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I have read this question, but my issue is a little bit more specific: how do I get one person to not talk for as long in a scrum? I'm the scrum master. It's more than, "get to the point". It's how to do it in a scrum meeting. If you do not know what a scrum meeting is, please do not vote to close this issue.

THIS IS RELATED TO AGILE/SCRUM MEETINGS - NOT NORMAL BUSINESS MEETINGS

We have a person in our daily standup/scrum meeting that takes at least five minutes to say what they feel like they need to say. The person in question is the release manager. This person gives a near hour-by-hour play of what they did yesterday and what they plan on doing today. Everyone else takes about twenty seconds. What is the best way to get this person to make shorter updates?

What can I say during the meeting, that isn't rude, to let her know that she is going way too long? I would like to tell her in person rather than an email.

I feel as if the person has to overcompensate and tell everyone how much they work because they have to work weekends/nights when most people aren't working and using the systems.

Here is an example of the person's update:

"Today, I have a meeting with so and so at nine am..." when the person located in another country.

It is not relevant to anyone in the room. What can I say to get this person to understand why we having a meeting?

Here is a draft email I am thinking about sending out to the team:

Dear ...

It is my opinion that we are practicing scrum for scrum’s sake and there is no value in that.

These meetings are not for everyone to give a detailed, play by play, of their previous day’s work. We are currently doing “Round table status reports” without action items. If there were no action items for anyone after the meeting, there was no purpose to having developers stop working and gather into a conference room. Status reports and other communication can be done over email, instant message or a phone call.

Each team member presents three topics. This single aspect of the stand-up meeting is the most difficult to implement effectively.

  1. Yesterday: What did you work on since the last Scrum?
  2. Today: What will you be working on till the next Scrum?
  3. In my way: What impediments are you facing? You are presenting progress information in terms that are meaningful to the other team members.

Your audience is everyone else on the team – remember this is not a detailed status report to the team. Don’t let this become a meeting where someone has to ask probing questions in order to get a satisfactory understanding of your true situation. Give Concise crisp updates. Updates should be short and focused on the task at hand. It should take you less than a minute to say what you need to say.

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    possible duplicate of How can I tell people to get to the point?
    – gnat
    Aug 5 '15 at 21:09
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Aug 9 '15 at 0:45
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    The letter is making a mountain out of a molehill. If you're their manager, just saying after they're done, "Please keep it brief, scrum is not for getting into fine details" is enough.
    – Kai
    Aug 11 '15 at 16:38
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    Put a timer on everyone. Nov 17 '19 at 13:25
  • Wow I guess I don't have enough rep to add an answer... Anyway. Just interrupt her with questions that get her to the point. That's literally it. Person starts to wander off: "So Person, do you have any blockers?", "So, were you able to accomplish what you needed?", "So, besides the meetings, was there anything specific that stood out to you from yesterday?", or just skip her altogether. Let her know it's ok for her to keep the time to herself.
    – Sorting
    Jun 10 at 17:05

12 Answers 12

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What can I say during the meeting that isn't rude to let her know that she is going way too long? I would like to tell her in person rather than an email.

You have the right idea, but the wrong approach. Do tell her in person, rather than by email. But don't say it during the meeting (unless all else fails).

Since there is only one person at issue here, talk to the individual in question privately. Explain that the team needs her to be focused and succinct in her turn during the daily standup, and explain why.

Coach her, rather than criticize her. Do it individually and privately.

If it continues, talk to her again and point out that it's still taking too long. You might offer to give her some training materials about Scrum, Standups, and her role in them.

If none of that helps, then during the next meeting before anyone speaks, tell the group the concept of succinctness, and talking only about what others need to hear.

If that still fails, the next time she starts to go off course, politely interrupt with something like "Excuse me a moment, but I think we're getting off track here. Please tell us only what others need to hear."

As @JamesRyan wisely points out in his comment, you might choose to offer the opportunity for a follow-on discussion between the release manager and anyone else who wants to hear the rest of what she has to say. That way, not everyone has to use up their time. In my shop we called that a "Tag Along".

(As a Scrum Master, you might need a bit more training on keeping the daily Standup on track?)

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  • And/or start one of the meetings with a general reminder of the expectations of a scrum meeting: what you've done that others may have been waiting for (just enough that they know it's ready, not gory detail), what you're going to work on next (so others can plan, and to make sure you're addressing the right priorities), and what if anything is getting in your way (so someone can volunteer to assist after the scrum, if they have what's needed) That's it. Anything else should wait until the scrum is over, or taken to another meeting or e-mail or whatever.
    – keshlam
    Aug 5 '15 at 22:29
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    also don't just cut people off if a discussion starts, it might still be an important one to have, offer to continue that afterwards with just the relevant people.
    – JamesRyan
    Aug 6 '15 at 9:22
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    @JoeStrazzere thats pretty much what my comment said! give them an alternative, rather than leave them without closure on something they are thinking about
    – JamesRyan
    Aug 6 '15 at 10:36
  • I can't add an answer to a protected question yet and I really like your answer. My addition: What helped in the same situations I've been is to add the scope of the sprint goal to the 3 questions to be answered in a daily scrum; "What did you do yesterday [that contributes to the sprint goal]". This helped me in the past to keep focus and reduce verbal output of people speaking too long.
    – pdu
    Jun 10 at 9:34
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I would do this in two steps. First try to do it without singling her out. At your next scrum, open by reminding the entire group what the expectations are. Tell everyone what you want to hear, what you don't want to hear, and how much time you want it to take. Maybe mention things she's been doing, but don't specifically call her out on it. Hopefully she will catch on and take the hint.

If that doesn't work, just pull her aside after one of the meetings. Something like:

I appreciate the detail you're sharing, but the purpose of a scrum is to give a very brief update. For example, from today's meeting I really only needed you to tell us X, Y, and Z.

I think these conversations should fix the problem without making her feel reprimanded. Definitely don't send that email. As Philip explains, the tone comes off very harsh and would not be received well.

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    Ironically, addressing the whole meeting in order to improve the performance of a single person at a particular task, when everyone else is doing it fine, is precisely the opposite of using the standup meeting to deliver only the information that everyone needs to hear ;-) Aug 6 '15 at 10:15
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I think you're basically there - you need to get the scrum more focused on what a scrum should be. Once you've done that, you can gently interrupt people in the scrum and say something like "That doesn't seem to be relevant to this team - could you try and stay focused on things that this team needs to know about?"

However, the tone of your e-mail reads very badly to me (I don't know if English is your native language or not) - it reads like a lecture to a naughty schoolchild rather than an actual attempt to improve the value of the scrum. One thing you should bear in mind here that as the scrum master, you bear a greater share of the responsibility for the fact that the scrums are out of control than anyone else. Humility is the key here.

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  • C# is my native language. haha. I do agree it sounds harsh,and do realizes its my responsibility. That is why I am on here asking quesitons. I do like the comment,"that doesn't seem relevant to the team"
    – crh225
    Aug 5 '15 at 18:59
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What I like to say at the standup is "OK everybody, this is the standup, we need to keep it brief because we're all busy. I need to impose a 30 second limit on your input."

Make sure she's not the last to report.

If she then takes too long, just politely interrupt her and say, "sorry __________ I have to cut you off there unless you can quickly summarise what it is you need to report." Then move to the next person. She'll get the message, and it's handled without embarrassment or penalty. It's the process that's cut her short, not you.

She is the release manager - so really he input should be really minimal or non existent.

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  • As a team member, how am I supposed to report 2 impediments along with my recent and next work in 30 seconds? A hard time limit is a bad idea, because the amount of relevant information varies wildly from team member to team member, and from day to day.
    – meriton
    Aug 6 '15 at 10:04
  • Perhaps a range rather than a specific amount would be a better idea.
    – James
    Aug 6 '15 at 11:07
  • Interrupt with "Let's not go into too much detail, so your issues are A, B, and are there any others? We can discuss outside the meeting if we need to go into more detail"
    – NibblyPig
    Aug 6 '15 at 12:28
  • She is the last one to report.
    – crh225
    Aug 6 '15 at 13:06
  • If someone rambles on too long, make sure they are the last; Then, at least, they're not using up other people's time and the scheduled end of the stand up will naturally cut them off. Jun 10 at 11:54
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Really didn't want myself to repeat what others said, but I have a slightly different approach to share. During one of such out-smarting members' long scrum speech, I had to quench him down by asking time (while he was still speaking) to tell that we cant afford to hear more details while being with the current team, but that we would appreciate to hear from him offline. Later, when he repeated this next time, I personally told him to send his updates first through a mail to me(the scrum master), putting them in bullets, very precisely and to the point, before an hour of our scrum call. This not only helped him to get into a good manner of a precise dialogue, but also gave him an opportunity of learning to speak with deliverable points. It hardly took us a week or two to let him speak without a mail update in advance.

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    Downvoter: care to comment? Anil's answer could use some clean-up but he seems to make a good point and is speaking from experience.
    – Lilienthal
    Aug 6 '15 at 7:39
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Flex your moderator skills - moderation of the diverse scrum artifacts is part of your job as scrum master.

In your next daily, lead in somewhat like this:

In the past, we often talked about all kinds of things. Let's try to focus now; everybody just quickly list off which story you worked on yesterday; which one you will be talking about today; and which impediments you are having. We will be talking about the impediments after the scrum with only the persons who are involved or can help. Let's not talk about any details today.

Then frame the rest of he meeting explicitly in a "round table" format:

Alice, please start...

Then...

Thanks Alice. Bob, please...

Call up all members (don't let anyone just start). When anyone (not only the one you mentioned) starts to go off track, immediately jump in.

At the end, finish somewhat like this:

Thanks, Zeta. Everybody, have a nice day. Bob and Charlie, do you wish to stay around for a moment to discuss that impediment that came up?

If at any point you are not sure whether a discussion is super important to break out of this scheme, ask the team:

OK, this seems to get off on a tangent - is it important to discuss now, or can we handle it later?

In short: get your colleagues used to you being an active moderator. You can apply the same to all other scrum meetings (planning, refinement). After a while, it will not be awkward anymore, and you can reign in your problem case everytime without it even standing out.

If the person thinks that it is important that the other team members get the information right now, then ask her instead to write the pertinent stuff down as comments in your story tool (offline of course, not in the scrum meeting), and just have her point the colleagues there, so they can check that out on a need-to-know basis.

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Since modifying the behavior of individuals is very difficult, an approach I have been a part of is to move standups to an IM tool. Each team member simply answers the "3 questions" by a certain time. By doing this you meet the spirit of the stand up while also creating a record that can be referred to throughout the day.

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    With our kanban boards, and our crazy thought our jira workflows, I feel as if stand up meetings are pointless. Everyone goes around and is pretty much like, "yep I worked on that one yesterday, And next to my name is what I am working on today." Usually our blocking items get worked out before the meeting. I feel as if we are just doing scrum meeting because someone wrote an agile book and said it was a good idea.
    – crh225
    Aug 5 '15 at 19:49
  • @crh225: if the person in question is saying in the standup, "I will have a meeting at 9am", it therefore takes place earlier than that. So it sounds to me as though the meetings serve the "valuable" business purpose of providing a spurious reason for everyone to start work before 9am. I'm not really a morning person ;-) Aug 6 '15 at 10:19
  • our standups are at 8am.
    – crh225
    Aug 6 '15 at 12:46
  • @crh225: I'm so sorry :( Aug 6 '15 at 16:21
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Here is an example of the person's update:

"Today, I have a meeting with so and so at nine am..." when the person located in another country.

It is not relevant to anyone in the room. What can I say to get this person to understand why we having a meeting?

I think maybe you need to start by understanding the purpose of the stand-up yourself.

The "meeting with so and so" absolutely is relevant. From 9am until a certain time afterwards, this individual in your team will not be contactable and will not be eating up scrum hours performing scrum tasks. This is completely relevant. It may not be "interesting" to you but that's not really the point.

That there is a solid reason for this item to be mentioned is convenient, because it's also nice for the individual involved to feel like his team* (and, in particular, his supervisor) are taking an interest in the amount of work he puts into his job, and have some form of recognition of that.

So these points certainly should be mentioned, and from the way you're talking I suspect that this addresses a large part of the problem.

However, five minutes is certainly too long for an individual contribution. It seems like this person is going into way too much detail on each point, probably going past the "what I did" and "what I'll be doing", into more of the "what that task involved, the problems I faced and how I overcame them". That stuff is worth talking about but not in stand-up.

In conclusion, instead of trying to persuade this individual to talk about fewer things, just encourage them to be more concise. You can do this without any theatrics or formal, condescending emails, by beginning the session with a simple "alright, let's keep it snappy today — thirty seconds per person please!" and a wry smile. That's all it needs to be. And as scrum master, to be blunt, that's your job.

If the individual still starts rabbiting on about off-topic things, just politely interrupt with a "sorry, Joffrey, one moment … shall we take this off-line for now? Probably a little too detailed for stand-up?"

The expected response at this point is "oh, sure, okay".

If you do not get that response then there are bigger issues in your team that deserve being addressed as a separate question.


* Speaking of teams, though, why is a release manager in your team? And hence in your stand-up meeting? That's a little peculiar in my book. It doesn't seem like their activities — meetings or anything else — would have a direct impact on your team's performance, interaction potential and available man-power. If that's the case, then it certainly explains this problem. You shouldn't have people from outside your team in your stand-up meeting.

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  • Not sure whether this is a localisation thing, but in my environment to "take something offline" has evolved from a term useful in conference calls to a term useful in any general meeting sense, to mean "talk about it later, outside of this meeting". Aug 6 '15 at 21:10
  • Our company has taken over software from a contracting company. We followed their process for over two years while we learned and worked alongside them. In their process they had the release manager join the meeting, but he rarely said anything. Usually, this environment is now down/up. I agree its good to know she isnt going to be available, but we have instant messaging that lets us know they are in a meeting.
    – crh225
    Aug 6 '15 at 21:59
  • You hit the problem on the head. She is going more of what that task involved, the problems I faced and how I overcame them. I also like the idea of right before the meetings starts, all smiles and say, lets keep this short today! A little suggestive thinking.
    – crh225
    Aug 6 '15 at 22:02
  • @crh225: Just basic human interaction, I would have thought :P Nov 20 '15 at 13:46
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You can try and lead them in sentence like...

"So tell us about . Just a few quick points on where you stand and ETA."

Do the same for everyone else so that there is no sense of singling out. After that meet with said person and just tell them these meetings are just for quick updates. If they feel need for detailed reports to you then have them E-Mail all the notes to you on what's going on. That will discourage them from going crazy with information in the scrum and give you the information in a manageable form. Either that or they will abandon all the typing and get on with work.

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A systems view: the person's behavior is at least partially driven by the environment and structure around them. So, in addition to some of the ideas posted already, consider changing the structure. If they are giving an hour-by-hour update on their day, then something in the structure tells them that this is appropriate.

You can enforce the timebox to show that long-running updates are not appropriate. Use this one with care. It can be effective, but it can also be viewed as passive aggressive.

However, you can also address the "update" part. Scrums often move person-to-person, but they don't have to. You could go backlog item to backlog item and ask set pointed questions like "How quickly is this moving toward done and is anything standing in the way?" A very polite way to introduce this is to start doing it halfway through the sprint with the explanation that now we're halfway, you want to shift the focus toward the finish line, so you'd like to try this framing for the second half and then review how it went in the retro.

The other answers about the interpersonal interactions are valuable too, but don't forget the systemic part.

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Call it out as a blocker during the meeting.

The purpose of a stand up is to discuss what you did yesterday, what you're going to do today, and anything that might block your ability to do either.

A teammate wasting everyone's time by waffling on and on in meetings counts as a blocker, because time you spend listening to them is time you're not spending doing things that are actually productive. As a result, it would be reasonable to call it out as a blocker that you experienced yesterday and that you anticipate experiencing today.

Is bluntly calling out a teammate for being a blocker a bit rude? Yes. Should you let that stop you? Probably not. Part of the point of the meeting is to flag blockers so that they can be unblocked.

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At my last job, we had a very friendly culture, as well as a very helpful one towards each other. As a result, we found ourselves asking questions and going long in the tooth in our explanations of things we were working on. Once we realized that it was becoming a problem, and causing our 15 minute stand-up to go on for an hour, we knew we had to make a change.

The answer we came up with was fairly simple. If anyone at any time felt that the conversation was moving towards a place of being long or irrelevant, or the discussion between two people could be moved to after the stand-up, they could say a word. In our case it was "Chocolate." The idea here was that no matter what, if someone said Chocolate, it was a purely helpful and positive way to moving the meeting along. This became an established rule, and helped remind everyone during the meeting to stay on task and keep it brief. The most important part of this tool, however, was respect. I want to emphasize, this can only work if everyone is respectful of each other. We found it to be particularly useful, and it helped us to keep the stand-ups brief.

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