Why on Earth is your daily scrum still in the morning?

It’s worth noting that this blog post is driven from my own personal experiences as an on-site (or in office) software engineer. I have minimal experience with remote teams, and even less with remote teams working across different timezones.

Chances are that if you practice SCRUM (or some bastardised version of it), you have some sort of daily meeting where you are supposed to discuss the progress you have made. Some call them scrums, others call them stand-ups; I’ve even been to places where they are called huddles. Regardless of what they are referred to, they usually share a common trait: they happen in the mornings, normally 15-20 minutes after the entire team is normally in.

Unfortunately, the combination of mornings and human nature often result in this important vehicle of inter-person communication to be misused or made entirely redundant, due to the reasons below.

Firstly, a proposed time in the morning rarely suits the entire team. You have early birds, latecomers and people stuck in traffic. For the early birds, they have usually been in for at least an hour prior to the scrum and do not truly engage in their work prior to the daily scrum being completed. For the latecomers and those who are stuck in traffic, they end up missing the scrum, or worse, joining half way through. This results in disruption to the entire team and can sometimes derail the entire scrum.

Secondly, a Monday morning suits absolutely no-one. Yep, you heard me, no-one. After a weekend of seeing family, partying and/or relaxing, the chances of anyone remembering what they were doing on the Friday are slim-to-none. Combine this with the lack of time in the office come Monday morning’s scrum, this often results in an “Oh, hmmm, let me remember” statement being conveyed to the team.

So, what’s the solution? Well, for the team I’m currently with, it was to move the scrum to an agreed time in the afternoon. I know for an absolute fact that this would have also worked for the previous places I’ve worked where we had the same issues.

Moving the scrum to the afternoon came with the following benefits for us:

  1. The entire team will be in by then (unless they are on holiday) and will have had a significant amount of time in the lead up to the scrum to have accomplished something they can share.
  2. Early birds will get started as soon as they are in as they do not get interrupted after an hour of being there.
  3. Latecomers and those stuck in traffic will not derail the scrum.
  4. Individuals will have had time to prepare and understand whether they are truly blocked on something and if they need help.
  5. Any morning meetings (for example, breakfast on a weekly basis) will not have any impact on the scrum.

To conclude, it is likely that any timeslot will have a number of positives and negatives about it. As a team, you should decide what works best based on the circumstances of every member of the team. There is no rule that says stand-ups have to be done first thing in the morning, yet the majority of teams feel like that is when they should be having it.