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I would like to share some thoughts and reflections on the experience I got when teams (especially new ones) “perform” the Daily Scrum. But before we do that let’s take a look at the Scrum Guide what it says about this ceremony:

  • It’s time-boxed to 15 minutes
  • It’s an event done by all members of the development team
  • In this the team will synchronize the activities and create a plan how to move on till the next Daily Scrum
  • It takes place every day at the same place at the same time
  • During the Daily Scrum each member of the development team has to answer the following questions
    • What have I done since the last Daily Scrum?
    • What will I do till the next Daily Scrum?
    • Did I observe any impediments since the last Daily Scrum?

There are some more details in the Scrum Guide about the Daily Scrum but for now it’s ok. I will come to it later.

Performing the Daily Scrum

When teams are “performing” their Daily Scrum I often see that the development team members are reporting to the Scrum Master or the Product Owner (or some high level managers or what ever). That’s not the intention of the Daily Scrum. It’s a special meeting from the development team for the development team. It’s public and everybody is allowed to attend but only committed people (in this case the development team and the Scrum Master) are allowed to talk. But it’s not a report meeting where each development team member justify what he or she has done. And it’s not a spoken word performance only. It’s also about interaction.

Confucius and the stages of learning

For me the first important point is the visual interaction. As a Scrum Master you should take care that the “performer” is looking at everyone else (and changes the person he or she is looking at from time to time). This creates a closer relationship between each other and makes them feeling as part of a team. If you are only reporting to a single guy it doesn’t create such relationship. The other important thing is when the development team is performing a spoken word performance only. Here is what Confucius said about knowledge and learning:

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

So if the team is only talking and talking it’s the first stage of Confucius’ stages of knowledge and learning which is about hearing and forgetting so the most things will be handled with less attention. But how to avoid that – and this is pretty easy. In all cases I’ve seen the Daily Scrum takes place in front of the Scrum Board. So each performer should interact with it moving the tasks from one column to another or pointing at a task which will be continued after the Daily Scrum, adding new stuff or removing something. In this case people will look at the performer, following his movements and listen to him. In front of brain science it’s way more better for the observer because they have to link what they see and what they hear. And the visual element makes it easier to follow especially when many tasks are moving. So interaction is leading to Confucius’ second stage of knowledge and learning. Here’s a short summary:

  • Each development team member should look at each other during their speaking time
  • Each development team member should interact with the Scrum Board and the team while talking
  • Moving is also a good energizer ;) and good to attract attention

If an interaction with the Scrum Board is impossible it’s a good sign that’s something’s not on the board ;)

I hope that helps.

Knowledge sharing is key to cross-functional teams. It drives self-organization, minimizes risks and can be energizing and motivating at all. But how to get through valuable topics for the team? Recalling the old way of working where “leaders” assign tasks to workers – and we know that this is not as efficient as work could be – it’s the same with new topics to learn. Dictate the topic and no one will learn at all. So here is a nice way to introduce new topics to the team – from the team as well!

Hot topics – from the team to the team

So how it works? It’s more like a variant of an Open Space meeting. You have a market place to promote topics, a limited number of votes and that’s it!

The market place

There is nothing really special about. You can use a simple flip chart paper, where every team member can publish a topic he or she is interested in. Maybe using a sticky per topic. If you are going to publish a topic there should be some further information available:

  • What is it? A lecture? A hands-on workshop? A discussion? A code kata? Something else? Just let every one know what to expect.
  • For whom it is? What’s the right audience for the topic? Developers? Business unit? So I can see if this is for me or not
  • Any details about the topic. So you can see what’s in for you.
  • Recommendations: Is there something I should know before the topic? Anything to bring along?
If you provide such information it’s easier to vote for or against a topic.

“Dot” voting

Here is a simple rule I prefer to use. Every team member has an amount of three votes (signatures). You are allowed to place your vote randomly (through signing a topic) – only one vote per topic. So you can vote for three topics at max. But you don’t have to use all your votes. If you’re fine with less than three – keep the leftovers. The topic with the most votes is the upcoming “Hot Topic”. If a topic is going to be the chosen one the related votes are going back to the amount of those team members who’ve voted for it. As long as you have three votes on the topics in the market place you’re not allowed to vote for a new one.

Timeboxing

Set a clear time box for the “Hot Topic” sessions. I prefer to use an hour but if you need more – go for it. I prefer to set up a recurrent date (same time, same length etc.) and the place where it will be so everybody can schedule it. A schedule is also nice because we as companies and higher management pay less attention on knowledge sharing and this might be a way to highlight this as well. For example you go for a rhythm of 2 weeks we might have a Hot Topic Session every wednesday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

A sample hot topic board

The first time

I don’t know who named this Hot Topics but the first time we used this thing was in a big agile transition supported by 9 agile coaches: Andrea Tomasini, Brad Swanson, Richard Lawrence, Bob Sarni, Dave Sharrock, Paolo “Nucso” Perrotta, Roberto Bettazzoni, Ralf Kruse and me. I would like to thank all of them for the great time we had and the great contributions to the agile community made by them over the years…

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