Scrum From Hell

One of the areas a Scrum Master needs to practice is facilitating meetings.  I have found an exercise that can help train a Scrum Master in Facilitation.  One of the problems that I had when facilitating a Scrum meeting was being able to move the meeting on when appropriate.  I would let people ramble on and attempt to make their point, when it had no relevance to what we were talking about.  When I was able to move the meeting on when appropriate, the meeting progressed smoothly and finished on time.  When I couldnt progress, the meetings often over ran and often meant that some people couldnt have their say.

I hope there are some areas that this could help improve.

Goal: Practice managing a Scrum Meeting (or Standup Meeting in XP)

Time: 15-20 minutes.

This exercise is for a group of 6 to 8 participants who stand up, and some number of observers who may sit and watch.


§  Describe a Scrum meeting, so people understand the three questions and the flow of the meeting.

§  Describe common problems and interventions that address them. For example:

§  Implicit impediment: Listen to everything; sometimes someone mentions an impediment but doesn’t identify it as such.

§  Side discussion: ask people to listen when they are not speaking.

§  Rambling on: ask people to summarize more quickly.

§  Sidetracked meeting: ask people to have a meeting immediately afterwards for people who care about the topic.

§  Observer (“chicken”) who speaks: remind them that they’re an observer.

§  Late arrival: Charge them $1 if that’s what your team does; offer to fill them in after the meeting.

§  etc.


Prepare a set of cards, each with a secret goal.

Make twenty identical cards that say:

§  Answer the three questions.

The other ten cards should say (one each):

§  Only speak to or look at the ScrumMaster (ignoring everybody else unless you’re asked a direct question).

§  Arrive late.

§  Hidden impediment: Mention an impediment but don’t be obvious about it.

§  Noisy chicken: start by saying, “I’m only an observer” and then report on things the group doesn’t care about.

§  Silent chicken: as an observer, just say “pass” or “I’m just observing” when it’s your turn.

§  Ask a clarifying question on somebody else’s turn.

§  Ramble on until you’re asked to move on.

§  Try to sidetrack the meeting.

§  Try to solve somebody’s problem.

§  Start a side discussion.

Shuffle the cards together.


Have the group stand in a circle. Identify one person as the ScrumMaster.

Tell the group these three things:

1.      “I’d like you to imagine that you’re a member of a team developing an e-commerce site; take a moment to decide what you’ve been working on and how you’ll answer the three questions.”

2.      “I’m going to give each of you a secret goal; this card is for you only to see. During the scene, you’ll have this goal as hidden second agenda.”

3.      “If the ScrumMaster addresses your behavior, then don’t persist in it.”

Have the group do their standup meeting. Then debrief them.


“What behaviors did you see?”
This question is for participants and observers.

“How was it for you?”

“What insights do you have for the ScrumMaster?”
This question is for participants and observers.

“What does this tell you about the role of the ScrumMaster?”
This question is for anybody.

 “What will you do in the future?”
This question is for anybody.


§  You can vary the balance of “simple” vs. dysfunctional cards. (Try the exercise before you make it harder.)

§  You can repeat the article with different people acting as ScrumMaster.

§  You can do a large group “fishbowl” style, with the bulk of the group observing the team.

[William C. Wake, 2004. Developed for the Scrum Gathering in Denver, October, 2004. Thanks to the participants there for helping to improve it. Name changed 5-16-05; was originally “Second Agenda.”]

Daily Scrum Mistakes.

After researching techniques that would improve my Daily Scrum.  I thought I would highlight some mistakes that can occur within a Daily Scrum Meeting that you can further improve to make your Daily Scrum more appealing.

I read an article on “Scrum from the Trenches” Daily Scrum Mistakes  that echo’s some of the sentiments felt by myself.

The first mistake that people often make are to over run the allocated 15 minutes.  This can cause people to lose focus on what the Daily Scrum meeting is truly about.

The second mistake that people make, and I myself allow this to happen on occasion, is that Team members are effectively Reporting Status to the Scrum master.  Many people look at the Scrum Master whilst giving their status rather than giving a status report to the whole team.  I try to not make eye contact with the person speaking as to avoid it being a status update aimed at myself, rather than to the whole team.  The Scrum Master is part of the team and holds no managerial authority, so therefore a status update should be aimed at the whole team and not just the Scrum master in general. 

Leading back to my first point about the allocated 15 minutes. Remember the Daily Scrum is a status meeting.  It is very easy for a Daily Scrum to become a design meeting when one person is describing difficulties that they are having.  The Scrum Master has to be aware of this and limit technical and design discussions.  encourage Team Members to take their discussions “offline” and discuss the possible solutions after the Daily Scrum. 

The best possible way to conduct the Daily Scrum is to have the attendees standing up.  If the Team are sitting down, they become more formalized and meetings tend to run over.  If the Team are standing the meeting becomes more efficient due to people wanting to have the meeting done and dusted quickly so that they can sit down again! 

One problem that I had in the past with my team was that we were always being drawn into design and technical meetings in our Daily Scrum.  The Scrum Master must be firm on this.  I see myself as a nice guy, but at the beginning I was too nice for my own good.  I was worried that continually interrupting these meetings, would see me as being labeled rude.  But I soon realised that the team were labeling the meetings as laborious as they continually over ran.  So therefore I had to step in and limit the design and technical discussions until after the meeting.

we now have a designated time where we allow converse with interested parties after the Scrum meeting where Team Members can gain clarification on requirements of discuss problems with other team members.  I would say that this has improved our efficiency overall as the Daily Scrum is useful again and not laborious.