Scrum/Agile – sprint retrospective and daily scrum Meetings. Work doesn't have to be boring!

in education •  last year

Article level: required knowledge about Scrum

Most articles on Agile topic are too focused on the technical concept.

People with a lot of experience are writing how to efficiently collect information, what mistakes to avoid, what to look for. Based on that newly designated scrum master is often trying to work the best mainly by sticking to the definition and processes rigidly, forgetting that people are not robots and need some slack. With this approach, work efficiency can grow, but not necessarily moods in the team.

One of the part of Scrum are frequent meetings of team members. Two of them are very specific: sprint retrospective and daily scrum meeting.
The specificity of these meetings requires substantive conversations between team members. I do not know why, but those meetings are almost always boring. The leading person most often:

  • organizes every meeting exactly the same, week in a week,
  • uses the same tools,
  • asks the same question.

Dear scrum masters, please stop doing that!

There is a lot of cool methods so that team members do not fall asleep because of boredom at these meetings and at the same time they would provide valuable informations.
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A few simple examples of how to make the meetings more interesting

Daily scrum

Standard way: all the team members are coming together in a circle and in turns discussing the progress.
Changes: pointing the next person does not have to be done in ordered basis for e.g. clockwise. I assure you that then the person at the end of the queue, instead of listening to others, often goes be miles away with their thoughts, because there are for e. g. 4 people ahead of them – it is a lots of time to think about “more important” things.
Give them anti stress foam ball. The next random person to talk now will be designated by saying his name and throwing a ball to him. Yes, throwing objects by people gives them more excitement, positive emotions and requires constant focus. You never know who will be next and how fast the ball will fly.
Bonus: replace the foam ball regularly to some other foam shaped items. There is a tone of them on eBay for 1 - 2 $ each. Now everyone will be curious to come to "your" stand-ups, wondering what interesting you will give them.
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Sprint retrospective

When I see a drawing of a sailboat on retro for the hundredth time, I want to leave the room as quick as it is possible. How many times you can do the same exercise? There is a lot of interesting variations of this method for gathering same information.
My drawing skills are 1 on a scale of 1-10 (where 10 means a painter), even though I am not afraid to draw. If I fail during the drawing of basic object at least it will improve other people mood.
Instead of drawing a sailboat, take a moment and come up with something new that allows you to collect as much information as this unfortunate boat. You can draw a speed car with racing parachute, balloon, plane. Something that works the same way as a sailboat, but at the same time it will arouse the curiosity of your team, snap out of sleepiness and stimulate to work. Instead of drawing, you can also create different types of tables. It is always funny to hear how people are trying to guess behind my back what I am drawing this time.

You can search for inspiration on this site: funretrospectives.com and if it is not enough then take a look at Retromat. There are over 130 ideas on how to make a retro to look not always the same! For example, to ask every team member to describe the last sprint in one word. This exercise helps in remembering what was being done and what feelings it made us. At the end, we often hear words that make the people to laugh (in a positive way), because someone said for e. g. that the last sprint reminded him a butterfly.

A long series of meetings

Sometimes all day we have a meeting after a meeting, demo, retro, planning. Everything is going on. After a few hours in the conference room, people either fall asleep or cannot stand with the energy blowing them out. A break for coffee, dinner and a cigarette, even this does not always help, because it's already been a 6 hours meeting and the schedule is chasing us.

If possible, divide these blocks of meetings into shorter parts for the next few days and if even this is not enough, use your secret weapon: energizing exercises!

At the beginning, you can feel some reluctance to introduce them, playing games at work doesn’t sound right. There is a difference between secretly playing for a 5 minutes in a game on the smartphone and playing with the whole team officially under the paid time. If you set a fixed small time frame of for e. g. 5 minutes for an exercise that stimulates the attention of the meeting participants, in my opinion such a waste of time is justified. After that, work efficiency will increase drastically and help you stay focused for the next few hours.
Start, for example, one of these two energizers:

Then, browse the internet for other ideas
Bonus: practically all energizing exercises help in team integration.

Dear scrum master, before the next meeting, which you will organize, spend at least 5 minutes of your paid time to search for new ideas on the Internet to refresh your scrum meeting.

Your team will be graceful!

Many companies do not have dedicated full-time scrum masters. In this role can act anyone who knows this methodology or who has the appropriate certificates. It is the same in the company where I am currently working. On this basis, I based my conclusions. Maybe you do not have such problems and your meetings are awesome and exciting, because your full-time scrum master has a time to constantly get inspired and improves the process.

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Is Agile suitable for remote work eg on an open source project?

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Agile should be used as a flexible methodology, for sure some parts of it can be used. Your working place doesn't matters. If you work remotely you can catch up with the team by doing video call or using other work collaboration tools. Now days remotely you can even do pair programming, agile won't be a problem.

Agile can be used on an open source project but what methodology is used depends on project owner/sponsor/manager. So if you are contributing to someone others opens source project, probably it would be hard to influence on how the project is managed.

Is Agile suitable for project usually depends on multiple factors but remote work is not one of them.