Upgrade Your Daily Scrum

Is your Daily Scrum getting repetitive or monotonous? Have you had any feedback that the format is stale, or have you noticed team members not paying as much attention as you would like them to? Here are some of our favorite ideas for spicing things up a bit, ideas that you can implement, either as one-offs, or on a regular basis to keep participants involved.

A Minute of Fun Can Ensure Your Participants Start Get Engaged

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The minute of fun works in a simple way, setting the tone in the right direction. This could be any light-hearted ritual to start off the Scrum, such as a joke, a rhyme, a trivia question or any other quick idea. This immediately has the team having fun, paying attention and in a good mood, just where you want them to be at the start of play.

An idea to augment this could be getting the whole team involved, rotating the person leading the daily ‘minute of fun’, responsible for choosing the activity, telling the joke, or making sure it happens every day.  

Want People to Get Involved? Get Creative With the Order of Speakers

popcorn daily scrumGetting your team involved in orchestrating the Scrum makes it easier to get the entire team participating. Often, you’ll find it’s only the facilitator, the Scrum Master who is speaking throughout the meetings, and you’re not even sure if the rest of the team are paying full attention. I love the idea of popcorn scrums, where each person decides who is the next person to speak – sort of like passing the mic. This forces team members to pay a bit more attention, because at any point it could be their turn to speak and weigh in.

Try Throwing out the Rules

If you’re still struggling with getting team members to open up about their real feelings about the Sprint, here’s an idea that works well for the retrospective especially. Agree with your team to host what I like to call a ‘Vegas-style’ retrospective, in line with the well-known expression, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

In this Scrum meeting, or in the retrospective, everything stays inside the meeting. No one takes notes, no-one takes minutes, and nothing can be repeated outside of the team and these four walls. No additional invites, and no one shares the output of the meeting. This can really help to boost participants into feeling that they are in a safe, shared space, and has the added benefit of helping participants feel like more of a team.

Use Engagement Cards to Stay on Track

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Props can be a smart way to make your scrum unique, and keep it on track, which is especially important because a common reason for a stale or boring Scrum is that it’s getting too deep into the weeds. One technique which I love is taken from soccer: give each participant a yellow and red card that they can use at any time during the meeting. You can even use multi-colored stickies directed at a webcam. If another team member gets off track, someone can hold up a yellow card to warn them that the Scrum is not as valuable as it should be. If two or more people hold up a yellow card, the red card is in play – giving the speaker 60 seconds to wrap it up. Your team knows that they can play the cards at any time which helps keep them focused and on-topic.

A Truly Mobile Meeting

ice creamOne of the best things about the Daily Scrum is that it can go anywhere. And yet, oftentimes Scrum teams meet in the same place, even sitting around the same meeting table. Take advantage of how portable this meeting can be, there’s a reason it’s called the Daily Stand-up after all! Get your team members engaged and interested by going for a walk, heading outside, changing location, or even going to get a coffee or an ice cream. Added benefit – if your team knows you might start moving, they’re much more likely to arrive on time!

Give some of these ideas a try over the next few weeks, and let me know which work well for your specific teams. Have any other ideas for making the Daily Scrum unique, getting out of bad habits and encouraging your team members to get involved? Share them on the community group.


About the author:

Giora Morein

Giora Morein is an Agile Transformation consultant and Certified Scrum Trainer. He brings over 15 years of Agile coaching and executive consulting experience to the table – building, coaching and training high-performing Fortune 1000 teams. His diverse success stories include Merrill Lynch and Cessna Aircraft, as well as Nike, Blizzard Entertainment and GE Healthcare.

7 Companies in 7 Industries That Have Successfully Adapted to COVID-19

What does Business Agility truly mean? Failing fast, creating iterative strategies, delivering minimum viable products, and rapidly adapting to change and uncertainty. COVID-19 – and the unprecedented global disruption it has caused – has forced organizations of all sizes in all industries to deal with rapidly changing markets. In fact, 43% of small business owners have pivoted their business model due to COVID-19, showing that sometimes adversity really is the door to innovation.

Let’s look at some companies, both big and small who have successfully iterated their business models.

  1. Battery Watering Technologies: From the battery sector to PPE

Battery Watering TechnologiesThis US-based plastics company found a way to keep their 50 employees working throughout the coronavirus lockdown, at the same time as giving back to the general public.  “We were trying to figure out a way to help, and we needed to focus on what we could do. We had the resources, machinery, tooling and manpower to build face shields,” says President Rob Soares. Quickly designing and launching a dedicated e-commerce website for their PPE, the company is selling 6,000 face shields per day.  

  1. Kyōten: Dinner for two, for a $1200 price tag

Sushi restaurant Kyōten in Chicago has found an innovative way to keep the doors open of its Logan KyōtenSquare restaurant, by offering private dining experiences and raising the price point to make it a viable business model. A dinner for two at the restaurant will cost $600 a person, which allows you to rent out the entire restaurant and have a bespoke meal made for your delight. It might not be within the average person’s budget, but it allows customers to enjoy a perhaps once in a lifetime elite experience, and stops Chef and Owner Otto Phan from needing to shut up shop.  

  1. Joyride Coffee: New products keep old customers loyal

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Joyride started out from a mobile café truck back in 2011, and now has branches in New York, Boston, LA, and San Francisco. When the pandemic hit, they had to close their doors, but quickly moved to a delivery service, including the launch of a new product, their Boxed Cold Brew. “We are looking forward to getting back to business with our office customers, but we are also thrilled that because of our ability to be so agile during this crisis, it opened up new opportunities for us as a business,” said David Belanich, founder and president of Joyride.

  1. Virgin et al: The airline industry at large moves from commercial to cargo

airline You would be hard pressed to find an industry that’s been as heavily impacted by the Coronavirus as the travel industry. Airlines in particular are taking a huge hit, with as many as 95% of global flights grounded at one point during the last few months. Many airlines are changing the way they do business. Traditionally, around 10%-15% of business for airlines is through cargo transit, but the numbers have shifted in the other direction. Virgin, British Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates and more have started making cargo-only flights, in many cases for the first time in their history.

  1. Bake with a Legend: Taking in person events, online

bakewithalegendIf you’ve been the victim of a lockdown birthday celebration, a postponed wedding or a lacklustre celebration during the past few months, you know that the events industry has struggled to adapt to the new reality. However, this UK-based events company, specializing in connecting groups with popular reality TV baking show stars has risen to the challenge (no pun intended). The company has moved its in-person classes online, and launched virtual classes where participants can bake with their favorite TV star, in a private Zoom class from anywhere in the world.

  1. Whole Foods: Just one of the supermarkets turning its stores ‘dark’

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Online shopping is nothing new, but many supermarkets and grocery stores have seen unprecedented peaks in the demand for deliveries and ‘click to collect’ style orders since COVID-19 hit the headlines. Amazon’s Whole Foods, as well as Kroger and other retailers have made a smart choice to close some of their bricks and mortar stores entirely, and turn these into distribution centers or temporary warehouses and fulfilment centers. This allows staff to get orders out quicker, travel shorter distances to customer homes, and make the most out of the space they have, especially under the pressures of reduced physical store opening hours and added demand.

  1. Red Roof: Filling a need for home-workers

Red RoofHotels are another industry that’s taken a real hit, so it’s exciting to see innovative hoteliers looking to pivot to stay relevant. Red Roof has launched its “Work Under Our Roof” program, where those who need a bit of peace and quiet to get work done can rent out hotel rooms for as little as $29, and get some relief from a house-share situation, young kids or pets at home, or a small living space without room for Zoom meetings or conference calls.  

Here at ThinkLouder, we love these examples of companies that are Agile to the core, and haven’t let the unexpected direction that 2020 has taken get them off track! Have you seen any companies that have followed in these footsteps? Share them in the comments! 


About the author:

Giora Morein

Giora Morein is an Agile Transformation consultant and Certified Scrum Trainer. He brings over 15 years of Agile coaching and executive consulting experience to the table – building, coaching and training high-performing Fortune 1000 teams. His diverse success stories include Merrill Lynch and Cessna Aircraft, as well as Nike, Blizzard Entertainment and GE Healthcare.

 

Agile QuickTip: Schedule your Collaboration Time

Schedule your Collaboration Time

Looking for some ideas to make your team more effective? Why not schedule collaboration time from the outset.

Many scrum teams, especially if they are new, struggle to find opportunities and reasons to collaborate and work with one another. They may even find it awkward to approach one another and ask them to make time for collaboration.

One idea that can really work is to schedule your team’s collaboration time, by physically putting it on the calendar at a specific time. This can be a one off to get the ball rolling, or it can even be a recurring time in the weekly calendar, for example Thursdays from 2-4pm.  This does more than just let your team know there is a time for collaboration available, it allows them to see that there is an expectation that they will collaborate as team members.

Individuals can use this set time to find opportunities and reasons for working with others. They could ask for help with problem solving, get another opinion on innovation and ideation, or simply use the time to bounce ideas off one another. Whatever it is, creating an opportunity and an expectation for collaboration plants the seed that it might be a smart idea for team members to work together in the future.

Liked that Agile QuickTip? Just wait until you hear the others! Head to my back catalogue to watch the whole series on YouTube, and let me know which one is your favourite, or the most effective for your Scrum team! You can also visit our website, thinklouder.com where you’ll be able to learn more about our training and coaching offerings.

Agile QuickTip: Use an External Facilitator

Have you ever considered improving your Sprint retrospective with the help of an external facilitator? If you can’t think why that would help, just keep reading.

As the ScrumMaster, you know that a successful retrospective is key to the continued improvement of the team. This is where the team discusses the sprint as a whole and dive deep into what worked, what didn’t, what challenges came up, and what they would do differently in the next sprint. However, as the facilitator, the team’s ScrumMaster needs to be an impartial and unbiased guide, not an active participant in these discussions.

Sometimes, it could be helpful to include someone else in this process, inviting a different person to facilitate the retrospective – which would free up the ScrumMaster to actually be a participant.  Having someone else facilitate would free you up to openly share your opinions  as well. The facilitator could be anyone: perhaps a ScrumMaster of another team, or someone external to your organization. You can use this opportunity to share your observations or ideas, and bring up any patterns that you’ve uncovered during the sprint, introducing those to the team yourself. While the facilitator needs to be agnostic and objective, as a participant you get to weigh in and share your viewpoints. This provides additional opportunities for your team to improve, with your support.

I hope you enjoyed that Agile QuickTip and found it valuable! Give it a try at your next retrospective, and let me know how it went. Make sure to head to my YouTube channel and check out the rest of the series, and if you have something to share, please do send me a comment or a question! You can also head to thinklouder.com, where you can see how our training and coaching offerings can support you and your team.

‘All things Agile’ GIFs by Giora Morein

“Have you tried out Giora’s GIFs? If not – you’re missing out!

Who doesn’t love a GIF? When words just aren’t enough, and you need to explain something unique to your team, or respond quickly on the fly, a GIF can sum up a whole lot of meaning in just a couple of seconds.

If you’re looking for some great GIFs that check all the boxes, giving you the tools to say you’re delighted with the latest set of user stories, or you really think someone ought to try a little harder at minimizing the product backlog, Giora has you covered.

Check out these hilarious and engaging ‘all things Agile’ GIFs that can be used as an added communication tool between you and your team, or just for fun! Which one’s your favorite?

How to save/Download Giora’s GIFs on your computer

Step 1. Click on GIF Image
Step 2. Right-Click on Image >>Save Image as
Step 3. Save GIF Image
Step 4. Have Fun!

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Agile QuickTip: Kick off your Team with a Retrospective

Kick off your Team with a Retrospective

Starting your scrum team off the right way can be the difference between success and failure. Here’s a great idea to set them up for success, by starting by looking back – with a retrospective.

Everyone has their own way of kicking off a scrum team. Some Scrum Masters might set out boundaries or explain communication tools, it really varies. One idea that might really make a difference the next time you start off your team, is to kick it off using a retrospective.

By looking back on individual team member’s experiences on their past scrum teams you can find out a lot about them before you even get started. You also find out what they were happy with in the past, described as the similar things they want to bring forward into their new team and at the same time, some of the things they want to exclude that didn’t work for them previously.

Not only does your team kick off by owning their own formulation process, they actually set the expectation that together, we’re continuously looking for ways to get better. As a process, I’ve found that this really helps level up your team.

I hope you enjoyed that Agile QuickTip, and found it a valuable idea for kicking off your next scrum team. Make sure to check out the back catalogue, and leave me a comment or a message if you have something you want to add or clarify. Then, head to thinklouder.com to see how our training and coaching offers can help you, and your team as a whole.

11 Ways You Can Inject Some Joy into your Videoconferencing

Working from home getting old? Here are some ways to make meetings with disparate teams a lot more fun, adding some laughter and interactive features to your latest videoconferencing zoom call. 

Have Fun with Backgrounds

fun backgroundsTeleport yourself to the leaning tower of Pisa, or lounge in the Oval Office or on stage at Carnegie Hall. Float weightlessly in outer space, or pretend you’re a member of the Simpsons family. The options are limitless with Zoom’s background feature, toggled on or off from the gear icon in the top right-hand corner. The one below was shared by the Star Trek team on their Twitter account! Encourage your team to be creative with their backgrounds – or challenge them ahead of time with a theme, such as European, TV, or a specific color choice. 

Ice Breakers

Ensuring that you start a meeting with small talk is a good way to ease a team into a conversation, and enable social contact between teams that are working from afar. But it can get a little dry when everyone’s talking politics, or stuck with “how was your weekend” chit chat. Instead, with a bit of preparation, you can get a lot more out of those first few minutes. Try challenging two or three team members to come armed with ‘two truths and a lie’ for the group to guess between, or ask everyone to send in an interesting fact ahead of time, and then see if the team can match the fact to the person.

Schedule Time for Movement

Especially in long meetings, it can be tough going to stare at a screen and sit still when you’re alone. Every 20 minutes, encourage the team to stretch, walk around, and rest their eyes from the meeting room. Depending on how comfortable you all are as a team, you can do anything from guiding the participants in a five minute yoga session, to engaging in a full on dance party! We love the JustDance app, that turns your smart phone into a controller, and allows a whole team to copy dance moves in sync. 

Bingo!

bingoThis one takes a little more forethought, but can be a great way to get teams engaged in a remote meeting. Create bingo cards that you can distribute ahead of time, via email. These could be anything from ‘buzzwords’ that often come up during meetings such as “Furthermore” “Let’s circle back” or “With all due respect”, or you could use events such as “Someone loses connection”, “A kid or pet disturbs the meeting” or “repeat question”. Here’s a great example from RedBubble that you could even get printed on a range of merchandise if you wanted! 

Fancy Dress Friday!

Or any other day, now that we mention it! If you don’t think you’ll have much luck encouraging your team to arrive in full superhero get-up, why not start small, with a fun hat or an accessory challenge? You can all vote for best costume, and it’s an easy and light-hearted way to get a meeting started in style. 

Use those Collaboration Tools

One of the things that makes remote meetings less engaging is when there is one team leader, and the rest of the participants are passively watching. Zoom has a lot of collaboration tools that you can use, from Remote Control, where another user can take control of your desktop, to Annotations, allowing the whole team to use arrows, draw feature, highlight and more of a shared presentation. You can also make the most of your usual collaboration apps such as Google docs while you’re all mid-meeting. 

Start with a Trigger Activity

activityRemote working can be just as productive as in-person meetings, but it can really make a difference to pull the team together with an activity at the start. Consider whether you want something that’s ‘just’ fun, like the Tiny Campfire idea you can see below, which can be ordered complete with ice-breakers, ghost stories and individual tiny campfire kits, or whether you want to try to link the activity to your meeting agenda as a whole. If your team is filled with parents that are likely to have the bricks to hand – Lego Serious Play can be a great way to facilitate conversation. 

Welcome to my Crib!

If you’re all working from home, why not encourage your team to start off each meeting with a particular person giving a quick tour of their home, or their office or study? We’re all secretly interested in one another’s battle stations, and it might give the rest of the team some ideas for their own! Encourage the person in the spotlight to explain their working set-up, do they have multiple monitors? A special ergonomic chair or desk? Inspiration on the walls? Time to brag!

Bring your Pet/Kid to Work Day

It can be a little embarrassing when your toddler or your dachshund video-bombs your meeting, whether they’re looking for a snack or a bit of affection. But it can also be just the pick-me-up that your participants need! Instead of ignoring the interruption, try leaning into it! Ask the team member to introduce the unexpected guest, and let them have some screen time, too! 

Get a bit Visual

visualShaking things up could involve helping out your visual learners with something that isn’t just talking and listening. One fun idea is to get the team talking via emoji’s in the chat box, forming full sentences with the help of our pixelated buddies. Encourage your team to share their artistic skills, drawing caricatures of one another and inviting the other participants to guess who they might be, or even getting their creative juice flowing with something like this awesome spreadsheet pixel art! Bet you never knew you could do that on Microsoft Excel! Here’s a free template you can use for starting Pixel art, courtesy of MuseumHack.com. 

Try a Competition

There’s nothing that breaks people out of their stupor like a little competition! There are a lot of ways that you can add some friendly competition to a meeting to get the adrenaline flowing. A couple of top tips are using external sites such as www.TypeRacer.com where you can pit your teams typing skills against one another, or try something more intense like www.Zombs.io, where your team can band together to ward off zombies! 

What other ideas have you found that have really added excitement and joy to your remote meetings? Share them in the comments! 

Agile QuickTip: Estimation a drag? Get the whole team involved.

Estimation a drag? Get the whole team involved.

While it might seem counter-intuitive, getting your entire team involved in the estimation process will end up providing more clarity, and actually improve your plans overall.

Let’s just admit it. Estimating stories or other backlog items is not fun. A lot of times it can even become contentious or combative, and it’s not hard to see why many people view it as a waste of time.

Let’s shift the way we think about this whole process. I think estimation can be an opportunity to get different perspectives and create alignment amongst your team. This is why an important part of estimation is to get the entire team participating. This way, you can get different team members perspectives on the various solutions and assumptions and finally get convergence on the path you want to take.

Remember, your team didn’t start off agreeing on the size of the story. Its only after agreeing on the assumptions, the work, and the complexity that a team agrees on the size of the story. If everyone is involved in the process, then even if you end up being wrong, at least you’re all on the same page.

Did you find that QuickTip valuable? If so, let me know in the comments! If you have any further thoughts on the topic, I’d love to hear your feedback, so feel free to send me a message. You can also check out thinklouder.com to learn more about out training and coaching offerings, all of which can make a real difference to both you, and your teams.

Agile QuickTip: Conduct your daily scrum in front of the board

Conduct your daily scrum in front of the task board

The daily scrum provides team members an update on exactly what’s happened over the last 24 hours, what has been learned, and what sort of adjustments need to be made over the next 24 hours.

However, have you ever thought about how you’re hosting your scrum, and the team members for whom it may be less effective? As many as 65% of people are visual learners, which means that a purely auditory scrum might well pass them by, or make it a lot harder for them to pinpoint questions they have, or information that is missing from the daily roundup.

One technique that really helps clarify the daily scrum for all participants is to conduct the stand up in front of the team’s task board. This way everyone can physically see the team’s plan at the same time as they are getting updates on it. Team members not only hear what’s happening, they can also see what’s happening.

This has the added benefit of providing more context, more information, and more background. It also better allows your team to notice if something is missing, or if something’s fallen off the plan that should be there.

I hope you enjoyed that Agile QuickTip and found it valuable. If so, be sure to check out the rest of the series. I would love to get your feedback on this tip or any others that I’ve shared, so leave a comment below, or send me a direct message. Also, don’t forget to head to thinklouder.com to see how our training and coaching offerings could help both you, and your agile teams.

Can Working Remotely and Working Agile… Work, Together?

Want to meet for a coffee? … Oh right.

Whether you think it’s a great idea or not, you’ve probably found yourself working as part of a remote team over the past few weeks, and none of us know exactly when it’s going to end. For those of us who thrive on the agile idea of individuals and interactions, it can be a real sucker-punch to our productivity and our morale.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve worked with some of the most high-performing teams in the Fortune 1000. What they had in common was not that they all sat around the same conference table day in and day out. In fact, some of the most valuable Agile methodologies can be aligned with working from home, or working with remote teams. These insights might even enable you to get a whole lot of value out of this difficult time.

Agile has Moved a Long Way Since it Began

It’s true that the agile manifesto was originally built for teams who were working together in the same office, following the idea that “the most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.” However, distributed teams are nothing new, not only as a result of global offices, but also for providing a number of benefits. These include the ability for teams to be able to work around the clock on important projects, handing over to one another when the working day closes, and finding great skilled talent in less central locations or high-tech hubs.

To make distributed working ‘work’ for agile teams, here are a few considerations that should be front of mind.

  1. Communication is Key

This is true no matter what, but in this difficult time where teams are suddenly working remotely it’s more important than ever. Don’t worry if it feels like you’re overcommunicating, that’s a better result than leaving people out of the conversation, or jumping to the assumption that a decision is ‘too small’ to get feedback or buy-in from colleagues. Without seeing one another face to face, important facets of conversation can get lost, things like hallway chat, or ‘water-cooler’ conversations, if you like.

Top tip: Encourage teams to use video chat to catch up and sync, not just for scheduled meetings. This can help build a more communicative environment for while you’re working remotely.

  1. Put Clear Standards Around the Definition of Done

It’s a lot harder to ensure that everyone’s on the same page when they aren’t physically in the same office. One great tip is to publish your definition of done so that everyone can see it, and refer to it. This takes away ambiguity and makes sure that all your team members are on the same page. You can expand this to publishing any information that you want teams to be able to align on, such as a remote working policy, or expectations around troubleshooting and code review for developers, for example.

  1. Remember, we are Responding to Change – Not Following a Plan!

There’s no greater test of this agile principle than the situation we all find ourselves in. We’ll all need to think fast to keep our teams productive and valuable over these weeks and months, but your agile training should have prepared you, at least in part. Team members will be working under extraordinary circumstances, many with young children at home or with the challenges of isolation. Think about implementing new ideas such as a sync time before the daily Scrum where individual team members can ask pressing questions or catch up on something they have missed.

Don’t forget to include regular reflections both individually as a manager and also within your teams to see where team members are at, how they’re feeling and the tools they are using to cope with their temporary reality.

  1. Using this Time to Get Ahead

If you’re finding yourself with time on your hands while you’re working from home, this could be a great time to get yourself ScrumMaster certified. For a limited time, the Agile Alliance are enabling online courses, so that participants can get this important certification from home.

In many ways, this is a preferable format for completing this course, allowing you to work unpressured at your own pace, in a comfortable setting, and around complicated needs like childcare or global time-zones. The course is set up intelligently, with the ability to replay lessons, access coursework from anywhere at any time, and receive immediate feedback from teachers and mentors.

If you want to talk about getting certified, or want any more coaching tips on managing agile teams remotely, head to thinklouder.com/events or get in touch.