Daily Scrum: Not Just for ScrumMasters

I never refer to the daily scrum (or daily standup) meeting as a “status meeting.” The term “status meeting” is too pejorative for most of us. For me it conjures images of sitting around a table with each person giving an update to a project manager while everyone else feigns interest while either mentally preparing for their own upcoming update or wondering how much longer the meeting will last.

I prefer to think of the daily scrum as a synchronization meeting. Team members are synchronizing their work: Here’s what I did yesterday and what I think I’ll do today. How about you? Done well a daily scrum (daily standup) meeting will feel energizing. People will leave the meeting enthused about the progress they heard others make. This won’t happen every day for every team member, of course, but if team members dread going to the daily scrum, that is usually a sign of trouble.

I want to offer one of my favorite tips for an effective daily scrum: If you’re a ScrumMaster, don’t make eye contact with someone giving an update. Making eye contact is human nature. When we speak, we make eye contact with someone. It’s only natural that a team member will look at the ScrumMaster; call it a legacy of too many years under traditional management but a lot of people on Scrum teams do look at their ScrumMasters a bit like managers to whom they need to report status. By not making eye contact with someone giving an update, the ScrumMaster can, in a subtle way, prevent each report becoming a one-way status report to the ScrumMaster.

Each person’s report is, after all, intended for all other team members.

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