The Daily Question

You start your sprint thinking you can get the work done.  But as soon as the sprint starts, new information comes your way: stories are harder than expected, someone is out sick, a blizzard knocks a day out of your team’s schedule, etc.

When do you deal with this new information? Daily standup.

Standup is of course a chance to commit to each other what you will accomplish during the day.  But it is also a chance to replan the rest of your sprint as necessary.  From the Scrum Guide:

Every day, the Development Team should understand how it intends to work together as a self-organizing team to accomplish the Sprint Goal and create the anticipated Increment by the end of the Sprint.

Part of that is answering: are we still on track? If not, what are we going to do about it? Unfortunately, I have found that teams don’t do this naturally. Here is the best trick I’ve found for building and maintaining this important habit:

  • At the end of every standup, ask this question: On a scale of 1-5, how confident are you that–as a team–you will complete the Sprint Goal by the end of the sprint?
  • Count 3-2-1 and then everyone vote with their fingers (5=very confident)
  • If anyone votes 3 or lower:
    • Ask the voter: Why are you concerned?
    • Ask the team: What can we as a team do to get this back on track?
  • Repeat this for anyone else who voted 3 or lower.

In my experience, the hardest part about this is just asking the question.  Teams naturally leap into action trying to help each other and problem solve; they just need the information brought to the surface.  The voting takes virtually no time, and it forces the team members to look from the team/sprint perspective as opposed to the me/today perspective.

I now recommend this practice for every team, old and new.  I hope it helps your team!

A few other things:

  1. This doesn’t work very well if you start mid-sprint.  It’s actually best if you ask the question before closing sprint planning, to ensure that you are actually starting your sprint from a position of confidences (4s and 5s).
  2. If you aren’t using Sprint Goals, change the question to ask whether you will complete all stories by the end of the sprint.
  3. Here’s a PDF of the daily question you can print and put on your team’s scrum board as a reminder.

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