Is There a Daily Scrum When the ScrumMaster is not Available?

April 24, 20132 min

Today I received this message from a former student and will describe my response below.

“I (the ScrumMaster) will be working from home for a couple of weeks, do you recommend the Team dial in so that the SM can listen in and participate via teleconference, do you think the stand ups should be cancelled without the SM present, or do you think the stand ups should occur without the SM all together?”

The purpose of the Daily Scrum is for the Team to reconnect, ask for (or offer) help and figure out if they are on-track or off-track to deliver the Sprint Goal.  It is an opportunity for the Team to provide visibility, self-organize, collaborate and inspect-and-adapt.  The Daily Scrum is a meeting about other meetings you need to have later in the day.  So, if the ScrumMaster cannot be physically present for the Daily Scrum, the Team will still have Daily Scrum since they still need to collaborate with one another and make fine-grained adjustments in order to deliver the Sprint Goal before the Sprint Review.

I would recommend that when the ScrumMaster is going to be away for a long period of time that a member of the Team take responsibility for facilitating the Daily Scrum.  It is very hard for the ScrumMaster to facilitate a Daily Scrum over a bridge line and not have the meeting turn into a status report to the ScrumMaster.  Once the Daily becomes a status report, the entire value of meeting is lost.  This is why I often refer to Team member responses to the Three Question as a “check-in” rather than an “update”.  Language really matters in this conversation and if we use old-fashioned words, it is easy to fall back into old-fashioned behaviors.

The ScrumMaster should make an effort to participate in the Daily Scrums even when they are off-site.  The Team should continue to select a time for the Daily Scrum that all members of the Team and the ScrumMaster can attend.  They may need to move the Daily Scrum to a place where they access to a bridge line, a video conference room or simply remain in workplace and use some type of video conferencing with webcams.

I hear iPads are cheap these days, so perhaps this is good excuse for the ScrumMaster to buy one “for the Team” so he or she can video conference into the Daily Scrums?  Come to think of it, this could be a good way to incorporate a remote Product Owner, too.