Agile QuickTip: Learning Focused Daily Scrum

Turn your traditional Scrum or stand-up agenda on its head with a learning focused Scrum.

Typically, agile or scrum teams have a daily Scrum or stand up where the focus is on progress or activity.

Looking at what you’ve accomplished since the previous Scrum, the questions addressed are typically; ‘What have you achieved?’; ‘What challenges did you face?’; ‘What did we accomplish?’; and ‘What do you plan on accomplishing until the next daily Scrum?’

One thing which could really make a difference to your productivity and the strength of your teams overall is to plan a learning focused daily Scrum where you change the emphasis of the agenda towards learning rather than task progress and delivery.

The kinds of questions that you would address are;

“What did you learn today?”; “What do you plan to learn?”; “What’s standing in the way of that learning for you?”; “What impediments or challenges would need to be removed to achieve the planned learning?”

In this way, the focus of the Scrum isn’t just on progress and delivery and what we have achieved or can accomplish, but also on what we expect to learn and how can we get better as a team by learning these things, and removing the obstacles that we find in our way.

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Agile QuickTip: Try an Audio Signal to Start or End your Daily Scrum

Try an Audio Signal to Start or End your Daily Scrum

Using an audio signal at the beginning or the end of your daily Scrum could help define precisely when it starts and finishes, and make the Scrum a lot more focused.

One thing that a lot of scrum or agile teams complain about is that their daily Scrum takes much longer than they expect. Instead of 10 or 15 minutes, they are finding that it can take 30 or even 40, cutting into their working day and taking them away from other more important things they might have to do.

One problem which I’ve seen many times, is that sometimes the Scrum actually ended a while ago, but nobody noticed because the conversation from the Scrum actually transitioned straight into the follow up. An audio signal can solve this.

Agile QuickTip

By having an actual audible sound that you can trigger to let people know that the Scrum is over, you can keep that Scrum much more focused, and allow team members to leave if the follow up doesn’t concern them.

Play a sound effect from your phone like a chime or a buzzer, or call out something like “Scrum Off” or “Scrum Over!” This will act as a signal to people that the mandatory Scrum is over, and they can leave and get on with whatever else they need to do.

You can use a similar technique to kick off your Scrum, playing a sound, or calling out “Scrum On” or “Scrum Started” to silence any chatter and let team members know that the Scrum has started in a focused way. With this trick, your Scrum can be limited to the 10 or 15 minutes you’ve set aside for it, and should end up being a lot valuable.

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Agile QuickTip: The Sprint Planning Mini Retro

The Sprint Planning Mini Retro

You could be making Sprint Planning far more effective by including a mini retrospective at the end of it.

Sprint planning is the opening ceremony for every team Sprint. This is where your entire team comes together with your product owner and facilitated by your ScrumMaster, to figure out the plan that we’re going to execute to achieve the goals for the Sprint ahead.

It’s a big investment of time, and ultimately, your ScrumMaster has the job of making sure they have found the ways to maximize the return on that investment by better facilitating it.

One idea that has been proven to yield results is spending some time at the end of each Sprint Planning on a mini retrospective. This can be 20 minutes or 30 minutes to explore ways to improve Sprint Planning — and it might actually make future Sprint Planning meetings far more effective in the long run.

Here are some ideas for areas you can explore:

Timing: Did you spend the right amount of time in Sprint Planning, or did you set aside too little, or too much?

Participants: Did you have the right people in the room, or could you have done with other stakeholders in Sprint Planning and planning alongside you?

Tools and techniques: Was Sprint Planning effectively facilitated?  Can we improve on the agenda?  Should we explore alternative facilitative tools?

During these Sprint Planning mini-retro, you can also gauge the confidence level of each team member in the Sprint. Is their planning improving or getting worse from Sprint to Sprint? Are they recognizing the issues that need addressing, and making positive changes?

A mini retrospective can support you as a ScrumMaster in continuously improving your Sprint Planning, enabling you to maximize the return on your Sprint as a whole.

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Agile QuickTip: Limit Your Agile Teams Product Backlog

Limit Your Agile Teams Product Backlog

Limiting the number of items on your product backlog might make your product owner, and in fact your entire Scrum team, more focused.

Many Agile product owners that I work with complain about their product backlog being really long. They mention that it’s cluttered with stale ideas, old feedback, or requests that they haven’t got around to, and perhaps never will. This can make their backlog unwieldy, and difficult to manage or visualize. As stakeholders bring new requests and suggestions every day, the backlog only gets longer and more difficult to stay on top of.

One idea that you might try is to limit the number of spots in your backlog. Limit it to 100 or 150 items, whatever works for you. Only the top 100 items ever get onto your backlog. There are a few benefits to this:

  • It allows your backlog to become more transparent and a lot more visible for all the members of your team.
  • As a product owner, you become more intimately familiar with the items on your backlog, actively deciding which items need to be there, and which should not.
  • If your stakeholders regularly propose a lot of requests for enhancements or features, it can encourage them to cut down their ideas to the most important or valuable. As they know that each idea will be competing to make it to the top 100, they are likely to only suggest the best one or two.

By limiting the number of items on your Agile team backlog, you could start enjoying a lighter load that is easier to manage and visualize within your Scrum team.

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