Dysfunctional Daily Scrum: how to identify it?

The Scrum Master looks at his or her watch. It’s time for the Daily Scrum. The team doesn’t move. The Scrum Master thinks: “Gosh, here I go, babysitting them again!” He or she pulls a team member by the arm, finding resistance. “Come on, guys, it’s time for the Daily Scrum. Let’s go!”

The Development Team enters the meeting room. They are familiar with the routine. Fifteen minutes. Everyone is standing up. Each must answer three questions:

– What have I done since the last Daily Scrum to help the team reach the Sprint objective?
– What do I plan to do by the next Daily Scrum to help the team reach the Sprint objective?
– Were there any obstacles that prevented me or the team from reaching the Sprint objective?

The first one begins to drone: “Since yesterday, I did this, this and that, by tomorrow I’ll do that, such and such, and there were no obstacles.” The following team member continues along the same line, almost like a robot: “…and there were no obstacles.” And the next one. And the next one. Meanwhile, other team members, uninterested, check their cellphones or simply daydream, almost falling asleep. Nobody really understands what’s going on there. The meeting is very boring and pointless.

In another room, another team and its Scrum Master are also having a Daily Scrum. Each team member turns to the Scrum Master and answers the three questions. The Scrum Master makes an effort to display interest, makes remarks and suggestions, and takes notes. The meeting ends, and the Scrum Master is worried about the progress of the Sprint. He or she ponders over how to make the team more engaged so that the planned items can be completed by the end of the Sprint.

Finally, close to the end of the day, a third team finishes the Daily Scrum, which lasted more than forty minutes. They were immersed in technical discussions and clarification of business matters. They seemed to be trying to solve all problems in that meeting. Some debates were heated and resulted in absolutely nothing. It appears that this situation is a constant for that team.

We’ve described some highly dysfunctional Daily Scrum scenarios. In fact, the Daily Scrum is not a status meeting. It’s not an accountability meeting – and that applies for both the team members and the Scrum Master. It’s also not a problem-solving meeting. The Daily Scrum is a PLANNING meeting. Yes, the team – preferably in front of its task board – plans what it will focus on until the following work day and the following Daily Scrum.

Something like: “I’ll focus on this task.” “And I’ll take care of that one.” “Let’s work on this one together?” “No, this one is blocked, but the SM is working on it.” The Development Team discusses and provides visibility about its work to the team, in order to plan accordingly. Of course, the team will benefit a lot more and be much more engaged in the meeting if it really works as a team – that is, everyone together, starting from the top priority.

How about the famous three questions? They are a good guideline for teams that are starting to use Scrum. However, they are the means, not the end. We have seen many mature teams ignoring these questions altogether and benefiting a lot more from the meeting.


Foto de Rafael Sabbagh
Rafael Sabbagh

Rafael Sabbagh, cofounder at Knowledge21 and member of the Scrum Alliance Board of Directors between 2015 and 2017, is a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) by Scrum Alliance and an Accredited Kanban Trainer by Kanban University. As an Executive, he has extensive experience in Product Management...


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