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 Wall Street

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Time: 60 minutes for 5 people

Requirements: a stopwatch, sticky notes and flip-chart paper

Agile Wall Street preperation

Introduction

This Game is inspired by the ‘Give- and Take Matrix’ mentioned in the book ‘Game Storming’ and was initially inspired by techniques used in engineering, chemistry and design.
Agile Wall Street works for TeamBuilding, motivation, diagnostic of flow and energizing your Team.

I adapted it a little bit to my requirements and it can be used for TeamBuilding, Motivation in Teams and also for Retrospectives. I just call it ‘Agile Wall Street’. It is a diagnostic tool and helps players explore value flows through the Team or a Group.

Agile Wall Street Agenda

Creating the Matrix

Create a Matrix as shown in the following Picture. Make sure you have the same count of rows and columns – one row and one column for each Participant.

Let every Participant write down her Name on a large StickyNote, two times and put them on the Matrix as shown. Make sure to post the Names vertical and horizontal in the same order!

Agile Wall Street - the Matrix

Write down the personal Motivation

Now, ask all Participants to write down their Motivation of beeing in the current Team on a large StickyNote, take a new colour for that.

Let Participants post their Motivation-Note along the diagonal, where every Individual intersect with themselves.
In addition, call the vertical ‘Give’ and the horizontal ‘Take’.

Agile Wall Street - the Matrix - motivation

Open the Agile Wall Street

Give Participants a short moment to choose the first TeamColleague they want to start with. Each Participant can start with any other TeamColleague she would like to start.

Ask the Participants to write down a short statement about the Person they have choosen regarding the question: ‘what could I contribute to this Person, how could I support her or what could I offer to her?’

Give a Timebox of 5 minutes!

After finishing for the first TeamMember, ask the Participants to continue with the next TeamColleague, answering the same question on a StickyNote. Again provide a TimeBox of 5 minutes. Let Participants repeat until everybody has an personal offer for all other TeamMembers.

Let Participants put their StickNote-offers on the Matrix, everybody puts her notes in a horizontal row at the intersection according to the names:

Agile Wall Street - the full Matrix

The Stock Exchange

When the Matrix is completed ask Participants to have a seat.

Now you start to facilitate the ‘Wall Street’ offers. Start with the first TeamMember from the horizontal. This Person should listen carefully what her TeamColleagues want to offer, without commenting. Ask all other Participants, one after another, what they want to offer to this Person and let them shortly explain what they have written down.

After all offers are explained to a Person, ask her how she feels right now. Probably this Person will have a smile on her face and just feels good.

Repeat this until all TeamMembers have introduced and explained what they would like to offer to their TeamColleagues.

After this exercise the whole Team will be enrgized and TeamMembers will follow up to the offers they received self organized. If the Team agrees you can put the Matrix somewhere in the Team room.

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

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