Throw whatever perception – positive or negative – you have of “meetings” out to the curb because I am going to talk about scrum. No, I’m not talking about the rugby formation that is used to restart plays, but rather a scrum meeting, which is also known as a daily huddle and used my marketing agencies around the country.. Don’t jump the gun by judging it as yet another long, drawn out weekly, daily or ad hoc meeting. While there will always be “that could’ve been in an email” meetings, having routine opportunities to share and receive information is an integral cog in workplace communication and overall success. That is the premise of a scrum/ daily huddle.
What is Scrum?
Scrum is simply a daily 10-15 minute standup meeting. The standup aspect is an essential factor because the discomfort of remaining standing reminds people to keep the meeting short. At big companies, there should be separate huddles for each division (i.e. marketing huddle, customer service huddle, etc.). There is no right or wrong time and place for the meeting other than that it should be held at the same location at the same time throughout the week. At The DSM Group, we like to do our daily huddle meetings in the morning after everyone gets settled, gets their coffee and goes through their emails.
Behind every successful scrum is a well-knowledged scrum master. It is up to the scrum master (facilitator) to recognize sidebar topics (to be revisited post-scrum), organize follow up meetings for some topics if needed, take note of those asking for assistance, serve as the moderator and lastly, make sure the group is sticking to the agenda.
In addition to the scrum master, having a designated note taker is highly recommended. This allows team members to focus on the speaker instead of writing down what he or she is saying. Also, the notes can be sent to those who were not onsite for a particular scrum.
The backbone of a scrum is its agenda. Just like the location and time, the content of the agenda needs to be consistent. The all important, yet short, agenda is composed of three questions that each member should address:
- What did you achieve yesterday?
- Progress or challenges you faced since the last scrum
- What do you commit to achieving today?
- Your goal/expectation for the day, what projects are you starting or continuing
- What obstacles do you face?
- An impediment you foresee, ask for assistance and get feedback and solutions from team members
If there is additional time after everyone has spoken, open the floor for members to share good news – personal or work related, as well as words of wisdom or positive feedback from customers. Also, all daily huddles should be supplemented by the use of a Task Board as this will help track the information shared. The main importance of a scrum is to provide semi-real time updates and status of employees and their work. However, in order for a scrum to succeed, you’ll need team member buy-in. Easier said than done, right?
The Importance of Daily Huddles
Despite what some may think, scrums are not a time-consuming hindrance, but rather a huge benefit, and here are the reasons why:
- Employees are sharing information with their peers and not supervisors/executives so there is a greater comfort level and less pressure, which helps them share more information with ease.
- It cuts down on scattered, constant updates because individuals keep track of their own progress and share it at the next daily huddle meeting.
- Less information is lost in translation because they are shared in person and not over the phone or email.
- Pre-existing meetings become shorter and much more productive as members no longer wait until one of the weekly meetings to share pieces of information.
- The meeting works as a reminder to think as a team (‘We’ not ‘They’ mentality) by becoming a self-organizing team through collaboration and teamwork.
- Through daily interaction – sharing business and personal information – the members get to know, understand, and trust each other better.
- Scrum keeps teams focused on the same strategic goals.
- It enforces accountability because everyone is aware of other’s progress, projects and responsibilities.
- Higher retention of information as the shorter meeting and strict agenda allows for streamlined information and updates.
- Issues that are aired out at daily huddles can be quickly identified and resolved in its early stages.
- Answers and solutions to pressing questions and obstacles are provided in a timely manner.
Pitfalls: Running Your Meeting and Staying on Track
It is easy to get off track and lose sight of the agenda by focusing on one employee’s problem for too long, allowing irrelevant conversations to carry on or by not keeping track of the time. These are several possible reasons why your scrum hasn’t met your expectations, such as:
- Other than the designated note taker, no one else should be taking detailed minutes of the conversation. Members should be focused on the speaker and the speaker only – no phones, laptops, etc.
- The Scrum Master should not micromanage. He or she should not ask for detailed updates of an employee’s progress as the individual will voluntarily share that information if it is relevant.
- The focus should be on the speaker and not the Scrum Master. The goal is to sync as a team so individuals should address their statements towards other team members.
- The meeting is not the appropriate time to plan projects, allocate responsibilities, share technical information, amongst other actions. Such actions should be labeled as tangent (sidebar) and discussed after the meeting or at a later time.
- If members seem disinterested, discuss the goal of the scrum. This is the most important responsibility of the Scrum Master. If members do not buy into its foundational purpose, your efforts to implement scrum/ daily huddle will be futile.
- Stay. On. Time. Start the meeting if not all members are present (whatever they miss, the note taker will send them the information). On the flip side, end the meeting on the dot to maintain the consistency of the daily huddle.
- No meetings should be postponed or delayed because of an absence.
- Do not be hesitant to tweak the agenda or the format if you think your scrums are not being optimized; ask other department Scrum Masters for advice or even ask them to sit in one of your scrums. Most importantly, ask your team members for their feedback.
Is scrum a part of your company’s culture? If so, share your tips and tricks in the comments below.
If not, well…share why not!