Why do Daily Scrums Suck?

Have you replaced your weekly status update with a daily status update and called it “Agile”?  You are not alone, and that sucks.  Many companies working to transform into an Agile organization struggle with this most fundamental shift in culture.

Most often the culture of an organization is very static and requires huge effort to change.  The first law of motion, also known as the law of inertia, applies, only more so.  The culture of a large organization is a large and irresistible force all on its own.  But what makes it even more difficult to shift, is when you have a team on the same page and pushing in the same direction, there can be other groups of individuals resisting the change.

The resistors do not often even know they are resisting the change.  They are the ones that are quiet in meetings, do not speak up and try to affect the change.  They are also the ones that are very outspoken, offering criticism but not solutions.  It is understandable to be in these positions.  Change is hard, and staying where you are can be very comfortable.

When an organization is moving towards being more agile, there are two fundamental changes that must shift, both are cultural.

The first is that you must adopt a culture with the “Intention of High Function” at its core.  Everyone one in the entire organization, from accountants to software engineers, to leadership must always intend, in every action or meeting, in every decision, to be better and change to a high functioning team.  Or, if the team is already highly functioning, to be better at it.  We can all be better.

As hard as this one change is, the second part of it is much harder: assume the same intention for everyone else.  Once this culture, of team members intending through actions and words to be high functioning, and then of the team members assuming it of others, becomes pervasive, the culture will begin to shift, finally.

“What does this have to do with daily standups?”, you ask.  A daily standup requires this trust, this intention of high function to be effective.  If you cannot trust your team to handle their day to day tasks, why did you hire them?  The three basic questions from a daily scrum (What did you do yesterday, what do you plan to do today, and do you have any impediments) assume trust and assume the team is functioning well.  If they were not, perhaps a line by line ticket by ticket down an Excel spreadsheet would be more appropriate.

Instead, build a trusting and safe environment, where everyone demonstrates, through action and words, the intention of high function, and you won’t have to micromanage the team.  You will be happier.  The team will be happier.  Everyone will be happy.  And Scrums will stop sucking.