Agile QuickTip: Explicit Sprint Learning Goals

Explicit Sprint Learning Goals

On this edition of Agile Quick Tips, we’re going to be discussing how setting explicit sprint learning goals could help improve your team overall.

Agile teams or scrum teams will often set goals during sprint planning that help them to maximize value and optimize the product that sprint. But what if you thought beyond the product, and created goals and plans that went further?

One technique which I’ve found can really help is to set what I call ‘explicit learning goals.’

These could be anything, from learning something new about the customer or user, to understanding a piece of technology or software in greater detail. You could also aim to expand our knowledge that is soiled within the company, so that more team members can get value out of it.

The teams are then able to create opportunities to meet these goals, and plans to gain new knowledge or learning as part of the sprint. When this works, you’re not just optimizing the value of a specific product, or today’s sprint, but you’re also gaining knowledge and insight that helps team members to attain more in the future.

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Agile QuickTip: Achievement Focused Daily Scrum

Achievement Focused Daily Scrum

If you’re feeling like your daily Scrum or Stand-up is getting less valuable, and losing some of its effectiveness, why not turn things around by changing the focus to achievements rather than activities?

Most Agile team’s Stand-ups or Scrums focus pretty heavily on activities. Questions asked in the daily Scrum include activity focused queries such as:

  • What did I work on yesterday or today?
  • What’s my plan for today or tomorrow?
  • What’s stopping me from doing these activities or tasks?

This can work well for some time, but it also can make teams quite task oriented or task focused, and stop team members thinking more broadly about what they are accomplishing and how to add value.

Sometimes it can be helpful to reorient your meetings around achievements instead of activities. Questions that you could ask during an achievement-oriented daily Scrum or Stand-up include:

  • What did I achieve yesterday or today?
  • What do I plan to achieve today or tomorrow?
  • What is likely to be the challenge in the way of achieving these goals?

Immediately, with this change in focus, teams are thinking about and discussing goals rather than activities. In turn, this allows each team member and the Scrum as a whole to deliver more value.

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Agile QuickTip: The Open Meeting Parking Lot

The Open Meeting Parking Lot

Meetings getting off track? Have you thought about using the idea of an Open Meeting Parking Lot to make an entire meeting more focused?

Many Agile teams complain about meetings that get derailed. This can be anything from a daily Scrum that takes much longer than ideal because everyone has a lot of off-topic items to address, Sprint planning where team members keep getting into the weeds, or really any meeting that gets derailed and ends up far away from the items on the actual agenda for discussion.

One technique that really works is to create an Open Meeting Parking Lot.

Here’s how it works.

At any time during a meeting, when team members see that you are all going off topic or the meeting is in danger of being derailed, any participant can identify a topic to be discussed after the meeting, tagging it as a follow up item, and adding it to the ‘Parking Lot.’ This means it will be discussed ‘outside’ afterwards, rather than right now, during the meeting.

The trick to making this work is to ensure that the Parking Lot is visible for everyone. There are a number of ways to make sure everyone is on the same page and can see the Parking Lot items, such as an easel pad with sticky notes if you’re all there in person, or a shared document that everyone can see onscreen during a conference call.

Using one of these, everyone can see what the Parking Lot items are, everyone understands that they don’t have to be discussed in the meeting, and can join the discussion to address these afterwards.

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Agile QuickTip: Implicit Task Estimates Instead of Explicit Ones

Implicit Task Estimates Instead of Explicit Ones by Giora Morein 

You’re about to learn how changing your task estimates from explicit to implicit could make all the difference to the productivity and experience of your Scrum teams.

Sprint planning is where most Scrum or Agile teams will take a story or a different backlog item and break it down into individual tasks or implementation activities. A lot of teams will then take these tasks and estimate the amount of time they will take in hours to help them with their planning.

If you’ve ever been part of these discussions, you know that it can often result in a contentious experience, where team members can struggle to agree or align their workload, and the whole thing can even end up being pretty painful.

One thing which can really help is to switch to implied or implicit estimates instead of explicit ones.

Here’s how it works.

Pick a task and break it down until none of the resulting parts are greater than a day or half a day. This way, you don’t have to assign estimates, because you know that no matter what, none of the tasks will be greater than a day or half a day.

A way to make this even more visual and valuable is to create burn-down charts which use the number of tasks left in a sprint instead of the hours. This way your sprint planning can be a lot more focused, an overall better experience and even result in a more effective sprint overall.

I really hope you enjoyed that Agile QuickTip, and will be giving it a chance during your next Sprint planning session. If you liked it, make sure to check out our other YouTube videos by subscribing to our channel, and head over to subscribe to our blog on You can also follow us on Twitter, @GioraMorein.

Agile QuickTip: Vegas-Style Retrospective

Vegas-Style Retrospective by Giora Morein

Vegas-style retrospective might really be the difference-maker in helping your team identify and exploit those improvement opportunities that can propel them through the stratosphere.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas! This famous tag line might not immediately sound like it has much to do with agile learning or Scrum teams. However, I’ve found that implementing a Vegas-Style approach to your sprint retrospectives can make a real difference to how valuable they are. The idea is simple: What Happens in the Retrospective, Stays in the Retrospective!

The sprint retrospective might be the most important meeting that a Scrum team has. During this time, you and your team explores and analyses opportunities and improvements that the team can take advantage of in the next sprint.

In order for a retrospective to be effective, participants need to be open, transparent, honest and forthcoming.  This requires that participants feel safe to do so.  Much of what a ScrumMaster does during retrospectives is to create an environment that is safe enough to allow for this transparency.

Vegas-Style Retrospectives mean:

  • It’s a private meeting.
  • It’s a confidential meeting.
  • Only members of the scrum team are invited.
  • No meeting minutes. No notes. No recordings.
  • Activities and learnings are not shared.

This creates a safe environment where team members feel able to truly open up about how they feel, and their ideas for moving forward. This not only helps explores more improvement opportunities but will typically help bond team members closer together.

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