During the Q&A portion of an Agile panel discussion, a Scrum Master asked the following question:
“My team prefers to have their daily scrum just twice per week. I know I can’t mandate that they have it daily, so what should I do?”
My initial reaction was to unmute zoom and shout “Of course you can mandate this! It’s called the DAILY Scrum for a reason!”, citing the official event title from the Scrum Guide. However, instead of prescriptively waving the Scrum gospel around, I paused to contemplate the word she used: “mandate”.
According to dictionary.com, mandate (when used as a verb) is to order or require; make mandatory. When you mandate something, you are coming from a place of authority, of leadership. You are now dictating the process; you are setting the rules.
Do Scrum Masters have the right to mandate rules to a team?
I know, I know, everyone hates a wishy-washy answer but hear me out.
Have you heard the phrase “Shu-Ha-Ri”? This term is derived from martial arts and is used to describe the progression of training or learning. Essentially, there are three stages of acquiring knowledge. I like to think of it as:
For example, this means meeting on a consistent basis (daily), keeping the Daily Scrum focused, raising impediments, strategizing towards completing the sprint goal, and containing it within a 15-minute time frame. Until these elements of the Daily Scrum are truly ingrained in the team’s DNA, I would expect the Scrum Master to continually reinforce (mandate) these rules.
When the team has moved past “Shu”, the Scrum Master can take a more flexible or pragmatic approach.
What indicates that the team has advanced from “Shu” to “Ha”? Or from “Ha to Ri”? Unfortunately, there is no magical “Ha-Ri Finish Line”, but you can hunt for clues such as:
As a Scrum Master observing these behaviors, I would feel confident stepping back and allowing the Dev team to bend some rules (ie: scheduling their daily scrum twice per week). However, I would monitor them to make sure they continue to stay within the guardrails of the framework, values, and principles, since it’s easy to get complacent.
In summary, there is a certain rhythm and rigor to Scrum. The Scrum Master’s job is to promote/support Scrum by helping everyone understand Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values. How this looks depends on the maturity of the team.
The one question I will always go back to is: Is this a true Shu, Ha, or Ri level team? The answer to this question almost always determines the best approach or course of action.
Just an agile-dork writing about dorky agile things.