The basics of daily scrum

Published on
July 5, 2022

For those who are new to the world of software development, the term “Scrum” sounds more like a dirty word than a way to work. Here are a few things you need to know about scrum and what scrum has to do with daily standups.

What does Scrum mean?

The term “Scrum” began with Rugby. (Yay! Another sports analogy in the work place!) Scrum is a formation where players on one team interlock their arms, put their heads down, and push forward against their opponents. For teams who build software, Scrum is a metaphor as well as a framework to help each team member keep their head down and push a project past the finish line.

Why do dev teams use Scrum?

The Scrum methodology has gained popularity for producing better results in less time when developing software (or even building a car). Scrum helps teams break the production process down into smaller, more digestible chunks that can be quickly executed and refined as you go. The team decides which of these smaller chunks they will tackle in a two week period of time dubbed a “sprint”.  Clear tasks are assigned, helping each person understand their role in reaching the larger goal. As more companies have reaped the rewards of implementing Scrum, this concept has become a predominant way to get more done in less time.

What is a daily scrum meeting?

Once the team decides what they will accomplish in the next sprint, they meet every day to update each other on the progress they have each made as well any blockers that might prevent them from hitting their sprint goals. This meeting is usually called "daily standup". To ensure the meeting stays under 15 minutes, teams were once encouraged to literally stand for the duration of the meeting, thus the name.

Is there a downside to daily standups?

While daily standups can certainly deliver faster development cycles, there’s a risk that team members will treat daily standup like a status update. Sharing info that’s irrelevant to hitting sprint goals can send the daily standup off-track, wasting everyone’s time and causing key members to tune out.

👀 Read 5 daily standup killers and how to avoid them

How do daily standup meetings work?

Daily standup meetings can boost productivity by providing direction that prevents teams from straying off-course. So how do these meetings typically work? There are essentially three core questions that daily standup meetings help answer. Let’s take a look at them in detail.

1. "Yesterday" What was accomplished since the last daily standup?

Each member of the team covers what they accomplished since the last standup meeting. This helps everyone stay accountable.

2. "Today" What must be accomplished today?

After you cover what you've done so far, the focus turns to what you will do today. Specific tasks are defined and timelines are set for success. This helps ensure teams are on the same page about what each person is working on that day.

3. "Blockers" What are the potential impediments to today’s tasks?

After detailing what tasks will be worked on for the day, potential pitfalls are identified. This helps teams find solutions before problems arise that could prevent task completion and hold the entire team up.

This framework is the most popular way to organize the daily scrum (or daily standup) and is often referred to as "YTB" or "Yesterday Today Blocker".

How can you run a better daily standup?

One way to run a better daily standup is to first set the tone. Using an icebreaker can help create a positive and productive vibe. For those working remotely, the daily standup might be the only "face-to-face" time they get with their team. Icebreakers help the team understand each other a little better, and can be used every day or at least once a week to aid this.

Another solid step toward more effective standup meetings is having each team member write down their updates before the meeting. Taking a couple minutes to write down what you plan to share helps people deliver faster, more articulate updates, saving everyone time.

👀 Read How to run a (better) standup for 7 additional tips

Make daily standup work for you

Spinach makes daily standup meetings a much smoother experience. Spinach reminds everyone to write their updates. Then updates from each team member are automatically rotated, preventing awkward fumbling with "who wants to go next". Each person can both see and hear the updates, aiding active listening and increasing engagement. And, a built-in timer keeps any long-talkers on track so the meeting flows quickly from start to finish. Discover how Spinach can help your daily standup meetings work for you. Try Spinach for free!