Daily Scrum fine considered harmful

Many Scrum teams implement a system of fines for those who come late to the Daily Scrum meeting. The Scrum Master collects a dollar — or whatever — to increase the discipline. In the long run it will actually have the opposite impact.

When extrinsic motivation (be in time to avoid fine) goes up, then the intrinsic motivation (be in time because you value this meeting) usually goes down. You can make people temporarily change their behavior because they are threatened, but you can’t use a threat to make them change what they value.

This is a well known fact in brain science.


15 Responses to “Daily Scrum fine considered harmful”

  1. 1 Nina Madeira 2010-02-14 at 05.21

    I Think that professional to need not be punished with money.
    He can be analyzed by human resources of business. That has psychology training and will help recognize o problem.
    Three options:
    1 – The professional does not understand the agile methodology;
    2 – The professional does not like the agile methodology;
    3 – Personal problem.

  2. 2 Tobias Fors 2010-02-14 at 08.05

    Hi Staffan! Well said. This is one of the practices encouraged by some Scrum teachers that I’ve made sure not to propagate. Was it you that told me about the daycare center that introduced fees for arriving late with children? The result: parents realized they could pay a small fee for being late, and not feel bad about it.

  3. 3 Staffan Nöteberg 2010-02-14 at 08.52

    Yes, the fine tries to treat the symptom and leaves the root cause in silence.

  4. 4 Staffan Nöteberg 2010-02-14 at 08.52

    I don’t recognize that story, but I can imagine that it is true.

  5. 5 Michael Dubakov 2010-02-15 at 22.27

    So what is the solution?
    You have team of 15 people.
    2 of them constantly late.
    They say that they can do nothing with it, they just can’t get up earlier.
    What will you do to solve this problem?

  6. 6 Tobias Fors 2010-02-16 at 08.17

    Michael: the first thing that came to mind when I read your question is that 15 people is quite a big team. A little too big to be able to do effective daily meetings, in my opinion, unless you do something radical about the format of the meeting.

    That said, what does the rest of the team think of the constant lateness? Is it accepted behavior, or is it seen as a problem?

  7. 7 Michael Dubakov 2010-02-16 at 11.09

    Meeting duration is 15 minutes, so we handled the team size I think.

    Team thinks that it is a problem, but not very significant.

  8. 8 Tobias Fors 2010-02-16 at 17.27

    Do team members find the meeting useful, helpful? I take it the late comers do not find the meeting very useful, otherwise they would come in time. What do they miss that would make the meeting useful to them?

  9. 9 Joakim Sundén 2010-02-17 at 13.19

    So what if the team makes a commitment together to introduce a fine just so that it’s obvious for everyone that it is important and that the line is actually drawn at exactly 9 o’clock, not around 9 o’clock and everyone understands the reason behind it? In my experience the fine is a good set of training wheels for introducing new rules and they can come off pretty soon. Does your experience differ or is “just theory”? :-)


  10. 10 Staffan Nöteberg 2010-02-17 at 18.50

    Good questions, Joakim!

    The person who lack intrinsic motivation to be on time, clearly doesn’t value this meeting. To punish him, may make him be on time (because of fear). But it will reduce his intrinsic motivation. The reduction in intrinsic motivation means that he contributes even less to the meeting. The symptom is treated and root cause is left in silence.

    More generally: to punish—in public—the one who violate rules, reduces his intrinsic motivation. Perhaps he keeps himself from the bad behavior (because of fear) but his understanding that this is a morally (in Kant’s definition) bad behavior does not increase.

    So what are the alternatives to punishment? To increase another person’s intrinsic motivation is a very long journey and it starts with that you have to walk a thousand miles in his shoes. Each person has unique experiences and his own ideas of reality. You must really understand that person’s very personal way of thinking (empathy). There is no universal motivation increaser.

    All this is harmonizes with my experiences and it’s also mainstream in neuropsychology and brain science.

    As introduction to these Ideas, I recommend Fearless Change by Linda Rising, The Now Habit by Neil Fiore and Management Rewired by Charles Jacobs.

  11. 11 Staffan Nöteberg 2010-02-17 at 19.08

    Hi Michael & Tobias,

    I also suspect that the chronically latecomers doesn’t value this meeting. And even more: I can’t say for sure that they are wrong. Maybe the meeting is mandatory in your process, but implemented in a way that doesn’t contribute to your goals.

    But in case they are wrong, i.e. the meeting should be important to them. Then you need to know the real root cause of why they refuse to be there on time. Otherwise you have no chance to increase their intrinsic motivation.

  12. 12 Björn 2010-08-25 at 08.38


    I attended a very good Pomodor seminar november 2008 by you Staffan in Gothenburg! :-) Remembered this when i saw your name. Well, I actually was looking for strategies to have people come on time to daily scrum, there are 1-2 that always is late, so the daily scrum looses momentum and energy if we wait, and is people get irritated why they cant be on time, if we start without them.

    Is there any good strategies here? Is it that the daily scrum needs to be improved so it is so interesting that no one want to miss it? On the other end, its after all a work, and people are expected to be on the hours they get paid for…


  13. 13 Staffan Nöteberg 2010-09-17 at 14.44

    Thanks Björn! I remember those sessions very well – two identical consecutive with 15 minutes break in-between :- )

    First you must understand why they are late – the root reason. If you can’t walk in their shoes and feel empathy for their decision to be late, you will never be able to motivate them. Sit down together and make an Ishikawa diagram. Maybe it will give you an idea of if you, they, the meeting are all three should change.

  14. 14 MH Lines 2010-11-18 at 19.04


    I find that those who are late to meetings are the ones who have less of a commitment to the team as a whole. Fixing the commitment to team (which can be incented in part with financial reward) goes a long way to helping the team operate as a team. The more our scrum team has come together, the more we’ve resolved the late issues.

  15. 15 Staffan Nöteberg 2010-11-18 at 19.21

    I agree with: “Fixing the commitment to team goes a long way to helping the team operate as a team.”

    I don’t agree with “Fixing the commitment to team can be incented in part with financial reward.”

    All my experience tells me that Frederick Winslow Taylor was wrong. It’s not commitment when you are forced or bribed to visit a meeting.

    As you link to VersionOne, I suppose you represent them. Is this realy your official philosophy at VersionOne?

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