Are Your Daily Scrum Meetings Taking Too Long? 5 Possible Causes and Solutions

Are Your Daily Scrum Meetings Taking Too Long? 5 Possible Causes and Solutions

"I hate Scrum (meetings)!" "Scrum doesn't work." "Why are my daily Scrum meetings taking too long?" I bet you're all too familiar with these complaints about Scrum and, overall, about the Agile approach to software development.

But a scrum meeting shouldn't take more than 15 minutes. And yet they do...

Therefore, these meetings have slowly turned :

  • into one of the most dreaded times of the day for your development team
  • into some true productivity suckers 
  • into some totally ineffective gatherings

Have you at least tried to get to the root of the problem and find out why yours are taking (a lot) more time?

Let me give you a couple of clues here. To point out some of the “usual suspects”, as one might say:

But What Is Scrum Methodology? What Is a Scrum Meeting?

Let's dispel all the misconceptions about Scrum! To clear away all the vagueness of this methodology.

In this respect, here's a (hopefully) crisp and clear definition of Scrum:

A simple project management framework that teams can use for organizing their work.

As simple as that. 

Of course, this is just the “core” definition. Now, if we are to enter into details, we'll easily dig out a lot of “enlightening” nuances:

  • Scrum is a set of boundaries within which a team can organize itself, their tasks and their project's moving parts
  • it's a series of time-boxed events (daily meetings), each one with a unique, clearly-defined goal and role in the Scrum cycle
  • the key purpose of Scrum is to promote self-organization
  • effective daily scrums help development teams plan their tasks for the next 24 hours 
  • it's an Agile development method enabling teams to address complex issues quickly, using an empirical approach
  • … and all that, after they've evaluated their activity in the previous 24 hours from the point of view of its impact on the Sprint Backlog and Goal

Overall, Scrum's intended to be conveniently simple. And simplicity's both its main strength and its main weakness.

“It's (Too) Time-Consuming!” The Main Frustration with Scrum

One of developers' main disappointment regarding the Scum process framework is that:

The team culture that it was supposed to promote gradually turns into a... “meetings culture”.

Developers start to feel unproductive, cause they don't think of meetings as work. And since these daily Scrum meetings tend to be longer than 15 minutes, their frustration grows exponentially.

Overall, the whole team feels “stuck” in a cycle of meetings that stop them from actually doing their work: developing the software products their customers expect.

So, you get the point:

Scrum meetings being too time-consuming are the most common frustration that development teams have with this framework.

Now, let's get to the root of this general frustration, digging up and exposing the causes that lead to these +15 minutes daily standups.

#1 Cause: There's No Sprint Goal

And when there's no goal, there's no... point in sticking to a daily scrum routine, right?

This is one of the most common reasons for your daily Scrum meetings taking too long. The lack of a well-defined objective, that's clear to every member of your team.

This is why discussions during your daily meetings are aimless and... all over the place. 

Now, according to the Scrum Guide, there are 3 key questions that should set the direction of any Scrum meeting:

  1. "How does my work from the past 24 hours help my team meet the Spring Goal?"
  2. "What can I do today to help my team get closer to that goal?"
  3. "Are there any obstacles that stand in my or my team's way of reaching the Sprint Goal?"

But maybe you're just unable to define a clear Spring goal for your team to aim for. And that's the true source of the problem that's turning your daily standups into some productivity-consuming meetings.

In this case, here are 2 helpful questions to ask yourself, that will help you identify and clearly articulate this goal:

  1. Is your current development team too small, maybe, for this particular project?
  2. How about your current product management strategy? Is it effective enough?

#2 Cause for Your Daily Scrum Meetings Taking Too Long: Team's Off-Topic

Another common factor that turns daily Scrum meetings into some lengthy discussions is teams getting off the subject. 

Is when members tackle topics unrelated (or not directly related) to the Spring Goal.

Is this all too familiar to you?

#3 Cause: Not Sticking to A Backlog Refinement Routine 

You already turned it into a top priority in the early phase of the development cycle, right? So, why should you still stick to this tiresome habit?

What could possibly change?

Still, those cases when nothing changes through the development cycle are extremely rare. So, one of the best practices is that you spend 10% of a sprint to review the requirements and your list of priorities.

This way, once you start working on one of the requirements on your list, everyone's already properly informed: all the due questions will have been asked and answered by then.

A team that's insufficiently informed is another one of the most common causes of daily scrums taking too long.

# 4 Cause: Inefficient Sprint Planning

Inefficient/insufficient Spring Planning will only lead to a time-consuming, cumbersome and ongoing process where you'd need to:

Change your spring plan at every single daily standup.

And you don't want that...

Now, how does an effective Sprint Plan look like? It answers the following 3 crucial questions:

  1. What should be the outcomes of this Sprint? What specific change(s) should be visible in the software product at the end?
  2. How precisely will you meet this goal?
  3. What's your business goal?

# 5 Cause: Your Team Gets Tangled Up in Details During the Daily Scrum

Another reason for daily scrum meetings taking too long is your team delving too deep into details. 

It's when developers shift focus towards topics that are not linked to the Sprint Goal or included in the daily scum's “agenda”.

Tip: for this type of off-topic discussions, do reserve some time for after the daily meetings. It's then that you can re-plan or adapt your current tasks to imminent shifts of scope.

And most of all: then you'll get to engage only the right members of your team in these detailed discussions, instead of claiming the time of all those attending the daily stand-up...

In Conclusion...

Setting up a countdown clock on your daily scrums just to make sure they don't take more than 15 minutes is as efficient as cutting a too long blog post, right before its most important part. Just to comply with a strict requirement regarding the no. of words...

See my point? Getting to the root of the problem, digging for the causes behind your daily scrum meetings taking too long is the only effective approach here.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash.