How scrum can stop you being agile?

"The Better Meetings Campaign"The idea of daily “Scrum meetings” has caught on in many organizations, but a misunderstanding of what they are can lead to unnecessary and irrelevant meetings and time wasting – the opposite of agility.

Scrum meetings were designed for deeply interdependent cross-functional teams working on time bounded “sprints” of activity to complete a specific piece of software development work.

In this context a daily check in of activity is entirely appropriate. People need to know what others are doing as it has a direct impact on their work. These cross functional teams are highly interdependent and need to share information in order to do their work. Changes or delays from one team member may have a significant impact on others.

Short, 15 minute, daily Scrum meetings are therefore an important element of agile software development.

Unfortunately many other organizations have just picked up the idea of “have a daily scrum meeting”. If you apply this to groups where interdependencies are low they just become irrelevant updates.

If you participate in these meetings ask yourself the flowing questions:

  • Is the information shared going to lead me to do something differently?
  • Is the information shared relevant to everyone in the meeting or just to the leader and an individual?
  • Is it a good use of your time, or could you get the information more effectively through another medium.
  • Do we need to do this daily given the kind of activity we are involved in?

Status updates and project plan updates are only useful if they lead to a change in activity in others at the meeting. Otherwise they are largely irrelevant. 

Most teams do not experience the kind of deep interdependence that requires them to coordinate and realign every day. Think carefully whether yours requires this level of coordination.

Many scrum meetings overrun the 15 minutes recommended as people use the opportunity to give a fascinating insight into what they did yesterday.

Even a daily 15 minutes represents a use of 1.25 hours per week for every team member – this represents at least 3% of the team time – $40,000 or more for team of nine each year.

The essence of lean and agile working is to drive out waste and inefficiency: eliminating unnecessary meetings is a good start.

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