Daily Scrum for remote teams
Daily Scrum, as described in the official Scrum Guide, is a short meeting for team members to update on the progress of their work towards their common goal. Daily Scrum started as a Development Team ceremony, but it can become more inclusive, or be used by teams outside Scrum as a habit.
The Daily Scrum is a 15-minute meeting, where each team member shares their updates. In its most common format, participants are covering up to the following three questions:
- What work has been done since the last meeting.
- What they are currently working on.
- What are the impediments blocking their progress, if any.
It is suggested that only members working towards the team’s goal take part in the Daily Scrum, regardless of role.
Teams that properly execute the Daily Scrum in their ceremonies, tend to improve faster. Misalignments and blockers can surface early in the day, and the whole team can take prompt action on resolving those issues and get work done. In time, the team can learn to perform the ceremony efficiently, eliminating the need for additional clarification meetings.
Working with a remote team dictates a different way of collaborating with teammates:
- As individuals plan their working day, there is a big chance of solo work and limited colleague interactions, due to little time overlaps.
- People can focus more on a task, due to fewer distractions. That's because the default for remote work is to assume that colleagues are not instantly available.
- Considering the solo work and minimal overlap, remote work requires better planning and alignment. This way, people know what to do next, once the task they currently work on is complete.
All the points above converge on the need for better alignment and clarity on a team level. This way all members know where they are heading, which is the priority, and who they are expecting answers from to move on with their work.
Based on team location and way of work, there are different ways to perform the Daily Scrum. Regardless of how the Daily Scrum is performed, its value and existence are crucial. Some teams perform the Daily Scrum every weekday, while other teams perform it two or three times a week.
A synchronous Daily Scrum call, for teams working in the same office or at the same time zone. The team is usually having a scheduled 15-minute Daily Scrum call, taking rounds and sharing updates. This meeting is usually performed at the start of the working day to boost alignment and focus on upcoming work.
An asynchronous Daily Scrum session, for teams distributed in various time zones or different work schedules. Members share updates over an online tool (e.g., a document, a chat application, or a service). The team can read all notes and respond via chat or comments for extra clarifications or help. The asynchronous Daily Scrum has a longer duration, giving time for people in different time zones to add their updates. The duration can vary from 4 to 12 hours, depending on team distribution.
A hybrid Daily Scrum, having both asynchronous and synchronous parts. The hybrid option is for teams working in different time zones with some time overlap. Like the asynchronous session, members add their notes in an online tool at their pace. Moreover, the team has a scheduled call to align on the shared notes, share comments, and provide clarifications.
The Daily Scrum is a habit-forming ritual. As teams get comfortable performing the Daily Scrum, it is easy to fall back on behaviours that diminish the meeting's value. With diminishing returns, the team feels demotivated on performing the Daily Scrum. So at any point, the team should try to apply corrective action to get the most benefits possible from this ritual. Some challenges are:
- The reporting trap for the Daily Scrum meeting. The presence of a team leader in the Daily Scrum can make members feel like they are reporting to that person. Reporting trap makes people share details on their work, skipping any issues requiring help from their colleagues.
- Team members focus on sharing their part without engaging with their colleagues’ updates. This is more problematic on an asynchronous Daily Scrum, where members skip reading notes. Indicators of this behaviour are little progress on work, some tasks staying behind schedule, and extra calls to cover the missing parts.
- The solution trap for the Daily Scrum meeting. This is happening when an impediment suddenly triggers a solution discussion within the scope of the Daily Scrum ritual. The solution trap leads to disengagement by non-involved members and extends the meeting duration. This problem is affecting teams that are performing a synchronous Daily Scrum in a call.
When done right, the Daily Scrum has an additive positive effect on the teams, due to its recurring nature. Two of the basic benefits offered are:
- Fast alignment and corrections in case the team changes direction. Since the Daily Scrum is periodic, misunderstandings or changes of direction are shared on the spot, keeping everyone on the same page.
- Focus and commitment are at the forefront, keeping the team aligned on the work that needs their attention. So, the team focuses on delivering the most valuable work in order of priority.
This guide is inspired by a combination of our own expertise and application, as well as from our customers consultation, expertise, and usage of our service, Team O'clock.