I met an old man today. He smelled heavenly like a freshly groomed Product Backlog and literally oozed with agile smartness. He gave me an old parchment with few words of wisdom written on this. Then he vanished Cheshire Cat style (his wise and forgiving smile vanished last).
I tried to decipher the parchment and it seems to me, the message he wanted to deliver was:
“3 questions are the root of all evil”
I took a picture before the flames devoured this sacred piece of paper (it self-ignited!) so you can see I’m not lying (and that I read it right):
Now that I have your full attention and you believe me that I was visited by a ghost of agile wisdom I can go straight to enlightening you. Here you are.
The point is, that you shouldn’t use the famous 3 questions (see here if you are not familiar with them). Why?
The 3 famous questions drive your team in the wrong direction. They focus on individual efforts and achievements while what really matters is the result your team achieved.
I have seen it so many times. Each person talks as if trying to prove he didn’t slack off whole day. Oh, come on, we know, we know, you don’t need to prove anything! Everyone on the team takes glances on your monitor from time to time — the same way you take glances at ours — and we know very well how much time you spent on YouTube. Yes, we do. (and BTW, don’t worry, we do the same).
It always ends like this. Everyone knows the daily scrum should be about the tasks and progress and impediments, and still eventually it moves towards “who did what”. Sometimes it even happens that two people who worked on the same card both feel compelled to tell almost the same story so that we all know they worked on it. Uh…
And the solution? It is simple: Don’t focus on people, focus on tasks.
How? The team should go to the board (you have one, right?) and discuss task by task, not person by person. Change the 3 original questions to:
- What is the progress for this task?
- What is the plan for today?
- Are there any impediments blocking the work here?
And when you are finished with tasks, then maybe someone will want to add something. Not very likely, as every task the team is working on is on the board (it is, isn’t it?), but might happen. So if someone wants to say “I was working as well, but he told everything I wanted to say about task X, and I want you to know I wasn’t slacking and worked hard as well” has a chance to do it now.
All right, that was all the ghost of ancient agile wisdom taught me this time. If he ever visits me again and teaches me some new tricks, I will share them with you. Free of charge. It is my mission after all.
Good luck with your daily reporting meeting… errr.. daily scrum, I meant!
P.S. I ate the ashes that remained of the sacred parchment and immediately gained +50% to my estimation skills! How cool is that, huh?!
P.S. 2 I hope someone rewrites the section in Scrum Guide which talks about the 3 questions. It is toxic.