For today’s retro (Agile Retrospective) game, we will play Chain Reaction.
A chain reaction is a word chain of at least 7 words. A word chain is formed when the previous word connects with the adjacent word making a compound word (paired words) or connected words that make sense or recognized. Below is an image from google search. The work chain is: Crack Open, Open Sesame, Sesame Street, Street Smart, Smart Cookie, and Cookie Monster.
The game is best played with at least 4 players equally divided to at least two teams. The controlling team will choose whether to guess from the top of the word chain or the bottom. A letter is revealed in the adjacent word and a representative of a team will have to guess the word. When the team guesses correctly, they will be awarded the points, when incorrectly, the control is given to the other team and another letter is revealed. The team who completed the chain has the will have a chance to play the Speed Chain round. The Speed Chain round is a shorter Chain Reaction with 4 words. The controlling team will have to guess the Speed Chain with the given time.
To help you fill-up your word chain board, here are sample word chains. You can makeup your own, even in your own language:
Are you getting enough value from your sprint reviews? Here are the best practices I share to Developers and POs
Purpose of Sprint Review
Inspect the outcome of the Sprint and determine future adaptations
Inspect the sprint and value delivered
Adapt the backlog and the release plans
Show progress toward the Product Goal
Share the business value delivered
Conversation on how value impacts the user
The main audience are the key stakeholders – business people and user representatives
Celebration of the achievement of the team
Structure of a Sprint Review
Introduction by the PO
Introduce new members if there are
Purpose of Sprint Review if it is the first time to conduct it (by Scrum Master)
Provide the context: Share print goal, Where we are with respect to the roadmap/product goal, Done and not done
Demonstration by Developers
Demonstrate the value that is delivered in the sprint
In case it’s a release to production sprint, demonstrate the value from the previous release to the new version
Gather feedback on the value delivered
Sharing what’s next by the PO
PO shares the next priorities and gathers feedback from the key stakeholders
Closing by PO/Scrum Master
Gather stakeholder feedback via survey
Tips and Best Practices for Developers (Demonstration)
Should avoid discussing implementation: how
As developers, we may have the tendency to show about the latest code, libraries, and framework we use. Leave it to the persons who might be interested in it like the guilds!
Avoid using technical jargon/terms that the key stakeholder would not understand. In case you have to, explain it in simple terms.
Should avoid discussing technical tasks unless it delivers business value to the key stakeholders
The possible business value that key stakeholders may appreciate include the improved response time of the application, responsiveness, usability, and the like
Limit the presentation deck, limit the time to a maximum of 15 minutes whenever appropriate
Have a live demo than a complete presentation deck
Limit to a list with at least 30 points font outlining the features to be demoed or 1 slide per feature with a title describing the value and the representative screenshot or flow, It can be an image representing the big picture of the feature being presented
Put only title, not whole explanation of problems. Talk about details, but do not write it because you will need to use 6pt fonts.
Reviews are informal, the tone of the meeting should be conversational
Like story-telling, best to arrange the features to be demoed in a certain order that makes sense
Showcase what was done, do not demo incomplete stories
Defects resolved that are not found in production are not demonstrated (e.g. defects in new stories implemented in the QA environment)
Prepare the inputs and configuration prior to the demo
Who would want to see login and setup or someone trying to look for the input files
Demonstrate the happy path by default
If there are edge cases that you need to show, have the screenshots rather than trying to reproduce them on the application
This can also engage the stakeholder as they try to think for cases that may break the application. Only show the alternate behaviors when they asked.
How to demonstrate features?
Describe the problem, pain or job, or gain and the persona related to it
Explain what is expected as the correct result
Demonstrate the functionality. Simple, straightforward
Ask for feedback
If you show performance improvements, compare them with the previous version. Don’t provide just %. Talk to us in milliseconds, a load of x thousands of users, etc.
The Developer who will perform the Demo should coordinate with the PO in building the agenda of the Sprint Review, confirm what to show and what not to show if uncertain.
Do rehearsals, with your peers, the team, or with the PO
Tips and Best Practices for the PO
Send a meeting agenda and a teaser of the features to be presented
Provide the context
Show the product backlog or an epic list
Plays the lead Emcee (facilitator)
Step in on business/domain questions during the demo of features
Show product metrics if available
Keep the meeting short
Share any risks foreseen such as technology changes that may impact the product
Share any best practices or tips on Sprint Review from the comment below.
Scattergories anyone? Let’s start the sprint retrospective with yet another energizer game. Offline, Scattergories is a word game where a dice is rolled with letters on each side. The objective of the game is to score points by uniquely naming objects within a set of categories, given an initial letter, within a time limit. The original board game is from Hasbro.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a board, there is an online version! https://scattergoriesonline.net/ is fully configurable. You can choose the categories, the number of players, and the time limit. You can setup a private game and share the link to the participants.
For the game I conduct as a game master, I set 4-6 categories. At least 3 players should participate. The time limit is set to 45sec.
Rules of the Game:
No adding an adjective to fit the first letter of the word (e.g., Purple Rabbit for “animals that start with P”).
No repeating words in the set (e.g., no using Mexico for “countries that start with M” and “cities that starts with M”).
Everyone (or google) has to agree that the given word is valid
For additional difficulty, cross out the words that are not unique (meaning 2 more more members answered the same word for the category)
Yet another retro energizer exercise that you can play is — guess the object! A member describes an object using the five senses of the body (sense of sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste) and the rest of the team guesses the word.
The facilitator, usually the Scrum Master, prepares the list of objects that each member to describe using five senses of the body:
Sight – shape, color, size, properties : solid, liquid, gas
Touch: rough, smooth, hot cold
Sound: what kind of sound it makes, like loud, hissing
Smell: how it smells
Taste: how it taste
At least 4 members should play the game. The following rules can be set:
Give each member 20 seconds to describe the object
Any member who are not describing can guess
The member who guesses the object first gets a point
member who fails to have his item guessed (2 times) or violates the Rules for Describing (2 times) will be eliminated
Rules for Describing
Do not describe what it does: function, feature or purpose, what it can do
Do not say what it has (example: it has a head)
Do not say what you can do with it
Do not act it out
Here are sample things you can ask the members to guess:
Looking for a game to boost the competitive spirits of the team after a sprint? Try playing Family Feud! Family Fed is a popular TV Game Show where two families compete to name the most popular answers to survey questions in order to win cash and prizes.
Normally, you would need to download Family Feud online applications to play this game. But I found a Powerpoint Template from Family Feud Template From Rusnak Creative that is customizable (questions and answers) and can be shared via screen sharing for online meetings.
Here are sample screenshots of the game:
How to play the game: Customized Game Mechanics for Online facilitation
Divide the team into two “families”
Ask members to turn on camera and ensure that they are away from their keyboards as the answers can be searched from the Web.
Each question is a ROUND. Each team should choose a representative for each round to play the round.
The facilitator will show the question and the representatives will answer (Example: Popular Programming Languages of 2021).
The representative with higher score point (Example: Family 1 Representative answered Python worth 30pts and Family 2 Representative answered Java 20 pts) has the option to PLAY the ROUND or PASS to the other family.
When a representative plays a ROUND, the PLAYING FAMILY has to guess the remaining answers.
The PLAYING FAMILY has up to 3 strikes. A strike is when the player is not able to provide an answer within 10 seconds or when she gives a wrong answer.
If the PLAYING FAMILY guesses all the answers, they gets all the scores in that round (100 pts).
Else, the other family (STEALING FAMILY) can steal the ROUND when they guess at least 1 answer. They will be awarded the sum of the scores of the correct answers.
If the STEALING FAMILY provides an incorrect answer or misses the 10 second timer, the ROUND score is awarded to the PLAYING Family.
You can play as many rounds as time permits.
Sample Round Questions and Answers, and Scores
The facilitator setups the game and come-up with interesting questions for the team to answer. Here are some samples.
How about a game of Jeopardy to lighten up the mood after a sprint? Jeopardy is a TV gameshow debuted in 1964. The show features a quiz competition in which contestants are presented with clues in the form of answers, and must phrase their responses in the form of questions.
An online version of Jeopardy is available, you can choose the readily available question sets or create your own custom questions. Custom quizzes are limited to 5 category x 5 questions for free, payment and registration is required when you go beyond.
At least 3 members are needed to play the game. You need at least 15 minutes. I made a custom game board and asked personal details about each participant for the other participants to guess.
I guess you are like me who are running out of ideas on how to make retrospective fun. Our team appreciates these short team-building exercises and games that break the monotony of working on the product, break the routine of Working from Home, and complement the lack of physical interaction with your colleagues (local and international).
It is great to have some activities that require active participating from everyone as these create shared memories that builds up the team spirit. A week ago I had the team mimic some animal sounds and for the teammates to guess. It was full of fun and laughter. Here’s how to facilitate it:
Activity: Guess the Animal Sound Time: 10-15 Minutes Method: Video call through Teams, Zoom, Google Meet etc. Participants: At least 4
Before hand, prepare a list of animals and distribute it evenly to the participating members beforehand. The facilitator may participate or demonstrate an example. If facilitator chooses to participate, he is not allowed to guess.
The team will take turns in mimicking the animal sounds. The listening participants shall key in their guesses in the group chat. The first one to guess gets the point. Repeat until the list has been exhausted or when your set timebox expires.
It is optional to have prizes, this can be another topic altogether.
Here are the list of Animal sounds that you can use, please add in the comment below. Just provide the participants the animals, let them be creative on how to mimic the sounds.
Tired of the usual Video Conferencing apps for your virtual meetings? Try KUMO SPACE . Kumo Space was shared by an officemate, it helped her keep in touch with her significant during this LDR (Lockdown relationship).
Unlike the usual Video Conferencing platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, Kumo space makes connecting more natural. Kumo Space is a virtual room where attendees can:
Walk around a virtual room/space
Enjoy different ambience, listen to music in the piano corner
Enjoy the free flowing virtual wine
Can have multiple conversations. With spatial audio, guests who are closer together can hear each other clearly, but can’t hear guests who are far away across the room.
The usual chat, share screen, share camera and audio
Having the spatial dimension, facilitators and scrum masters can already incorporate movements in their usual team-building or retrospective exercises. The best part — it’s FREE!
Please do share other cool virtual location platforms in the comments!
As an agile coach or a scrum master. We deal with conflicts almost daily. Conflicts are disagreements of two or more opposing parties.
In dealing with conflicts, there are no perfect response. Knowing the context and the interests of the personalities involved will come very handy.
In Thomas & Kilmann’s Conflict Resolution Model, there are 5 responses to conflict
Not dealing with the conflict. Ignoring the conflict in the hope it will resolve itself. (lose-lose)
Putting the other parties needs before one’s own (lose-win)
One party stands firm and does not back down until they get their way (win-lose)
Middle ground, concede some aspects to a solution both can agree on (lose-lose)
Time consuming but has long term results. Each party’s needs and wants are considered and a solution is found so that everyone leaves satisfied (win-win)
Thomas & Kilmann’s Conflict Resolution Response
You don’t have to aim for Collaborating and Compromising in every conflict. At the same time, you don’t want to be Accommodating all the time to win their friendship. Knowing when to apply specific responses to the person and team you are coaching will deepen trust and and teamwork. The right blend of assertiveness and cooperation in conflict situations is the key.
The chart below summarizes the Thomas & Kilmann’s Conflict Resolution Model. Let it be your guide in navigating conflicts within the team.
It is difficult to conduct team building exercises that demonstrate the effectiveness of Scrum in virtual teams. Now that the ‘new norm’ is set, it is very hard to conduct team building exercises with your scrum team. Most, if not all, require face to face physical interaction like the Agile Paper Airplane Game, Lego for Scrum Games, and Agile Battleships.
After teaching my kid her math tangram exercises, I thought that the tangram could be a great Scrum Team-building exercise. A Tangram is a Chinese geometric puzzle consisting of a square cut into seven pieces that can be arranged to make various other figures.
Tangram Exercise Goal:
A tangram demonstrates the power of time-boxing and teamwork in a fun way. You are required to build as many figures from the given tangram blocks in a certain time, for example, five minutes.
Sprinting : Run the exercise in 2 to 3 sprints. What I did is to give my teammates the following time-boxes:
Give 3 minutes for Sprint Planning
Give 5 minutes for Execution
Give 3 minutes for Retrospective
Rules of the Game:
The tangram pieces are to be evenly distributed among the participants.
Each participant can only move their own pieces.
Participants should be able to create multiple figures out of their own pieces before being able to build the next figure.
The facilitator should have a different set of patterns for each sprint.
The facilitator should only share the patterns during execution to avoid the team building the patterns ahead of time.
Shared virtual whiteboard: I use Miro – board for virtual exercises. As the facilitator, you need to prepare the shapes on the board for the team members to move around in order to create a figure, like a cat. You may need to teach the users how to navigate the virtual whiteboard. Teach them how to move, rotate, and duplicate the shapes.
Set your tangram figures: a simple google search will show several figures that the facilitator can share and the participants can follow. Sample figures are shown below:
Debrief the participants after the exercise
Talk about what made them improve over the sprints.
Talk about how waterfall may be different from what they have done.
Talk about what would have happened if the time box was not there.
Best of luck! Enjoy playing the game.
Please share your experiences with this tangram method in the comments below.