Mike Bowler
Mike Bowler

Each day during standup, most teams will have every answer three questions. The questions most commonly asked are fairly poor and result in a undesirably bad meeting.

Note that the 2020 Scrum Guide removed any reference to these three questions so they are no longer part of official scrum.

The Scrum Guide used to recommend that everyone answer these three questions. Although a bit wordy, they aren’t horrible.

  • What did you do yesterday to move the team closer to the sprint goal?
  • What are you going to do today to move us closer to the sprint goal?
  • What obstacles are in your way of us completing the sprint goal?

Unfortunately, because they are fairly wordy, almost everyone simplified those questions to the following and asked them instead.

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What are you going to do today?
  • What obstacles are in your way?

The problem is that when shortening the questions, we lost the primary value that was in them. We went from asking about team accomplishment and teamwork to asking about what individuals are doing. By asking these shortened questions, we’ve embedded the unconscious message that we don’t value teamwork and want you to work by yourself.

If we wanted to send a message of teamwork then we’d be better asking these questions.

  • What will it take for us to move work item X to done today?
  • Would the work go better/faster if more people helped?
  • What obstacles are in our way?

Note the focus on the work and the team, not on the individuals. Everyone will unconsciously optimize their behaviour to match whatever we measure. If we measure individual accomplishment, we’ll get more individual work. If we measure teamwork, we’ll get more of that.


See also: This video on the Improving Flow blog where I walk through the standup process and talk about better questions along with a bunch of other things.