Striving for Excellence in an Agile environment

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Doing Retrospectives and following the ‘inspect and adapt’ mechanism is one of the most important and effective tools and outcome of being Agile, following Agile rules or doing Scrum.
What kind of Retrospectives do you know? Most people think of Sprint Retrospectives, Kaizen or Lessons Learned after doing or finishing a Project or in a medical context.
I want to concentrate on Retrospectives in an Agile environment, especially doing a Sprint Retrospective in Scrum. I think this is the most familiar kind of Retrospectives in an Agile context. It help Teams to improve constantly on their performance and behaviour.

But how do ScrumMasters and ProductOwners or even Agile Coaches improve their work and behaviour?

It make sense to ask for Feedback after every Meeting. This is a kind of short-termed improvement what really make sense. In addition, I recommend to do Retrospectives for ScrumMasters and ProductOwners on a regular base. You do Retrospectives with your Team after each Sprint what give Teams the Chance to look back, inspect and adapt – the core mechanism of change to strive for excellence.

If you are a ScrumMaster or ProductOwner, or even an Agile Coach, you should use the same machanism for your own improvement and striving for excellence. You don’t have to do that after each Sprint. But you can do a Retrospective regular on a three-month period. All what you need is a Facilitator so that you can participate the Retrospective by your own. You can ask a ScrumMaster of another Team to run such a Retrospective. The core Topic should be something like ‘how to improve the skills of our ScrumMaster/ProductOwner/Coach’ or something similar according to your experiences of the last quarter.

This does not only give you the possiblity to particpate a Retrospective by your own. It is a great chance to receive Feedback from your Team or other invited Stakeholders on a differnt level than getting Feedback for facilitating just a meeting! It is the chance for yourself to look back, inspect and adapt and improve your personal work, skills, behaviour and MindSet!

Agile Speed Dating

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Time: 70 minutes for 6 participants

Requirements: IndexCards, felt-pens and a flip-chart

First, all Participants need a Topic they would like to improve or a Problem which need to be solved, their personal improvement Topic for this Retrospective.

Give Participants 5 Minutes to write down up to 5 KeyWords/Sentences on an IndexCard which helps them describing their Topic they want to improve or Problem to be solved. (5 min)

Afterwards you ask Participants to flip the IndexCard and give them again 5 Minutes to draw a Picture, a Metaphor, for their Topic which helps them describing their Topic in a best way. No prizes for Artwork and nobody else will see their Picture, it’s just a reminder for themselves. (5 min)

Start the amazing Speed Dating

Agile Speed Dating exerciseAfter this first exercise, which takes about 10 Minutes, you have all Participants in the right flow and mood for a discussion about their Topic. You have activated both sides of their brain, the left side for rational thinking by writing down the 5 KeyWords/Sentences. And the right side of their brain, the creative part, by drawing a Picture. This is the best starting Point for what is coming next.

Let Participants pair and give them a strict TimeBox. Every Pair has exactly 10 Minutes. First 5 Minutes to discuss the Topic of Person A and finding possible Solutions or Improvements – write them down on your IndexCard – if needed take a new Card.

After 5 Minutes the Pairs change, what means that now Person B will discuss her Topic and write down possible Solutions or Improvements.

After 10 Minutes you build new Pairs and start the exercise again, first Person has 5 Minutes and Person B has 5 Minutes as well. Build new Pairs and repeat until every Participant has talken exactly once to all other Participants!

Debriefing

Agile Speed Dating Debriefing

  • how does it felt, how do you feel right now?
  • what was different?
  • what outcome have you created?
  • can we improve this Process?

Action Planning

Agile Speed Dating - Action Planning

After the Debriefing we start the Action Planning. Every Participant should have at least one IndexCard with possible Solutions or Improvements for her personal Topic.

Ask every Participant to choose just one Action she would like to adress in the next Sprint, choose the most powerful Action and write them down on a FlipChart – Topic, Responsible and due Date.

Variations

If you have an odd count of Participants just invite another Stakeholder or a TeamMember of a different Team. This Person has no own Topic to discuss but can contribute, comment and add Value from a complete neutral point of view!

Instead of doing Speed Dating with pairs you can also ‘pair’ with three people if you have some more participants. In that case you can call the exercise ‘Agile Swinger Dating’… lol

Scrum Simulation – the Scrum LEGO® Airport

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you’ll find the download link for the manual at the bottom of the page

The Idea of a Scrum Simulation with LEGO®

Scrum LEGO Airport at Global Scrum Gathering SeattleIn the beginning of the year 2011 I had the idea for a Scrum Simulation with LEGO®. A Scrum Simulation which needs to be scalable. Scalable for Teams with different stages of knowledge about Scrum. Useful for Beginners as well as Advanced. Usable as a Simulation for ‘easy’ Scrum as well as a Simulation for Scrum of Scrums. Feasible to run with 1 to x Teams. Interesting especially for Software Developers and technical Freaks. In addition, people should learn the Scrum Workflow, it’s Artefacts and Meetings by having a lot of fun.

the Airport Team ILEGO® is a plaything everybody knows, all around the world. As I’m a StrategicPlay® Facilitator, a creative Problem solving Solution with LEGO® based on LEGO® Serious Play, I know how to use LEGO® in a serious context with a joshing course.

ambulanceAn Airport is a complex enterprise system with lots of complex dependencies and lots of technical interfaces. Nearly everybody knows how an Airport works or rather the workflow starting by leaving the car at the parking lot, check in the luggage, receiving a boarding-card till having a seat in a plane. And when arriving at the destination, you want to have your luggage back at the baggage claim.

Hence the idea of a Scrum Simulation with LEGO® in a context of an airport seemed for me an interesting challenge to cover my demand of a scalable approach.

Scrum LEGO® Airport @ Scrum Safari, Cape Town, 2011

Thus I created the Scrum Simulation, Scrum LEGO®Airport with the following scalable stages:

—>

1,5h Appetizer – conference format

Prerequisites: some Scrum Basics

Participants: 5 to 50 ppl + n Observer

4h stand alone Economic Simulation with Focus on Scrum Basics

Prerequisites: no background required

Participants: 5 to 50 ppl + n Observer

8h Beginners combined with a basic Scrum Training

Prerequisites: no background required

Participants: 5 to 21 ppl

8h Advanced combined with a Team Visioning Session with StrategicPlay®

Prerequisites: experience with Scrum

Participants: 1 Team

What do People learn in the Scrum LEGO® Airport Simulation?

Team Story BoardPragmatic understanding that Scrum is about self-organizing Teams, Cooperation, Communication, Understanding, Respecting People, Teamwork, Creativity and Productivity.

Understanding the Scrum Workflow by building valuable products for the customer in each Sprint Sprint demowhich can be delivered after every iteration. Understand what needs to be build first so that the customer can start transporting people after the first sprint and add value from Sprint to Sprint so that the enterprise ‘Airport’ can grow constantly and the customer can grow her business.

I ran the Scrum LEGO® Airport at

different Company’s

Global Scrum Gathering Seattle, May 2011

Scrum Gathering South Africa, September 2011

Agile Prague, September 2011

Download the manual:  Manual the password for the file is vinylbaustein

Draw the Problem / Draw the Challenge

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Time: 90 minutes

Requirements: IndexCards, felt-pens, tape, sticky notes and a flip-chart

Create a loose atmosphere

Every Retrospective I start with a short warm up game to create a loose atmosphere and interconnect left and right half of the brain. Today I did ‘Finger Tag’ from Erich Ziegler’s ‘das australische Schwebholz’. (5 min)

Start the Retrospective ‘Draw the Problem’

Let participants sit around a table and give everybody a large IndexCard and a felt-pen.

Ask the participants to think about a problem or challenge which occoured during the sprint and they are still puzzled about. What problem would you like to solve today?

Ask them to find their personal topic and write it down. In addition, everybody should create a list of 5 items which helps them to describe the problem.  (5 min)

Now, ask the participants to flip over the index card and let them draw a picture – a metaphor – of the problem which helps them to describe their topic to the team. It’s not about drawing an artwork or creating a very beautiful picture. The drawing simply should help explaining the problem. (have different coloured felt-pens available) (5 min)

Teams draw their ChallengeAsk everybody to post their index card on the wall with the picture at the front and name them.

Let participants stand in a semi circle around the picture wall. Every peer has now max 3 minutes to describe her problem-metaphor to the team and create a common understanding what it is about. Questions from the team are allowed. (15 – 21 min)

After creating a common understanding for every problem, ask the team to sit down again and have sticky notes available. Everybody should write down one possible solution or action item on a sticky note for every single problem. (5 min)

draw the picture - StoryBoardLet them post their solutions around the index cards and again stand in a smie circle around the ‘problem wall’.

Now, every indexs card owner read aloud the solutions given by the team and let the initiator of the solution explain if necessary.

Let them discuss the solutions and create concrete action items which the facilitator writes down on a flip chart.

This takes the most time as the team need to decide what needs to be done to solve each problem. (35 – 45 min)

Write down every Action Item, referred to a teammember with a due date.

action items Matrix

Wrap up the retrospective and ask if everybody is fine with the outcome. Ask for feedback.

Take over the Action Items to the process Backlog of the Team.

Idea by Gamestorming ‘Draw the Problem’ which I adapted to my purpose of having a Sprint Retrospective