How would you influence or encourage product stakeholders to attend daily scrums?
Welcome to part 18 of our Scrum Master interview questions series where John McFadyen answers common questions asked of scrum masters in interviews and client engagements.
I wouldn’t. The daily scrum isn’t the right place for a product stakeholder to engage with the team, nor is there any value to the team in having them there.
The purpose of a daily scrum
The purpose of a daily scrum is to provide the developers with short, sharp daily meeting – usually around 15 minutes – where they can update the team on what they are busy with over the next 24 hours, what impediments may be preventing progress, and what has been achieved in the past 24 hours.
In short, they are planning out the next 24 hours, aligning their efforts with the sprint goal, and ensuring that each team member has what they need to complete their task or objective.
It isn’t the place to discuss anything in detail nor is it intended to be a forum for people to raise questions about specific items or review what has been done. Some people misinterpret the daily scrum as a project update to a project manager, but it couldn’t be more different.
The developers are talking about what they are working on, ensuring that this is still the most important item to be working on, and validating why they are working on that item.
If a product stakeholder did insist on being present, I would educate them as to the purpose of a daily scrum, ask them to honour the ‘rules’ of the daily scrum, and simply observe rather than attempt to engage.
Engaging developers and discussing the product
It’s great the product developers want to attend the daily scrum because they are deeply invested in the product, but I wouldn’t encourage them to attend.
I would take some time out to understand what the product stakeholder specifically wants to gain from being present in the daily scrum and seek out better opportunities to achieve their goal or satisfy their curiosity.
The sprint review is the perfect place for product stakeholders to engage developers, understand what has been produced, and what might have prevented the developers from achieving their sprint goal or objectives.
It is a far better event for them to attend and it is specifically designed to promote understanding, engagement and provide insights into what has been created and why.
It is the perfect event for product stakeholders to provide feedback, ask questions, and engage the scrum team. Helping them understand that and encouraging them to attend the sprint review and prepare relevant questions for the team will go a lot further than inviting them to a daily scrum.
Create a dedicated meeting
Things change. Events happen. And so, it may be that the product stakeholder needs to urgently engage the scrum team.
In such an event, I would look to bring the product owner and the product stakeholder together in a separate meeting. Alternatively, it would be a meeting with the scrum team if it justifies pulling the developers off work is already planned.
Yes, scrum has dedicated events but one of the agile principles is to welcome changes, even late in development, and so there is nothing wrong with creating a dedicated meeting between the team and a product stakeholder or customer.
As the relationship grows between the product stakeholder and the scrum team, you may find that less of these separate meetings are required because they learn to trust the team, learn to work closely with the product owner, and become better at engaging in sprint reviews.
But, in the early days of the relationship, it may simply be necessary to have the odd meeting, apart from the sprint reviews, with product stakeholders or customers.
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