities to talk about potential issues and possible solutions.

If a manager is only interested in an update, they don’t even have to attend the meeting. All they need to do is open up LinearB and take a quick look at the dashboard. It’s not just managers — everyone included in the project can see what everyone else is working on and the status of each task. 

This helps the organization focus on the topics that truly matter, allowing them to start the meetings with blocked people. 

The revamped Scrum board

For most companies, their Scrum board is equivalent to the project management system they are using, be it Jira, Asana, Trello, or any other PM software. In the past, the Scrum board used to be an actual whiteboard, a post-it, an Excel spreadsheet, or something along those lines.

A Typical Scrum Board

Image source: Human Connection

The main intent behind a Scrum board is to provide you with a quick overview of all the tasks, so you can get an idea of where in development the project currently is. 

Boards typically show different statuses of specific tasks:

  • To do
  • In progress
  • Review
  • Merged

The main issue with a traditional Scrum board is the fact that, if it isn’t up to date, project managers constantly have to bug developers for updates, breaking their train of thought

And we all know that, due to the nature of their job, devs need several hours of uninterrupted work in order to be able to accomplish something.

LinearB understands this and knows the relevant branches in Github that tie to specific features in Jira. Rather than relying on every dev constantly reporting their progress, LinearB allows you to see the progress in branches and PRs. It automates the entire process and allows you to filter the data with ease, making the dashboard an invaluable tool you can rely on during Scrum meetings.

Thanks to its simplicity, the LinearB dashboard can be used and understood by anyone. We firmly believe that this new, revolutionary type of Scrum board will greatly enhance the communication and collaboration between execs and devs, as well as help organizations get the most out of their daily Scrums.

A Mindset Shift

An inexperienced Scrum master can completely ruin the entire development process. 

A Scrum master should be a coach of the team or, according to the Scrum Guide — “a servant-leader.” What this means is that a Scrum master must be committed to the Scrum values, while simultaneously being flexible and receptive to opportunities that would help the team improve its workflows. 

In modern agile organizations, Scrum masters have various responsibilities:

  1. Holding standups
  2. Holding sprint planning meetings
  3. Performing sprint reviews
  4. Jotting down areas for improvement
  5. Handling the Scrum board
  6. Holding 1-on-1s 
  7. Handling reporting
  8. Helping devs resolve their blocks

In other words, it’s the Scrum master’s job to make sure that the board is up-to-date, that the daily standups make sense, and that the devs can talk about their issues and turn to them for possible solutions.

With the way daily Scrums are typically conducted, Scrum masters are practically incapable of doing a good job without constantly interrupting devs and impacting their performance negatively.

Rather than constantly requesting status updates and bothering the devs with nonsensical questions, wasting valuable time every single day, we believe Scrum masters need to make a mindset shift.

A Mindset Shift

Image source: Master Your Goals

LinearB is here to make the transition to this new mindset as simple as possible. With a comprehensive Scrum board and a more efficient way to hold daily Scrums, Scrum masters can:

  1. Drastically improve the productivity of the whole team by removing bottlenecks effectively
  2. Shorten the development cycle 
  3. Increase overall employee satisfaction

Instead of being stuck in an old-fashion way of thinking, LinearB gives Scrum masters an opportunity to streamline their workflows, focus on the things that matter, and get the most out of Scrum as a project management methodology.

Kanban or Scrum

Some organizations believe that they will resolve the issue with daily Scrums by switching over to a different agile project methodology, primarily Kanban.

The main thing with Kanban is that you need to have your backlog constantly organized from highest priority to lowest. This means that meetings cannot be avoided. Typically, devs in organizations that implement Kanban have weekly meetings to discuss the project, talk about direction, backlog grooming, and reorganize and reprioritize the backlog for next week.

As with Scrum, this means that the information needs to be accurate and up-to-date. The only difference, really, is that it might take a week to figure out that there’s been a miscommunication, instead of a day. Sure, the devs aren’t bothered as much, but other, more critical issues may arise. 

Another big thing with Kanban is the sprint churn or iteration churn. Plans are typically created two weeks in advance, but the problem arises when the client’s needs change mid-week, or when the CEO asks the devs to work on something else. This typically means that the team will not be able to complete the initial task that they set during the sprint churn since they’d have to spend the two weeks working on a different task.

The bottom line is — both Kanban and Scrum have their drawbacks, but either of these project management methodologies can be extremely effective when you practice it correctly. 

The main thing is that there needs to be a unified platform that would allow quick and easy access to relevant, accurate information. Both Kanban and Scrum rely on Jira and Git. Without communication between the two reporting tools, you’ll run into the same issue, regardless of which approach you take.

In other words — you can do whatever you want, but you need to measure it! 

LinearB lets you do exactly that — it provides you with all the necessary information in one place, gives you a quick overview of clearly defined metrics, and allows you to set mile markers with ease.

If you want to learn more about LinearB and see the tool in action, click here to schedule a free demo with our friendly AI — Linear Bill.

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