The more sprints that a Team has had together, the more we learn about each other and the power of “Team” and the more everyone buys into the strength of the agile approach. Some time ago I worked with a startup Team. After the fourth Sprint Review/Retrospective & Sprint Planning period they were more relaxed than any of the previous four sprints. I think that there are a couple of drivers for it to be relaxing yet highly productive.
First, we consciously worked to spend time every day to groom future stories. Our Product Owner spent much of her day sifting and re-ordering the Product Backlog and moving stories into the right approximate sprint. All of the team members worked on their own or with her throughout the sprint to write future stories and even add estimated tasks under each. Additionally there was constant discussion throughout the sprint on the relative size and complexity of each story so that by Sprint Planning nearly stories had agreed upon estimates.
Secondly, we are getting more comfortable using mood graphs to share our individual journeys throughout the sprint. Everyone was more comfortable opening up in a closed team environment and the journey lines come out.
Third, we played a couple of great games to break up the day.
In the morning we played You Sunk My Methodology. This game is just like the childhood game Battleship but with a twist. Once both teams place their fleet on their boards, one team plans all 40 shots ahead of time and then shoots all 40 (waterfall) while the other takes the approach of shoot – find out if it’s a hit or miss – adjust aim – shoot again (agile). Team Waterfall’s results were 6 hits and they sunk 1 ship. Team Agile’s results were 14 hits and they sunk 3 ships. This was a practical example of the effects of planning in two completely different ways.
We also played Questions Only. This was at the end of a long day of me asking questions to spark better planning. In this game, we divided into two teams with one of each team coming to the front of the room. The only rule of the game is that they can only converse by asking each other questions in turn. If a player hesitates or makes a statement, they are buzzed out and replaced by the next person in line. It was a blast but also very hard. The game emphasizes how hard it is to answer a question with another questions. I explained that asking questions of the Team is the primary role of a Scrum Master. Given how hard it was for the team to keep a ‘questions only’ conversation going, I’m pretty certain that I got some street cred and sympathy points after that exercise.