Posted in Liberating Structures, Working Agile, Working as a ScrumMaster

An approach to kick start the usage of Sprint Goals

Sprint goals proves to be a vital element of Scrum, but it is often overlooked and neglected because it is difficult. This blog post will describe one way to kick-start the use of sprint goals in a team or ScrumMaster CoP. Before I describe the approach I would like to explain the background, that lead me there.

Background

I was blinded by my own approach and I was just executing Scrum in a Zombie like way. In my eagerness of facilitating the events “right” I have forgotten why we were doing this in the first place. I was fallen into the trap, but the content of Barry Overeem and Christiaan Verwisj from The Liberators came to the rescue.

One of the two driving principles as described in their article about the Scrum Framework made me realize that using and working with sprint goals, was something I have neglected, even though I know it is important. Then I listened to the the podcast Scrum Mythbusters: Having A Sprint Goal Is Optional In Scrum. It changed a lot for me. The podcast highlighted many of the challenges I faced together with my teams, and I felt that every sentence was an important point that could help the team. This was too much information for me to remember, and I didn’t want to miss a thing, so I decided to do a graphical recording of the Podcast.

It resulted in 4 posters.

 
 

With these 4 posters in hand, and a topic to important to be forgotten, I had to find a way on how to share this and enable others to reflect upon and start working with spring goals. I ended up with the structure below, which can be used in many settings, such as a Scrum Master Community of Practice, a team or any group that work with or could benefit from working with sprint goals.

My approach to kick-start the usage of Sprint Goals

Purpose: Share the content (in this case about sprint goals) and let participate arrive with their first impressions and conclusion about the topic. This is the foundation for the future development and usage on the topic.

Preparation: Hang up the 4 posters in different places of the room allowing people to walk up to it. If you want to facilitate this online, add the 4 posters to an online white board, where every participant have the access to view.

Step 1 (10 min)

Invite the participants to walk around the room an take in the impressions from the posters. Let them imagine they are on a museum. Encourage to take personal notes.

Step 2 (3×5 min)

Prompt the whole group with one question, and invite the participant to go to the poster that match the answer to the question (1min)

At the the posters, people form small groups (2 to 4) And discuss the topic and the prompt (4 min)

Repeat step 2 three times, using different prompts. Here are the prompts i used:

  • What confuses you the most? Why?
  • What do you feel strongest about? Why?
  • What gave you the most valuable insight? Why?

Step 3 (5 min)

Debrief together, by sharing insights from the group discussions

Step 4 (25 min)

Use the Liberating Structure 15% solutions to help the individuals discover and focus on what each person has the freedom and resources to do now.

  • Explain the concept of 15% solutions (2min)
  • Invite people to make their individual list of possible actions based on inputs and insights from previous discussions. (5min)
  • Share your lists, in groups of 3 (3 min per person)
  • Refine and improve each others lists (actions) (3 min per person)

My reflections

Based on the discussions during the workshop, and feedback afterwards, it seemed like this was a good approach for participants. But why is that? Giving this a few thoughts I have come up with the following

  • It enables participants to drive the change by themselves.
  • It gives any group/team freedom to decide what to focus on – in this case when working with sprint goals.
  • It changes the concept of learning from “teacher to students” to “Emergent learning”, where a group or a team learn together by sharing experiences and perspectives.
  • It allows people to focus on “the first step” in dealing with a difficult topic, and fostering a “one step at the time” approach for the change.

Maybe you have input on why this seem to work well or maybe you have other comments. anyway, it would be great to hear from you.

Posted in Liberating Structures, Retrospectives

Sharpen focus of your team’s retrospective with Spiral Journal

Have you ever noticed somebody in a retrospective having trouble remembering what happened in a sprint or iteration? It can be hard to remember even 2 weeks back.

The liberating structure Spiral Journal, which is currently in development, is surprisingly effective in sharpen the focus of a team retrospective. In this post I will describe the process and share my reflections.

Steps

  • State the purpose of the activity; “Sharpen observational skills, and capture insight as action unfolds”
  • Ask the participants to divide a piece of paper in 4, by either folding twice or drawing 2 lines.
  • Guide participants to draw a spiral from the center, as tightly as possible, and in silence.
  • After few minutes, ask 4 questions one by one, and allow participants time to write their answer in to the specified square.
  • Ask participants to share their answers, if they want.

Reflections and observations

The questions can basically be anything, but the idea is that they should guide participants in a direction you find appropriate, for the following activity. I wanted my team to “tune-in” to what happened in the sprint, using these questions

  • Top-left: One impression of the last sprint?
  • Top-right: One thing I learned during the last sprint
  • Bottom-left: Name a problem that the team has, but we haven’t found the solution
  • Bottom right: What is the most important thing that the team discusses in today’s retro

For some, drawing a spiral on a piece paper, can be out of their comfort zone. Others might find it hard to see the purpose. Both might result in talking or even questioning the activity. Yet this exercise is so simple, that is worth giving a shot. What worked for me, when i faced resistance like this was being firm that the participants stayed silent during the activity. I told them that we would debrief afterwards and asked them to play along for now.  As debrief I asked, other team members than the the most resistant one “What did you get out of this exercise?”.  The answers made it so clear to everyone in the room why we did this activity, and i didn’t have to fill in a word my self. That was the moment I realised how powerful this structure is.

The feedback from the teams were: “Drawing made me forget things around me and got me in the zone”. “Reflecting on the question helped me remember what happened in the sprint, something I normally find hard”. “We spent 20% of the time, to figure out what to talk about in the retro, and 80% to discuss the actual topic”.

I highly recommend to try this out! Let me know how it goes!

Posted in Liberating Structures

3 lessons learned when planning a workshop with Liberating Structures

I have realized that Liberating Structures are helping me being a more successful ScrumMaster. I have written about my experienced benefits of Liberating Structures as concept, as well as links to useful resources in the first post of this series. This post is about my experiences and reflection on the planning process of a workshop with use of liberating structures. The primary reason for writing about it is for the sake of my own reflection. If you can use it as well, that’s awesome. Also, if you disagree, have questions, or if you spot room for improvement, don’t hesitate to comment.

The PO of my team, who is very visionary, wanted to shake things up in a management group that she was a part of. Some very ambitious goals were set by top management, as a part of the company strategy, and she knew that for these goals to be met, this management group would have to do something completely different from what they usually did. I instantly said “yes”, when she asked me to co-facilitate the workshop, and it paid out for me with some valuable learnings Continue reading “3 lessons learned when planning a workshop with Liberating Structures”

Posted in Liberating Structures

Liberating Structures – Min Specs for Definition of Ready

I have realized that Liberating Structures are helping me with being a more successful ScrumMaster. I have written about my experienced benefits of Liberating Structures as concept, as well as links to useful resources in the first post of this series. This post is about my experiences and reflection on a specific Liberating Structure. The primary reason for writing about it is for the sake of my own reflection. If you can use it as well, that’s awesome. Also, if you disagree, have questions, or if you spot room for improvement, don’t hesitate to comment.

Context and reason for choosing

The team had previously identified the need of having a Definition of Ready. Previous attempts in making a Definition of Ready has resulted in a poor list, which the team stopped referring to quickly after the meeting. And when a team member mentioned the need of a Definition of Ready, heated and unfruitful discussions emerged about should we have it or not?; What should it contain, and what not?

As a Scrum Master I needed to find a way to facilitate a discussion that gave everybody equal possibility of contributing; a feeling of being heard; ownership for decisions made, as well as doing it effectively, to avoid wasting time of worthless discussions.

The “Min Spec” is designed to Specify only the absolute “must do’s” and “must not do’s” for achieving a specific purpose so I chose this for the Team’s Definition of Ready workshop.

The group consisted of 4 people in the room, and 2 via skype, and me (facilitator)

Steps and reflections

I highly recommend to read the original Min Spec description from the inventors, which I used as basis for this Definition of Ready workshop. Below I have listed the steps I went through, along with my reflections.

My personal notes, for facilitating the Min Specs

Continue reading “Liberating Structures – Min Specs for Definition of Ready”

Posted in Liberating Structures

How to involve and unleash everyone in a group

As a team facilitator, your responsibility is to ensure that everybody in the group

  • Has equal possibilities to contribute
  • Feel that their input has been heard
  • Take ownership for whatever decision the group makes
  • Feel their time is well spent – Efficient and valuable

Seem like a big responsibility, and if the list makes you feel a bit anxious, I perfectly understand it, because I feel the same way. Yet, I need to say, there is more to it. Today’s world is changing faster than ever, and everybody needs to move faster. This also calls for a need to be able to foster “Creativity and Innovation” when facilitating.

Did you lose your breath now? I almost did, just by writing it!

When it comes to facilitating retrospectives, I have a decent toolbox to pick from to achieve some or all from the list above. However, I have been struggling to find ways on how to ensure equal contribution, ownership for decisions, efficient processes and room for creative thinking, outside of the retrospective.

Søren Weiss, who is an agile coach, change agent and someone who inspires me a lot, introduced me to Liberating structures. It changed everything. Continue reading “How to involve and unleash everyone in a group”