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We are using Scrum and our manager decided that if somebody lates to the daily scrum (which is in the morning) he or she have to buy a piece of chocolate (or something like that) for the others. Is it a good idea?

EDIT: Thank you everyone for the great answers! Here is experience: when somebody is late most of the other people start pointing at them and asking that "Where is my chocolate?". It kills morale (at least my morale, although it's not me who is late). It does not seem to be a sign of a good team.

If a decent worker is late because of something that he can't avoid (the traffic accident, for example, as @RhysW mentioned) he is already frustrated. Other people's complaints don't help, but also kills morale.

It was not mentioned in the question but it was a flexitime workplace before (there weren't any strict core period although most of the people usually were in the office 9 to 5). Then the daily scrum was moved to 9am (from 11am) for the sake of better teamwork (BS) by the management. The message is that working hours are more important than the result of work. It also hurts morale. Otherwise, it's similar to a salary cut.

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    Given that he legally can't force you to spend your money it will only work if people actually agree to buy it... – Rhys May 8 '13 at 8:08
  • Not a duplicate. This issue is specific to Scrum and is encouraged by the Scrum methodology. Although it would probably be better on Programmers than here. – DJClayworth May 8 '13 at 13:15
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    @DJC Which brings up the question: why do the late comers not experience the meeting as fast and furious? They seem to not consider it important. Might be worth asking. – user8036 May 8 '13 at 14:32
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    As it turns out, Programmers has closed a question on this topics with the comment that it would be better on Workplace. So maybe we should try to answer it. programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/106862/… – DJClayworth May 8 '13 at 15:10
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    Why not move your standup later in the day? I barely remember what I did yesterday or what I'm planning on doing when I first get in. Give them at least 10 minutes to sit down, catchup on emails, and finish their coffee. – user8588 May 8 '13 at 18:17
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It's only a good idea if everybody agrees to it otherwise it is likely to cause some issues with the team dynamics.

Consider these scenarios:

Person X is late to a meeting due to an unforeseen traffic accident causing them to be delayed. Its not their fault they are late, there isn't anything they could do about it. Yet they are punished for this.

Punishing people for things that are out of their control will only cause disarray in the team and cause unnecessary friction in an already busy or high pressure environment

Person X is late to a meeting and brings chocolate with him. But Person Y is allergic to dairy products. So next time someone is late they bring a bag of mixed nuts but Person Z is allergic to those. Now anyone who is late has to go out of their way to find something to bring to meet everyone's eating requirements. Pushing the cost up exponentially.

If everyone's eating habits aren't catered to, then you are unfairly segregating those people.

You could argue that the higher costs for needing to cater to everyone is even more likely to encourage being on time. But what about the first scenario? When it isn't their fault?

Person X is late to a meeting, but due to an increase in taxes, a cut in pay, and a new baby on the way they don't have the money to spare to bring delicacies for people. So you allow Person X to not be part of this, now X has no 'incentives' to be on time, and Y and Z are unhappy that they still have to pay for being late

This causes friction in the team and their productivity decreases as everyone is harboring personal grudges.

Ok so having a meeting first thing in the morning poses problems. Specifically because sometimes there are things out of their control that cause them to be delayed.

So first option is push the meeting back 10-20 minutes and keep the punishments, the second option is to keep the meeting where it is but remove the punishments.

Keeping the Punishments, moving the meeting

O.k so you have decided to move the meeting to allow for unforeseen incidents but you've decided to keep the punishments if people are late.

But what about these scenarios?

Person X is 10 minutes late to a meeting because they were busy finishing fixing a Priority 1 incident which was causing a client to lose money by the second.

Person Y is 5 minutes late to same meeting because they ate a properly uncooked batch of fish and have been feeling a bit off.

Eventually you find yourself needing to draw lines. Is it the last person to turn up who has to pay? Is it the person who wasn't on an urgent call? Is it the person who wasn't doing something for a client? What about those who are ill? Busy? Swamped? Caught by a more senior person for a talk in the hall on the way there?

There are too many rules to remember, too many situations that work or don't work.

At the end of the day you are avoiding the cause of the problem. Why aren't these people on time?

Priority

Perhaps it's not a high enough priority for them. If they are working on more than one project and they are nearing the end of a section of their work people find it more acceptable to finish that work then go to the meeting.

This prevents people from losing their trail of thought. Not to mention that actual work on a project is usually prioritized over a discussion about work for a project. It's just common sense because it has the highest Return on Effort.

Purpose

Maybe these people feel they don't have a purpose in the meeting. Why are they there? Are they able to contribute properly to the meeting or have you dragged them along because there is a potential for them to be useful for 5 minutes, maybe.

This causes people to zone out during the meetings, then be less inclined to even turn up on time, they feel their time is wasted.

Workload

Maybe these people are too busy. If they have 5 on going projects, all with short deadlines as well as a plethora of meetings to attend and documents to review and estimates to give, then of course they are going to be late.

Organisation

Maybe these people are just poorly organised and forget when things are. In which case, is the company / manager doing as much as they can to help? Providing time management tools for example. Hell, even Outlook is capable of dropping meeting reminders and storing flags.

At the end of the day you're trying to punish people for being late, rather than trying to remove the obstacle that causes them to be late

Which is the equivalent of whipping a donkey for falling to the floor, ignoring the fact that it fell because you loaded it up with more than it could carry.

So in conclusion I don't think its appropriate, you're trying to impose a punishment to stop something that has already happened, rather than trying to stop it from happening in the first place.

You want my advice? Simply ask them why they are late. You'll find they will either give an answer, which aids you in solving the root cause, or they will repeatedly say "i dont know" which allows their manager to take more appropriate actions.

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It very much depends on attitudes. If everybody sees it as a game it may work. If its considered punishment people may simply refuse (see SpikyBlues comment). It can also be seen as a nice pay-off:

There was an interesting study on this in Freakonomics, which looked at a number of Israeli creches over 20 weeks. Initially there was no late fee, then they introduced a fairly low one. When they introduced the low fee, late collections by parents actually went up - having a fee to pay took away the guilt in the parents' minds. (Worse, when they took away the fee at the end, lateness stayed at the higher levels - now parents had no guilt AND no fee!).

With so many variables, I'd say try it as a game, that may work best. That keeps it light and the manager can still point out that being late does not really work.

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    @JoeStrazzere One can expand the analysis further. If being late costs $5 (and presumably nothing else), then you can actually calculate the point at which it's worth it to be late. Say your salary averages at $40/hour -> being, 10 min late is already 'worth it' for 5 bucks because you're implicitly 'winning' $2.50. The less you make and the bigger the penalty (salary/penalty ratio), the longer your period of return on the late fee has to be -> the later the people will arrive. Bam! Microeconomics. – MrFox May 8 '13 at 14:23
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    @MrFox Only if you manage to spend those 10 minutes elsewhere earning a higher salary. Otherwise you're comparing real to virtual money ;-0 – user8036 May 8 '13 at 14:30
  • @JanDoggen Yes, I'm assuming equal value in the tradeoff between worktime and free time. The tradeoff may not be 1-1, but it's still there. Factoring it in will just complicate the story, but the outcome will be similar. – MrFox May 8 '13 at 15:12
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While a discussion of penalties for lateness at meetings in general is relevant Standup meetings, as used in the Scrum development methodology, are a special case. In the literature on Scrum, many writers positively recommend applying a small penalty to anyone who is late for a standup. However Scrum is intended to be a developer-driven methodology. Ideally your manager (ScrumMaster) shouldn't be enforcing this himself, but making the suggestion and letting the team adopt it if they wish.

There are a number of reasons why Standup meetings are different from most meetings, and why a late penalty is probably a good idea (if you have members who are in the habit of being late).

  1. Standup meetings are intended to be very short and fast (that's why people stand up). The emphasis is on taking as little time as possible out of a developers time for coding. Because of this, anyone who is even a few minutes late will disproprotionately increase the amount of time developers have to stop coding. Developers don't like to stop coding.
  2. They happen at the same time every day. Therefore anyone should be able to get into the rhythm of attending on time, no matter how poor their time management skills.
  3. They generally happen very close to the team's desk area, so it shouldn't take any significant time to get to the meeting.
  • It's a dangerous assumption, as pointed out in other answers, that people are late because they have poor time management skills. Everyone will have the occasional unforeseen problem that prevents them being in on time. And if individuals are persistently late then it's more appropriate for management to deal with it outside the context of Scrum. – Julia Hayward Jun 14 '13 at 8:45
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    The 'penalty' is usually set at a level where it isn't a burden to anyone, so occasional unforeseen lateness shouldn't be an issue. The penalty can always be waived if the team thinks there is a good excuse. The emphasis is on team accountability. – DJClayworth Jun 14 '13 at 15:32
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I would distinguish between

  • at my desk, do not notice it is Scrum time, or notice but decide to "just finish this" before heading to the meeting
  • not in the office yet

Also, being late is already punished. If you arrive at the meeting and everyone is there waiting for you and perhaps saying "hurry up, get in here, you're five minutes late" that is a form of punishment. If you care about your team, that should be all the motivation you need. If you have a chronic latecomer, people who don't like waiting for them and who sit reasonably near them will probably stop by their desks and say "coming to scrum?" This may be less a punishment than a help, it doesn't really matter which way they perceive it as long as the late arriving is reduced by it.

However, in the same laughing spirit as silly hats for breaking the build, you can easily make on-the-spot punishments for being late. In most teams I know, nobody ever wants to go first. Therefore make the late comers go first (and second etc) before then carrying on around the circle starting with whoever was standing next to the latecomer(s). Now people will hurry to the meeting so they don't have to go first. If for some reason your team is full of people who like to go first, then latecomers get skipped when we're going around the circle and we'll do you last. If the person says when they arrive "sorry, stuck in traffic, just got in the door" then you can exempt them from the penalty easily enough.

I wouldn't suggest anything that has a scope past the meeting, certainly not "tomorrow you have to X." The meeting is what is being disrespected when a person is late, and the meeting is where that is objected to, and moments before the meeting is where it can be prevented.

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This is good, but the "buying chocolate when you're late" rule should not be law. We can implement this as a game at the beginning of the day so people can enjoy the full day with good start.

Also, if someone loses, perhaps someone should win. If you collect money from the losing person, then it should be spent on some good.

  • Hi Jani, welcome to the Workplace, I cleaned up the spelling and grammar a bit to try to determine what you were trying to say. If I made a mistake in what you mean, please edit further. Also, consider adding more information about why this is the correct answer, as per our site's back-it-up rule in the faq. Hope this helps! :) – jmort253 May 10 '13 at 5:35
  • I think I see what you're saying here: there are ways to go about it that make it playful rather than imposed from above. My last team had a "donuts for breaking the build" policy that went a lot like that -- people would tease you about bringing donuts but nobody cared if you didn't bother. – Yamikuronue Jun 14 '13 at 18:55

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