Monday, February 13, 2012

An Agile Team "Reset"

By its very nature Scrum is a constant journey of inspection and adaption but sometimes there comes a time when it is a good idea for an Agile team (mature or not) to take a step back and review/relearn the foundation principles and practices of Scrum, ie a team "Reset".

I am sure the concept is not new but it was introduced to me by a very talented Agile mentor (thanks Ben *grin*) a number years ago.

With a view to helping other Scrum practitioners, I thought to outline my structure and experience with a recent "Reset" I conducted with my current team.

My primary reason for doing it with the team was they had successfully implemented the practices for Scrum but didn't really understand the values or principles behind it and suffered from the very common situation of "Doing" Agile not truly "Being" Agile ie compliant not committed.

"Reset" Agenda
  • Scrum in 10 minutes
  • The Values of Scrum
  • High Performance Tree
  • Our Team Vision
Scrum in 10 minutes
Many may ask "Why would a mature team need to revisit the fundamentals of Scrum?" to which I would reply, purely to see either where their journey began or where they may have gotten lost. Although my team were 12 months into using Scrum it was really interesting to cover off the 4 meetings (Planning, Daily Standup, Sprint Review and Retrospective) and 3 artifacts (Product and Sprint backlogs and the burn down chart) and discuss the usage and value of each.

A really good example of how to deliver this (and the one I used as a reference) is done by my Mentor/Coach Lyssa Adkins (

The Values of Scrum
Until recently I didn't really appreciate the importance and complexity that values had in Scrum. For a team to truly realise the Scrum/Agile dream each member and the team as a whole needs to embrace and live the values outlined in the Scrum frame work. A common problem with Scrum being implemented is the practices and processes are put in place but the underlying values that make it work are either not articulated or forgotten all together.

To deliver this part of the "Reset" I simply went through the values one at a time (Focus, Commitment, Respect, Courage and Openness) then let the team discuss them. The critical part of this is that each member finds a meaning for the values that means something to them.

Example image

High Performance Tree
Now this was an exercise that I had never tried before and to be honest I was a little concerned that the team would find it a little woolly or fluffy but was surprised at the level of acceptance and relevance the team got from it.

The concept of the high performance tree is to create a visual metaphor around the foundation values (or roots) of Scrum. It then extends these roots into attributes and characteristics that describe a high performing team and finally articulating the outcomes that can be achieved.

The Roots
If you follow the order in which I layout the "reset" then this part is quite simple. Simply review the core values of Scrum and set the foundation of this metaphor and depict the "roots" of the tree (below). This can be a very powerful coaching tool on a daily basis, asking questions like "where are our roots weak?" can give the team great insight into where issues may be that they didn't see before. With strong roots (and trunk) a team can then start looking to extend itself to the higher reaching aspects of a high performing team.

Example image

The Leaves
Next discuss what is beyond the roots and trunk of the tree (ie leaves) and what a team may need to look like if it wants to take its next steps on its journey to high performance. Empowerment, self organisation and trust are just a few of the aspects that the team needs to master. Dependent on the maturity of the team you can either use a predefined list (as I did) or make it more of a discussion. As with the Scrum values the team needs to buy in to this concept, if the concepts discussed aren't valuable to the team then it will not be as powerful a message as it should be.

Example image

The Fruit
Lets be frank, the main reason we all work so hard with our teams and Scrum is to help them (and the greater organisation) realise the truly amazing things that can happen when a team reaches high performance. The "Fruit" of reaching this goal is to see a team produce faster results and get to the right solution more quickly. It fosters an attitude that allows teams and members to grow as professionals and in their Scrum journey, finally reaching a point with astonishing results and ultimately a team that can do anything.

Example image

Our Team Vision
This exercise is the easiest but most interactive of the "Reset". I simply put up a question on the white board "This would be a great team if ...", the team then got up out of their seats and started discussing and adding to the list. This was a productive section of the "Reset" but in hind sight I should have left a little more time as we had to cut it a little short. The outcome of this should be written up so that it can be displayed in the team area for all to see.

Example image that could come out of this session

In Summary
Some times it is a good idea to revisit the fundamentals of Scrum, most importantly its underlying values. My team are on the second sprint post the "Reset" and are already showing a reviewed focus, commitment and passion for delivering high quality, working software and continuing their journey on the Scrum path and eventually to high performance.

Scrum values, The NetCircle -

High Performance Tree, Lyssa Adkins -

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