Sprint In Progress Tip – Resolve Obstacles and Update Task Completion Immediately! (Don’t wait until the Daily Scrum)


I have long recommended that Scrum teams have a team working agreement that their Scrum board (aka Sprint Backlog) be updated immediately, but at least once daily about 30 minutes before the Daily Scrum.

Someone once questioned me on this advice as follows:

If the team updates task and story state immediately upon a state change or does such updates at least 30 minutes before the daily meeting:

  • What is the purpose of the daily meeting?
  • What does the team talk about in the meeting?
  • In other words, doesn’t that make the daily meeting redundant and, therefore, waste?

My Answer

One should not assume that everything that needs communicating is communicated via the task stickies(or whatever task token your team uses). Therefore, while the tasks are spoken about at the Daily Scrum, they need not be moved in the daily standup, and their effect on the burndown has already been recorded and plotted.

Usually, they will say something akin to:
“Yesterday I finished (pointing) tasks A & B, and began working on task C this morning. I should be able to finish task C this morning, but then I have to partake in some interviews for a new team member, so I’ll need a new task later this afternoon. I’ll look at the board then to determine which task.”

“Yesterday I finished task F. I ran into an obstacle X working on that one [but rather than wait until today to report it in the daily Scrum…], so I hit up Bob and he said to talk to Lucy over in Finance, and they were able to get me past that obstacle. So, if you have obstacle X, talk to Bob or Lucy and they can get that fixed for ya, or come see me and I can help. I also started on task F at the end of the day yesterday, and I should have that finished after lunch. I’m thinking for my next task that I’ll look into Story 7 and pick up one of those tasks. I wasn’t here when Story 7 was last groomed, so a potential obstacle I might have is understanding some of the requirements. Who’s a good person to talk to?” (If the answer to this question is super short, then it’s handled immediately, if it becomes a deeper discussion, this issue gets resolved after the daily Scrum as an impediment/obstacle.)

“Hi team. I was out yesterday so I didn’t do anything, and I noticed by looking at our [accurate]burndown that we’re way behind schedule for this sprint, so I think we need to have a quick impediment meeting after the Daily Scrum and figure out what needs to drop or happen so that I can know what’s best for me to work on.”

Another example:
Let’s say your Daily Scrum is at 10am. Let’s say there are 3 tasks, task A, B, and C, that are dependent on each other. (I coach my teams to remove these dependencies and make tasks as independent as possible, but that’s not always possible or easily done). If Fred finishes task A at 11am today and then goes to lunch, why doesn’t he go ahead and move it? That way Jennifer could pick up task B, and get that done. Why should Fred wait until 10am tomorrow in the Daily Scrum to move his task, when someone could have begun work on it yesterday at 11am?

My advice

  • Move tasks and stories as soon as they change status, like immediately.
  • Have someone update the burndown shortly before the Daily Scrum, so that Scope(too much, too little) and critical pathing problems are apparent and can be identified as impediments in the Daily Scrum (to be resolved outside of the Daily Scrum)
  • Team members, attempt to resolve an obstacle on your own first.
  • If you can’t resolve it in what seems like a reasonable amount of time, talk to someone who you think can. If you’re not sure who to talk to, ask someone or ping the ScrumMaster. Do not wait until the Daily Scrum to do this.
  • Try to foresee and identify obstacles before they become obstacles. Give the team a head’s up if you see a likely obstacle coming. (Critical path issues are often easily foreseen)

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