Agile QuickTip: Avoid Starting Sprints on Mondays or Fridays

Avoid Starting Sprints on Mondays or Fridays

Sometimes a small change can make a big difference. Starting sprints on days other than Mondays and Fridays can make your scrum more valuable, and solve some common scrum problems for your agile team.

A lot teams will start their agile sprints on Mondays and end them on Fridays. This is a natural choice, mirroring the traditional working week, so you can see why teams opt for this routine. However, there are a number of reasons why Fridays and Mondays may not be the best day for finishing or starting your sprint.

  1. Fridays are often a work from home day, so you might find that members of the team do not make it into the office.
  2. For team members who work remotely or commute for work, Fridays are a frequent choice for a travel day.
  3. A lot of times, people will leave work early on a Friday to start their weekend, avoiding the traffic or getting a head start on a night out.
  4. In some countries, Fridays aren’t even a work day, which can have an effect on getting tasks completed or communicating with global businesses.
  5. Holidays in the United States typically fall on Mondays making it a less than ideal day to start a sprint.

By changing the sprint start or end days, you can also avoid the issue of the ‘invisible sprint days’ on the weekend when teams scramble to get their sprint finished. Start your team’s agile sprint on Wednesdays or Thursdays, and then finish on Tuesdays or Wednesdays instead. In this way, you can give your full team the tools and time they need to finish the scrum as strong as they started.

This idea has helped a lot of teams, encouraging sprints to become less chaotic and a lot more transparent.

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Agile Quicktip: Budgeting Your Scrum Update Times

Have you ever considered that budgeting time for each team member to give their daily updates might make your daily Scrum more valuable?

One thing that a lot of scrum or agile teams complain about, is getting value out of their daily Scrum. In some cases, team members might be providing too much information or taking up too much of the Scrum time by getting lost in the details. For others, the problem might be that they aren’t giving enough detail. Either way, the value of the Scrum is being lost.

One suggestion is to allocate time for each individual team member’s updates. Be explicit about the amount of time — bring a kitchen timer to the Scrum, or use an online tool like Google Timer to visually indicate the time box and the time remaining. Pick an amount of time for each team member’s update — maybe 60 seconds or 90 seconds — and let them know that this is the time they have to fill.

It can also help to coach your team members to get the most out of their update. They should be communicating their updates not just from the sender’s point of view, but also from the perspective of the receiver.  What’s the message you want your team members to receive from your update? From there, they can work out what to say during their 60 seconds to best communicate that message.

In this way, your daily Scrum only takes ten minutes, or maybe fifteen minutes max, but you’re getting a lot more value out of that time.

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Agile QuickTip: A Minute of Fun

A Minute of Scrum Fun

Set your Scrum apart with a minute of fun!

Many scrum or agile teams find their daily Scrum or stand up can become a little boring or stale. When it’s not that interesting, you might find that people even start to dread going. Unengaged team members can lead to late arrivals, lack of participation, or even no-shows.

If you’re facilitating the daily Scrum, and want to change the tone, try starting every Scrum with a minute of fun. Here are some ideas that take under a minute, and can encourage your Scrum to be more engaging from the outset.

  • A joke or a tongue-twister: This idea can set people at ease, and start the Scrum with a laugh, great for relaxing your team.
  • A riddle: A tricky question can be a fun and interesting way to begin your stand up, and finding out who has lateral thinking skills!
  • A trivia question: You could make it even more interesting by asking team members to take turns picking a question for the next day.
  • A short game: Why not try a round of hum that tune or a speedy tournament of rock/paper/scissors?

Starting your daily Scrum with a minute of fun can set your Scrum apart, and position the tone in the right direction, with something a little more light-hearted. In this way, your daily stand up could even become something that your team members look forward to participating in.

If nothing else, the ‘minute of fun’ creates a ritualistic aspect to your Scrum, giving it a unique feeling, structure and vibe. Every team does a daily scrum but yours is different: you start with a minute of fun!

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Agile QuickTip: Teach your Team to W.A.I.T

Teach your Team to W.A.I.T

If you’re the scrum master of an agile scrum team and you find that those daily scrum meetings are taking longer than you want, or your team members are getting too into the details, and you aren’t getting enough value from the scrum, here’s a tool that might help your team be a little more mindful in how they communicate and share information in meetings.

W.A.I.T.Why Am I Talking?

The acronym W.A.I.T is a quick strategy to help your team members ask and answer one simple question: Why Am I Talking? This is useful to help team members better communicate and collaborate – especially in meetings.  It helps people pause for a split-second to think about the message they intend to communicate and the best way to communicate it.

Just WAIT!

That thing I want to say, does it really need to be said? If it isn’t important – or if it has already been said – then just WAIT until something more relevant comes to mind.

That thing I want to say, does it really need to be said right now? If the timing isn’t right – just WAIT – a better time to put this idea forward might present itself.

That thing I want to say, are these the right people to say it to? Think about who would most value from this idea, feedback or thought. If the right people aren’t present – just WAIT.  Waiting for the right people to show up can limit repetition and make sure that the right people hear what your team members have to say.  

That thing I want to say, am I the best person to say it? Think about whether there might be someone more appropriate to communicate this idea – if so, just WAIT. Even if this thing needs to be said, it might not need to be vocalized by this particular member of the team.

That thing I want to say, have I figured out the best way to say it? Often times, we don’t stop to think about the best way to communicate an idea – typically when it enters the mind it then immediately enters the mouth.  If we haven’t determined the best way to share a thought – just WAIT – share it once you have figured out how to best communicate it.

This tool is an easy to remember device designed to help us pause for a split-second to think about how, when and to whom we’re communicating. It then helps to make that communication as effective and impactful as possible.  In the scrum, this helps keep the meeting much more focused and a lot more valuable.

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Agile QuickTip: Schedule Sync Time Before the Daily Scrum

Have you considered how ensuring you have some sync time scheduled before your daily scrum might make for an overall better stand up?

One of the constant challenges for agile or scrum teams is making sure that the daily stand up is concise, focused and valuable. Far more often it takes longer than we’d like — much more than the 10 or 15 minutes. This is sometimes because team members get lost in the details or find themselves too deep into the weeds.

This can be particularly problematic when it comes to teams that live and work across different time zones. The problem is exacerbated when the scrum meeting is scheduled for first thing in the day for some members of the team. While some team members have been sleeping, others have been working. Questions and queries have been piling up and the daily Scrum becomes the very first opportunity to reconnect and get answers. These are often individual, or 1-on-1 dialogues that don’t typically involve the entire team.

To combat this issue, try pushing back the daily scrum – just 15 or 30 minutes – and schedule some ‘sync-up’ time prior to the Scrum. This provides a time in which team members can individually sync up with other specific team members or get particular questions answered before the team Scrum begins. Once in the Scrum, the team can then focus on group updates, making the entire process much smoother, focused and more valuable for everyone.

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