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I've come to believe that, like the daily scrum, the 3 questions are a sign of team capability immaturity.

I'm about to decree to all my teams that we will be doing away with the three questions daily scrum format i.e.

  • What did I do yesterday
  • what do I plan to do today
  • what is blocking me from proceeding

This is simplistic and easy to follow but it's not really the team speaking with one voice. It can also quickly degrade into a status session and doesn't bring real clarity to the progress of the sprint backlog.

From now on I'll be getting the SMs to walk the board and get the group to discuss the WIP and which stories are upcoming. This is also allied to the fact that from now on the team will as much as possible, be only working on one story at a time.

Is there any value in keeping the three questions once teams are settled and working towards an XP capability?

  • by XP capability you mean Extreme programming ? – hdoghmen Aug 23 '15 at 11:44
  • Yes, XP is short for Extreme Programming. However, to have an XP team I insist that you first need to start with XP capable programmers. – El Toro Bauldo Aug 23 '15 at 14:51
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    So you're going to turn the stand-up into a status pull by the Scrum Master? That's axiomatically an anti-pattern. – Todd A. Jacobs Aug 24 '15 at 9:24
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    "decree to all my teams" So I assume this is part of you collaboratively working with the team to improve processes. ಠ_ಠ. Also, you're not even the SM, this isn't' your call, stop undermining them. Stop undermining self organizing teams. – Nathan Cooper Aug 24 '15 at 11:06
  • Hahaha! You got me there Nathan, perhaps 'suggest' would have been more appropriate. "I Decree" makes me sound quite biblical ;) Actually, I am an SM but not the only one. Also, I don't see how talking through the wall is any more of a status pull than asking everyone in turn to answer three questions, especially if everyone is working on the same feature concurrently to minimize WIP. – El Toro Bauldo Aug 24 '15 at 13:09
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I'm going to give a slightly different answer to Sergey because I don't think this is a simple question with one right answer, but I'd like to also note that I up-voted his answer because I agree with him too.

The goal of the daily scrum is for the team to reset with each other on where things stand currently and what the immediate plan is over the next day. If they are accomplishing this, they should be able to tell you what was completed yesterday, what the focus is on completing today, and if anyone has any impediments.

If you take a new team and you tell them "you have 15 minutes to synch up" many teams will not accomplish this. That's where the three questions come in - they provide guidance. There are many variations on these questions that people have suggested. In fact, the most recent Scrum Guide actually modifies these to put more focus on driving toward the sprint goal. However, if your team is treating the daily scrum as a status meeting, simply removing the questions will not solve your problem.

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Briefly:

  • No, Daily Scrum with Three Questions is not a sign of team immaturity.
  • Yes, Daily Scrum with Three Questions is valuable, even if you with your team want to switch to Extreme Programming.

Verbosely:

  • No, Daily Scrum with Three Questions is not a sign of team immaturity.

In reality, I don't understand, why Daily Scrum with Three Questions should be a sign of team immaturity.

These are three questions as Scrum Guide described them:

  • What did I do yesterday that helped the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  • What will I do today to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  • Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?

As you know, Scrum holds at three pillars: transparency, inspection, and adaptation.

First of all, the first two questions provide team's transparency. Everybody knows, what do all other team members.

Also, Daily Scrum provides the capability to inspect Sprint Progress and adapt Sprint Backlog with the daily plan (the daily plan is not Scrum term, but Scrum Team always has it, doesn't matter explicitly or implicitly).

Usually, answers of first two questions are more than enough for Sprint Progress tracking. If you have a problem with this, reasons in that are not on Daily Scrum format. Maybe your team doesn't decompose User Stories to enough small tasks and it's hard to say how much work is really done. Or, maybe exists another reason. Your Scrum Master should detect and remove it.

And of course, Daily Scrum is not Daily Status Reporting Meeting. It's for Team synchronization, not for team members reports to managers. If your Daily Scrum has trend to "quickly degrade into a status session", it's not a problem of Daily Scrum, but it's the problem of your Scrum Master.

Finally, Mike Cohn said about another purpose of first and second questions: it's team members commitment to each other.

By focusing on what each person accomplished yesterday and will accomplish today, the team gains an excellent understanding of what work has been done and what work remains. The daily scrum meeting is not a status update meeting in which a boss is collecting information about who is behind schedule. Rather, it is a meeting in which team members make commitments to each other.

If a programmer stands up and says, "Today, I will finish the data storage module," everyone knows that in tomorrow's meeting, he will say whether or not he finished. This has the wonderful effect of helping a team realize the significance of these commitments, and that their commitments are to one another, not to some far-off customer or salesman.

Somebody (like the author of this article) may say that "a focus on personal commitment" is not very good, but I don't see any reason for this statement.

And the last one (the third) question. It encourages team members to collaborate and not be locked alone with their problems.

Summarizing:

Daily Scrum as it described in Scrum Guide (with three questions):

  • Help to track Sprint Progress.
  • Synchronize team's work.
  • Adapt daily plan and Sprint Backlog.
  • Increased collaboration within the team (by a commitment to each other and sharing problems).

Of course, exists other formats of Daily Meetings (like Improvement Board), but Scrum Guide prescribes Three Questions format. Otherwise, it is not Scrum.

For reasons that I described above, I don't see any disadvantages (including that you wrote in your question) in Three Questions format.


  • Yes, Daily Scrum with Three Questions is valuable, even if you with your team want to switch to Extreme Programming.

Scrum and XP are not opposed to each other in this issue. Even more, Kent Back in his "Extreme Programming Explained" [1999] book had proposed this format earlier, than Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland did it in their "Agile Software Development with Scrum" [2001] book.

Quote about the daily stand-up meeting (without deep explanation) from "Extreme Programming Explained":

"You may have a daily stand-up meeting so everybody knows what everybody else is working on."

And more details from ExtremeProgramming.org:

During a stand-up meeting developers report at least three things; what was accomplished yesterday, what will be attempted today, and what problems are causing delays. The daily stand up meeting is not another meeting to waste people's time. It will replace many other meetings giving a net saving several times its own length.

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    I read Kent Beck's book back in 2001. In fact, I've read tens of books on agile, many with differing approaches to the same problems. I'm not denying that 3 questions is a good guideline for teams new to xp, scrum, agile et al. But a round robin of individual updates is not exactly a 'team' discussion. In a perfect team there would be no daily scrum and that's where I'm coming from. Good point about the 3Qs being a status update should be the work of the SM to facilitate to a more useful discussion. – El Toro Bauldo Aug 23 '15 at 18:32
  • @ElBauldo - As I understand you use Improvement Board technique for Daily Meetings. Well...it's not that Scrum Guide prescribe :-) Of course, maybe it's much better for you and looks like you are already on Ha level. But it that case, can you provide more details, why Three Questions format doesn't satisfy you? Now, it's not very clear for me. – Sergey Kudryavtsev Aug 23 '15 at 19:38
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    @ElBauldo - In the link (It's Not Just Standing Up: Patterns for Daily Standup Meetings), that I posted in my previous comment is written that Three Questions format "is creating too much of a focus on personal commitment versus paying attention to the right things", but I don't see any reason for this statement. I think, that "personal commitment" is not a bug, it's a feature :-) – Sergey Kudryavtsev Aug 23 '15 at 20:13
  • Yes, I would say we are definitely at the HA level Sergey. I accept that there is value in the three questions. However, I think the round robin approach is slightly defunct now that the team will be concentrating on the same story as much as possible. Also, as we walk the board we can get context on what people are saying and have a discussion on a particular story as opposed to having individual updates, although, I have to accept that this already happens once a user details a story that another team member is also involved with. I also feel walking the board ensures we cover the sprint. – El Toro Bauldo Aug 24 '15 at 8:53
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The cross-functional teams I have overseen have always had problems with the traditional "What I did yesterday, what I will do today, any blockers?" method. Mostly because in a cross-functional team, if individuals are talking about their daily tasks, nobody understands what they are doing.

Instead, I took the method outlined in Section 3.2 of this great document (A great read): http://www.scruminc.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Hyper-Productive-Metircs.pdf

The proposal has the team focus on the burndown and sprint backlog as a whole.

"We shift the focus of the meeting from the individuals to the Sprint Backlog. Starting with the highest priority Sprint Backlog Item (SBI) that is not yet completed in each Daily Stand-Up, the entire Team discusses their collective contribution toward completing that SBI."

The proposed questions to the team's answer are:

  1. What did WE achieve yesterday on Priority
  2. What was OUR contribution on Priority 1 worth in Story Points?
  3. What is OUR plan for completing Priority 1 today?
  4. What, if anything, is blocking us or has the potential to slow us down today?

I'll be frank, we are just starting out on this path. We are looking forward to seeing teams work together to complete their sprint commitments.

  • This is just the kind of thing I was writing about. Interesting to see you're coming from a similar perspective. – El Toro Bauldo Aug 26 '15 at 18:42
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It's not clear to me what you mean when you talk about:

the team speaking with one voice.

and why the format:

doesn't bring real clarity to the progress of the sprint backlog.

But I've seen the regression to a status meeting as a recurrent anti-pattern, especially during the first phases of a transition to agility, or in environments where old management practices are still hard to die.

That said, if you see that teams are mature enough, you can get away with the format, as long as the focus and goal stay. The Scrum Guide says that:

During the meeting, the Development Team members explain:

  1. What did I do yesterday that helped the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  2. What will I do today to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  3. Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?

That doesn't necessarily mean they have to follow the exact same format no-matter-what or mechanically answer the three questions in the order.

Having a format is a good way to get started and get the team on the same page and keep the focus, especially when they're new to Scrum, but it can quickly regress to a "status meeting" if the Team doesn't put some intelligence in the exercise. More mature teams (at least in my experience) don't need to be reminded of the goal, nor of the questions and the daily scrum just "flows".

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    I think you hit the nail on the head when you wrote "That doesn't necessarily mean they have to follow the exact same format no-matter-what or mechanically answer the three questions in the order." There has been some good replies to this post and some very persuasive arguments as to why one should retain the three questions. But I don't think "we adhere to the three questions or it isn't scrum" is my main worry. Our method is bespoke and will continue to change after each project retrospective. What works will get kept but I'm sure the three questions will still be in the mix for a while yet. – El Toro Bauldo Aug 24 '15 at 13:47
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If the team started with 3Qs on Daily Standup and they continue this practice unchanged for months ever since, it would qualify to me for checking how the team inspects and adapts their process. It might be a symptom of immaturity (aka forming stage).

It would be oversimplification to create a "3Qs unchanged => team is immature" correlation, yet that's something worth checking. The next thing I would check in such case would be success ratio for sprints delivery. If they answer 3Qs and still deliver there might be more important things to improve :-)

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Bravo to Sergey and Daniel for excellent answers. I think they provide very good scope on the value of the three questions and that nothing is written in stone.

I'd like to tackle your question from a slightly different way. I want to highlight some potentially dangerous ground.

I'm about to decree to all my teams

I'm sure your intentions are the best and this may just be poor word choice. As others who read this may not know that, I feel it is important to point out the dangers of this statement.

Based on your post it sounds like you are an engineering leader of some kind. Leadership should not be telling an team how to run their internal meetings. Agile is about creating empowered teams and trusting them to get the job done.

If the team is not getting the job done, then you can ask powerful questions to try and encourage them towards performance. Questions like.

  • What do you think is causing these stories to not be completed?
  • Does everyone have the information they need to complete their work.
  • And so on...

Dictating to an agile team is a road back to command and control management and removing empowerment from the team. Unless the team is completely broken, don't meddle direct, work with your scrum masters and set goals for the teams to meet. Give them the trust to do it or to report their problems.

  • Please read my reply and mea culpa to Nathan above >>> Hahaha! You got me there Nathan, perhaps 'suggest' would have been more appropriate. "I Decree" makes me sound quite biblical ;) <<< But point taken Joel. It's turning into quite an interesting thread. – El Toro Bauldo Aug 24 '15 at 18:50
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    @El Bauldo- It's all a learning experience. Because readers tend to skim over comments, I thought it was valuable to point this out in an answer. These questions will hopefully be read for years to come and we want to make sure things are crystal clear for those who come before. – Joel Bancroft-Connors Aug 24 '15 at 19:07
  • Good point. I think I'll put in an edit update, but leave the original text in for context – El Toro Bauldo Aug 25 '15 at 18:01
  • That would be great. Show the learning cycle in process. – Joel Bancroft-Connors Aug 25 '15 at 18:36

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