How we hacked Standup and changed our team’s mindset!

Motivated by the keynote at Global Scrum Gathering Phoenix (May 2015) by Mike Cohn where he advised to experiment with our Agile approach, to not delay the learning and apply improvements even in the middle of the sprint rather than waiting for retrospectives, I went about experimenting with our Agile approach and this session is inspired from one of the successful experiments.
One the most significant ceremony of any Agile Team is Daily Standup where the team members get together and plan for their day. But quite often the daily standup turns into a zombie status update meeting where team members come together to blurt out their updates and walk away to their desk without ever maximizing the benefit of that meet up.
This technique is a result of a simple experiment that turned into Standup Poker and revolutionized our Daily standup. It helped us uncover true insights of teams progress and got the team talking about strategic planning and plans to remove any impediments as a “team” on daily basis to accomplish their sprint goal and commitments.

How Does Standup Poker Work ?

Standup is 30% Update and 70% Planning.

Here is how the Standup Poker works:

  1. Team starts by first answering the 3 basic daily standup question (what I did yesterday, what I plan to do today and Do I have any Impediments?)

  2. Scrum Master then asks the question: “How Confident are you that as a “TEAM” we will meet the Sprint Goal by End of Sprint?”

  3. Team Members pick their confidence level cards and everyone shows their confidence card at the same time

  4. Team member that show the lower confidence vote explain why they feel their confidence to be low in meeting the Sprint Goal.

  5. Based on the teams response the Scrum Master then facilitates the conversation with the team on what will it take to go from a lower number to 5.

What are the different levels of confidence?

  • 5Level

    We will be done in time for Happy Hour !!! (*All our user stories will be accepted)

  • 4Level

    I like where we are going but we need to pick the pace on few things.

  • 3Level

    OK, we need to seriously look at our tasks because we might not make it.

  • 2Level

    We need to drop few stories or do something because it’s not going to Happen !!!

  • 1Level

    We are DOOMED and We would be lucky if “anything” gets done this sprint !!!

  • 0Level

    Cancel the Sprint and call the Agile Shamans…because our sprint commitment ghosts needs to exorcised !!!

How Standup Poker Helps?

We learnt that when team members talked about “how to raise their confidence level”, hidden impediments and dependencies started to emerge and team members organically started to re-plan and prioritize their work to accomplish the Sprint Goal.

Interesting observations were also made when different teams members showed varying level of confidence level which indicated either difference in understanding of work or even “silo” effect.

Product Owner also found great value in this technique as this helped them see the teams true progress and engage with the team to re-prioritize user stories and even take a story out of the sprint if required.

Scrum Masters started to observe a trend in the confidence level over the span of the sprint and brought that information to Sprint Retrospective to discuss and brainstorm ways to improve and keep the confidence levels high throughout the sprint.

The discussions and observations due to Standup poker resulted in teams committing better and more confidently during Sprint Planning and got into the rhythm of always accomplishing their sprint goal.

Some other tips ….

Look for the pattern!

1. Single Sprint Team Retrospective:
Scrum Master can make a note of the teams overall confidence from Day 1 to Day 10 of the Sprint. During Sprint retrospective Scrum Masters writes the confidence vote on the white board for each day. Team then looks for a pattern throughout the sprint and reflects on why the confidence changes over the period of time and what can be done to keep the confidence level high

2. Multiple Sprint Retrospective:
Scrum Master notes down the team overall confidence from Day 1 to Day 10 of the Sprint for multiple sprint (about 5 sprint). During the retrospective of Sprint 5, Scrum Master writes down the confidence vote for each day and for each sprint. Team then looks for a pattern over the sprints and then reflects on why the confidence changes over period of time in the sprint and over multiple sprint.

3. Across Multiple Teams:
If you are scaling agile and using framework such as SAFe or LESS then you have multiple teams working towards the same goal or in the same “Release Train”. Scrum Masters of all the teams on the release train can note the confidence vote of their respective teams from Day 1 to Day 10. Scrum Masters of all the teams get together and then look at the pattern across different team and reflect on how confidence of team members on the release train can be kept high.

Want to get your team to start using Standup Poker?

Download the cards from here!

Share this Technique !!!

Want to share this technique at your local SCRUM or AGILE User Group, Agile Meetups or Community of Practice? Please feel free to reach out to via this form and I will respond to you with the following:

  • PPT deck to present
  • PDF of the poker cards to print and share with attendees

Request the Presentation Material Here

Where all has this technique been presented…

Phoenix Scrum User Group – Feb 2 & Feb 18, 2016

Global Scrum Gathering Orlando – March 18, 2016

Agile Arizona 2016 – May 6, 2016

About the guy who thought of this technique….

Kalpesh Shah is a Culture Hacker, Speaker and Enterprise Agile Coach. He helps teams collaborate better, enhance creativity, become more self-organize and high-performing.

As a monk on a spiritual journey, he is also on a journey of discovering/learning different agile techniques and practices to create better teams and in turn better products (his version of enlightenment).

His latest passion is Culture Hacking through continuous experimentation which will promote innovative thinking, extend openness, embody rationality, and bring design thinking into teams.

Want to get your team to start using Standup Poker?

Get in touch

Have a question? do not hesitate to contact us.