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Name: Paul

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Web Site: http://www.agilify.co.uk/scrum-master-diary

Bio: Paul is the founder of Agilify, has been an active Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) since 2006, and also became only the fourth UK-based Certified Scrum Coach (CSC) in 2011. From developer to ScrumMaster, and from ScrumMaster to Agile Coach he has been working with agile development teams since 2000. Paul was part of the coaching team which took on one of the largest agile transformations to date in a major UK telecoms company in 2003 and since then has been training and coaching other organizations, teams and individuals across the UK and Europe.

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    Questions Only

    November 2nd, 2012

    This improv exercise was originally seen on Whose Line Is It Anyway? CH4, on British Television, but manipulated into an agile learning experience by myself and Geoff Watts during a collaboration day.

    Timings:

    5-10 mins

    Materials:

    4 people

    A buzzer or hooter

    Instructions:

    Two of the four player meet in an imaginary location (place of work etc) on stage. The only rule of the game is that they can only converse by asking each other questions in turn. If a player hesitates or makes a statement, they are buzzed out and replaced by one of the other players (how is standing behind them).

    Learning points:

    The game emphasises how hard it is to answer a question with another questions. As problem solving human beings, we are naturally drawn to providing an answer when given a question.

    Geoff and I use this to position the ScrumMaster as someone who should encourage a Scrum team to solve their own problems instead of being seen as someone who will always have the answers.

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    Werewolf Facilitation

    November 2nd, 2012

    The original game has been subtly changed into an exercise co-created as part of a collaboration day between myself and Geoff Watts.

    Timings:

    45-60 mins

    Materials:

    8-18 people, seating in chairs in a circle

    1 deck of Werewolves cards (available on Amazon here)

    Instructions:

    This is a well known game (based on the original “Mafia” game) in development circles, and can be used as a simple team building, fun exercise to break up a boring meeting or end a challenging retrospective.

    The game rules are lengthy to explain, but in a nutshell, this is a game of hidden identities. Each player is given a role card, and a small minority of the group will be werewolves. Werewolves hunt the village members down during the night. At night all players close their eyes, and werewolves are instructed to open them (when instructed by a neutral narrator) and pick off villagers. During the day (eyes open) villagers get the chance to lynch suspicious village members and try to eliminate the werewolves one by one.

    More detailed game instructions can be found here.

    Learning Points:

    Geoff and I tinkered with the rules and roles of the game to emphasise the skills of facilitation. We use the “sheriff” or “mayor” card as a mandatory role in the game. Their role is “open” which means everyone knows they are innocent (NOT a werewolf) and they are immortal (werewolves cannot kill them). We instruct this person that there role is to:

    • Help the village reach consensual decisions
    • Ask powerful questions
    • Give direction without having authority
    This role then becomes similar to the role of a ScrumMaster or neutral facilitator.
    What is nice about this is that the village always represents an immature and/or dysfunctional development team, that will be hard for one person to facilitate. Play the game out, and debrief.
    Common “Sheriff” pitfalls:
    • Focussing on vocal people in the group rather than giving everyone free say
    • Failure to timebox discussion and then running out of time (village then loses chance to lynch)
    • Failing to stay neutral (believing their own intuitions instead of representing the group)
    • Taking decisions on behalf of the team (assuming responsibilty)
    “Good sheriff” traits:
    • Stating what they notice (non-verbal / verbal observations) without any accusation
    • Asking the group what they think
    • Asking individuals powerful questions
    • Recalling key accusations or killings
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    Delight

    November 2nd, 2012

    This improv exercise originally comes from the work of Keith Johnstone. Geoff and I picked up the exercise from an improv workshop with Neil Mullarkey of the Comedy Store Players, in London.

    Timings:

    5-10 mins

    Materials:

    2 people (standing up)

    Instructions:

    The pair must tell a story about something imaginary they did together, but one of the pair can only interact with the story by saying the word “no”. When the partner hears the word “no”, they must offer an alternative direction for the story which “delights” their partner. The story continues as far as it can within a 5 minute period.

    Call stop – and swap roles.

    Learning Points:

    This improv game requires the primary storyteller of the pair (the one NOT saying no!) to continually search for alternatives possibilities for the story. This can equate to a customer who says “NO” during a product review. But from following up on the “NO” with some alternatives, this presents different options that we perhaps didn’t even know existed. The exercise proves emergent design and requirements can still come from a customer who doesn’t know what they want, until they see (or hear) something that they don’t want.

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    Rating: 4.6/5 (9 votes cast)

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    Gift Box

    November 1st, 2012

    (this exercise was co-created as part of a collaboration day between myself and Geoff Watts, credit to Paul Z Jackson from his book)

    Timings:

    5-10 mins

    Materials:

    2 people (standing up)

    Instructions:

    One person holds an imaginary box in front of them. This imaginary box is capable of holding any item imaginable. The partner’s job is to mime pulling items out of the box, whilst naming the item to the box holder.

    The box holder is required simply to verbally confirm items to their partner, as they pull them out of the box.

    Continue for 3 or 4 minutes until the flow of items increases. Call stop, and allow the box to switch over into the partner’s hands.

    Learning Points:

    This seems a scary exercise, but people are generally surprised at how creative they can be. The secret to this occurring is the role of the box holder. The verbal “yes, of course it’s a rabbit” response when an item is revealed acts as both confirmation and acceptance to their partner. This nicely demonstrates “yes, and” without necessarily using those exact words. Once a collaborative partnership has been formed using that response, the creator is much more comfortable and new ideas flow quicker. And as more ideas come, the collaboration grows further.

    The take-away being “collaboration brings creativity brings collaboration”. You can quote me on that : o)

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    Three Headed Expert

    November 1st, 2012

    This exercise was co-created as part of a collaboration day between myself and Geoff Watts, and from frequent visits to watch the Comedy Store Players perform in London.

    Timings:

    5-10 mins

    Materials:

    4 willing volunteers

    Instructions:

    One person plays “the interviewer”

    The other three people play the “interviewee”. The only rule they must follow is that they must answer any questions one word at a time, in sequence.

    Any leftover audience members can help by giving the interviewer a subject. At the comedy store, the usual request is for an animal and an olympic sport. The interviewee is then interviewed as an expert on that very subject.

    Learning Points:

    This classic improv game illustrates the frustration and fun the interviewee/s get from answering questions one word at a time. It forces them to collaborate, knowing that they have to build on what the previous person has said, and still make the response make sense. Very funny to watch.

    A secondary learning that I noticed from running this game, is the role of the interviewer is perhaps just as tough, because he or she has to listen even harder to piece the response together. Then he or she must answer another question to keep the interview flowing. It’s a great coaching scenario to show the importance of active listening and asking open questions to allow more than one word responses.

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    Intuitions

    October 23rd, 2012

    (this exercise was co-created as part of a collaboration day between myself and Geoff Watts, credit to Paul Z Jackson from his book)

    Timings:

    5 mins exercises, 5 min debrief

    Materials:

    An even number of participants, usually run at the start of the class/event as an introductory exercise

    Instructions:

    People stand in two lines, opposite their partner.

    Each person gives three statements about their partner, starting with:

    “It’s obvious that…”

    “I notice that…”

    “My intuition tells me that…”

    The partner then responds on how accurate those statements were. Switch around and repeat for partners.

    Learning Points:

    People may be surprised at how good their intuition is. Despite being a great warmup activity to get people talking, intution itself is something which a coach or ScrumMaster needs to rely on. The three statements encourage people to observe their partners more closely which can actually help us make more informed intuitive decisions and statements.

    Even if your intuition is off, it’s a good laugh for the group!

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    Balloon Animals

    October 23rd, 2012

    (this exercise was co-created as part of a collaboration day between myself and Geoff Watts)

    Timings:

    Unspecified, but allow up to 20-30 mins for balloon making and debrief

    Materials:

    Download and print the attached for one or more of the balloon animal shaping instructions.

    Balloon Twisting Tips

    The Basic Hat

    The Balloon Dog

    The Sword

    Large bag of coloured modelling balloons, with hand pump

    People works in pairs.

    Stopwatch.

    Instructions:

    One of the pair plays the customer, one plays the worker. The worker must follow the customers instructions.

    Variation 1: The customer can only use the written instructions. The worker can not look at the instructions.

    Now give the customer a different animal sheet.

    Variation 2: The customer can only use the picture instructions. The worker can look at the instructions and work collaboratively with the customer.

    (You can switch the customer and worker around if you wish, and there are numerous interpretations you can tinker with too: distributed customers (back to back chairs), distracted customers (give separate problems to customers))

    Learning Points:

    Proving that lengthy written requirements are less useful than simple mock-ups. Real time collaboration (pairing customers with developers) is better than blind feedback (without seeing the product). Time efforts using the stopwatch and compare results.

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    Rating: 1.7/5 (3 votes cast)

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    Musical Bells

    October 23rd, 2012

    (this exercise was co-created as part of a collaboration day between myself and Geoff Watts)

    Timings: 8 mins exercise, 5 min debrief

    Materials: 8 Musical Hand Bells per team, 4-12 people in each team. If the bells have sticky numbers on them, it’s best to remove those (or any other reference to bell order) before the exercise begins.

    Instructions: 

    Each team is given a simple brief to start the exercise. The team must recreate and play a simple 10-20 second “tune” using the bells which must adhere to the following criteria:

    • All bells must be rung at least once
    • All team members must play a bell at least once
    • The tune must be recognisable to the course tutor
    • The tune must be “easy on the ear”
    The tutor steps out of the room for the 8 minutes, and the team create the music. (Even though the sheet music
    Learning Points:
    Most adults tend to find this game a challenge, because there is no sheet music to follow and no one person in charge. The key to success is:
    • a clear and understood vision (choosing a song/nursery rhyme that the whole team knows and the tutor will recognise)
    • continuous and early testing – repeating the tune over and over to help find the right and wrong notes early and often.
    • collaboration – people have to be prepared to adjust their plans and performance based on other team members contributions
    The most common failure patterns:
    • people are too afraid to ring a bell themselves – fear of failure, lack of mutual respect in newly formed teams, everyone “thinks” they are tone deaf when in actual fact the tune can still be recognisable even from an imperfect performance.
    • lack of progess through failing to decide on a simple vision
    • team members not calling out a lack of quality from other team members
    • not everyone plays a bell – lack of buy in to team goal
    As well as demonstrating how collaborative team working can be key to success in delivery, we have also used this exercise to stress between BEING agile and DOING agile.
    BEING agile is accepting the uncertainty of the problem and the expected output, trial and error and having lots of fun getting to the solution through continuous feedback.
    DOING agile would have occurred if you gave the team the sheet music (which is usually in the box with the bells). This leads to predictive thinking, stifles innovation and is generally more boring!!

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Ouija Board Estimation

    March 27th, 2012

    Sit the team around a table (ideally a round one) and stick post-its around the table to represent the fibonacci sequence of size (1,2,3,5,8,13). Place a story in the centre of the table, and each team member places there finger on it. In silence, the team “collaboratively” push or pull the story to the size they believe it represents.

    Well formed, well understood stories move freely and easily. Poorly defined or misunderstood stories stay in the centre of the table – when this occurs the facilitator invites the team to break their silence and discuss before trying again.

    Dominant team members will be revealed by their white knuckles, or by putting two fingers on the card instead of just one. Facilitators should be aware of this and highlight that to the team.

    Great fun and a really fun alternative to planning poker. You can see this in action by viewing Ouija Board Estimation via YouTube

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    Rating: 4.9/5 (11 votes cast)

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    One Word Storytelling

    March 27th, 2012

    (this exercise was co-created as part of a collaboration day between myself and Geoff Watts)

    Timings:
    About 5-10 mins for new teams, longer for more mature teams or creative types

    Dead easy to set up, quick and very fun. Even more fun over beers. Sit team in a circle. Ask the team for a boy or girl’s name, a household object and a location. Write down somewhere visible if required.

    The team must then make a story by only speaking one word at a time, and going around the circle.

    Rules:

    • The story must “flow”
    • Players can add the words “full stop” to indicate a new sentence
    • The story elements the team chose must be used

    Learning points:

    Collaboration & Emergence. Players must be able to build on the previous word successfully. Nobody knows what the story will look like at the start, and it changes based on peoples own input. Some players will throw in “bad” words which are difficult to build on. These are BLOCKS. A good collaborator can turn a BLOCK into an OFFER which allows the next players to build the story more easily and create flow.

    You can read more about offers and blocks in collaboration on my blog.

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