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The Scrum Master for my team cancels the daily stand up if we have another meeting that day, like Backlog Refinement (formerly Backlog Grooming) or some other planning meeting.

I don't think it's a good idea, but can't find any precedents online. Is canceling the stand-up like this a good idea?

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    Just an anecdote that I seem to share on this site a lot. My manager was absolutely shocked to find out that we still had our stand up when he canceled it (a regular occurrence). My response to him was "The stand up isn't for you. It's for us. Whether you're here or not, we still need to sync up as a team." – RubberDuck Jan 14 '17 at 16:27
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Why would you need to? The daily stand-up meeting should only take five to fifteen minutes, depending on the size of the Scrum Team. If it is taking longer than that, then that's a separate issue you should probably be looking into.

If it does only take five minutes, then are your developers really so hard-up for time in the day that the presence of a single other meeting removes their ability to spend five minutes for the stand-up?

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    This is a really good way to frame it. I don't see why we should get rid of the meeting. I'll ask the scrum master this question next time the meeting is cancelled. – Ev. Jan 9 '17 at 0:08
  • Reason for downvote? – Sarov Apr 23 '18 at 20:12
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The stand-up in Scrum has a distinct purpose. As do the other meetings defined by Scrum. There is no overlap between their purposes, so having another meeting is not a good reason to cancel the stand-up.

What could be a good idea though is to have both meeting directly following each other. In other words: shift the time of the stand-up to immediately before or after the other meeting.

This helps in cutting down on the time "wasted" to change contexts: the time you need to "come up" from your work to go to a meeting and the time you need after the meeting to get back into the work you were doing.

  • Just keep in mind that the two meetings will likely involve different people; the stand-up typically involves only the Development Team, while other meetings often involve others as well. So, taking scheduling issues into account, 'after' makes more sense than 'before'. – Sarov Jan 9 '17 at 14:23
  • Good point @Sarov though of course the other people are always welcome to observe a stand-up, even if they are not "allowed" to speak. In some situations it may even be a good way to get stake holders more involved. – Marjan Venema Jan 9 '17 at 15:21
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TL;DR

The Scrum Master for my team cancels the daily stand up if we have another meeting that day...Is canceling the stand-up like this a good idea?

Like many things, the answer is "maybe." Generically, the answer should be no; the daily standups should be held regardless of whatever else you may have on the calendar that day. However, there are certainly extenuating circumstances based on whether the purpose of the ceremony has been obviated.

A list of examples and some sample decision-making criteria are provided below.

Different Ceremonies; Different Purposes

Hold Standups to Coordinate Work Increments

The daily standup is a meeting that enables the Scrum Team to coordinate the current day's work increment. So, the utility value of the ceremony is dependent on whether or not there is a daily work increment, or whether status updates and blockers are relevant to the 24-hour period in progress.

In other words, if there is work in progress or work to be done, you should not cancel the daily standup even if you have other ceremonies that day. However, there may be some legitimate exceptions. For example:

  • If you have your daily standup at 9:00am every day, but your Sprint Review is at 9:00am on Fridays, then there's no point in holding the standup as there will be no work increment.
  • If you have your daily standup at 10:00am every day, and your Sprint Review is at 2:00pm on Fridays, then there probably is value in holding the standup to discuss:
    1. The status of the previous day's stories.
    2. Sprint Backlog items related to the current day's Sprint Review.
    3. Any tasks that must be coordinated in advance of the Sprint Review demos that day.
    4. Any blockers that affect preparing for the Sprint Review.
    5. Any tasks, blockers, or issues that should be added to the list for the Sprint Retrospective.

Don't Hijack Other Ceremonies

However, you shouldn't cancel the standup just because you have other meetings. You don't want to hijack the focus of Sprint Planning, Backlog Refinement, Sprint Reviews, or Sprint Retrospectives to address things that belong in the daily standup. Doing so is usually a false economy that practitioners implement under the mistaken notion that skipping the meeting reduces overhead. In fact, it is likely to have the opposite effect, as team members fail to coordinate or must reimplement the standup (badly) outside of a formal ceremony.

Don't do that.

Guidelines for Choosing Slack Time Over "Efficiency"

Every meeting should have a well-defined purpose and an expected outcome. The purpose of the standup is for coordinating the current day's work increment for the whole team. Other meetings may focus on specific tasks, engineering issues, problem solving, and so forth, but they are not a substitute for the team-based dependency coordination that is the raison d'être for the daily standup.

However, if your Sprints are structured in such a way that there is no increment to be worked on that day, and no dependencies that need to be resolved or statused from the previous day, you should consider replacing that day's standup with the appropriate ceremony. For example, with Sprints that end on a Friday and start on a Monday:

  • If you hold your stand-ups at 9:00am every day, you might hold the standup before Sprint Planning even though there's no work increment, allowing team members to coordinate about administrivia or intra-team action items resulting from a Sprint Retrospective.
  • If you hold your stand-ups during core hours, you might replace the usual 11:00am standup with Sprint Planning on Mondays in order to give team members some slack time to do things like catch up on emails, update desktop tools, or other personal overhead or technical debt.

The key determinant is whether there is something to be coordinated within the team or not. Don't make the mistake of trading essential slack time for the false economies of the 100% utilization fallacy or a "savings" in meeting overhead that actually reduces effective communication within the team. Those are sure-fire ways to reduce the overall effectiveness of your Scrum implementation, so just don't. :)

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According to Mike Cohn, an Agile thought leader, it is acceptable to cancel the daily scrum on planning days. His logic is that the purpose of the daily scrum is to synchronize effort between team members. A typical sprint planning session should result in all team members being in-sync. In certain environments, it may make sense to cancel the daily scrum on the day of, or the day after the planning meeting. Following this logic, a daily scrum should still be held on refinement or retrospective days.

I have experimented with this with my team, and I've come to believe that it is totally circumstantial. There is no binding rule, but remember that the daily scrum is for the team as a whole, not for any individual person. If the team prefers to have the daily scrum on planning days, the scrum master should be willing to continue to hold them.

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As a Scrum Master I have occasionally cancelled the stand-up.

I only do this when the team asks me to cancel it and most of the day ahead is full of meetings so there is no need to synchronise.

If a team asked me to cancel the stand-up for just one meeting I would argue strongly against it.

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Be pragmatic and do the daily after the Backlog Refinement. Canceling daily meeting should be rare case as there are many benefits if you do the ritual daily and at the same time.

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If your SM cancels the Daily Scrum they had previously scheduled, citing the Refinement meeting that day as justification, then I suspect they are testing you! The correct response is for the Development Team to self organise to schedule their own Daily Scrum and hold it in a location where the SM cannot help but observe. You will make the SM proud by demonstrating you have attained a new level of Scrum understanding and they will be privately pleased that their experiment worked.

But it might be the case that the SM is letting you down. The Daily Scrum is the Development Team's main 'insoect and adapt' event, their daily replanning opportunity (not that these activities should necessarily be limited to once per day!) Why would the SM deny you this? Why would you let the SM deny you this?

Something to make the SM aware of is someone else in the organisation wanting to book a meeting in the Development Team's regular Daily Scrum time-slot, to ensure they protect the team by working with the person to reschedule their where possible ("The Daily Scrum is held at the same time and place each day to reduce complexity"). Remember the SM is a servant leader, they work for you!

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