Scrum Master Dayz.  Yes, with ‘z’.

Firstly, sorry about the name – it was one of those jokey, place-holder things that accidentally stuck.  No one regrets it more than I, but this is now the second one we have run and I’m smart enough to recognise I no longer have any control over what it is called!

So, now that’s out of the way…

Last year, in the summer, we ran the inaugural Scrum Master Dayz, a 2 day ‘mini conference’ for NewVoiceMedia Scrum Masters.  The idea was to share some learning, work out some goals, and set some on-going learning for ourselves for the next year.  Visual Facilitaiton with Weronika tweet

It was so successful that when we got our next 2 new starters,  joining us barely a month apart, the opportunity to do it again was just irresistible.  We invented ‘Mini Dayz’ (I know.  By this stage I am somewhat resigned to the name).

So, a couple of weeks ago, twitter followers saw me get all excited about a visual facilitation skills workshop by @werokedierska.

It was about learning how to do those lovely drawings you see really cool presenters use on flipcharts.  We couldn’t manage to squash it into the Mini Dayz agenda, as it was half a day on its own, so she kindly ran it a couple of days before hand, and for a wider audience.

I mention this only because it really ought to have been included.  It also gave me the opportunity to have a crack at using the technique for real.  I created the agenda using the visual facilitation tools Weronika had taught me.  (Those who saw, (and rightly judged poorly) my minions picture from my “Scrum Buddies” post:  I think we’re safe from me repeating THAT mistake 🙂 )

The agenda we set up required some homework from the attendees to be ready for the day.  As true agilists, we adapted during the day to best use the time.  This meant we covered almost everything, plus added some new, cool content when the opportunity arose.

Lie To Me

My Own Truths & LieWe opened by playing my favourite ice-breaker game.  I call it ‘Lie to Me‘, and I described it fairly thoroughly here.  As last time, it is a great opener for such an event, and for 8-10 people only takes about 40 minutes to play for everyone.  As many of us had played before, we knew the drill and so it went a little faster than usual.  This meant we could break for coffee a little earlier, which in turn meant we could start our next session sooner.


Goal Setting

Next up was our much-anticipated goal setting session.  I had only 2 words to describe the input I wanted people to come to the session with: Think BIG.

Our very own Rob Lambert facilitated the session.  The goals were good (we had about 7 in the end).  They were large, valuable and fed into each other satisfyingly, like a spider web :).

For each goal we established a pair of Scrum Masters to ‘champion’ it.  The role here being to push the agenda of that particular goal wherever we could.  Additionally, the champions ensure there’s always a “next step” in the pipeline towards delivering that benefit to the business.

It turned out that we were nicely aligned with the exec team on goals.  As a result, there was much less discussion around them than we’d allowed for, which left us quite a bit ahead of schedule.  Rob kindly offered to use the time to talk us through another presentation he was just finishing off around Systems Thinking.

Coincidentally this was one of our learning goals 🙂 , so we were able to take the first step as a team into exploring this topic.  We finished very excited about all sorts of possibilities we could just glimpse on the horizon.  The conversations spanned completely over lunch, which was great for team bonding.

This is a great book if you are interested in learning a bit about it:  I Want You to Cheat!: The Unreasonable Guide to Service and Quality in Organisations by John Seddon

Team Speed-Dating

Because we over-ran our impromptu Systems Thinking session it meant we sacrificed our ‘Team Speed-Dating’ one.  That’s ok though, we chose to do it.

This would have been an opportunity (inside an extremely tight time frame) to each say a little about the team(s) we work with.  The idea was that we’d explain what area of the code base they specialise in, and what their current challenges and strengths were.   I’m sure we’ll do this at another time.


The Basics of Scaling Agile

Scaling Agile Tweet via RajiNext up was a great introductory session from @Steven MacKenzie and one of our new Scrum Masters, @Keith O’Sullivan on Scaling Agile.  Their goal had been to get (and then share) a basic understanding of a handful of the most common frameworks and to compare and contrast.  They covered SAFe, LESS, DAD and Spotify (and since most of our NVM Dev world looks remarkably similar to that of Spotify, this seemed a great idea).

We are not looking to chose a scaling framework at NVM – after all, “what problem are we trying to solve” is a great question to ask.  Right now, NewVoiceMedia is not particularly suffering from pain brought on by recent growth.  Steven & Keith did a sterling job, and made sure that all the Scrum Masters have a solid grounding on which to refer back.

Moving Motivator Cards

M.Motivator cards, PHelka

I was curious about these ever since @PiotrHelka had sent me a big stack of sets a few weeks ago, and this curiosity intensified since as more and more people found time to come and talk to me about them.  I hadn’t heard of them before, and was only vaguely aware of Management 3.0 or Jurgen Appelo for that matter.

It was essentially a demo of how to use the cards, so I asked everyone to line the cards up from left to right, left being “least motivated by” and right being “most motivated by”.  Next we deliberately took a non-controversial topic (for the purposes of the demo) and thought about how this could be reflected by the cards.  For those motivators which were positively influenced, we moved them up from the visual line of cards on the table in front of us.  For those motivators which were negatively influenced, we moved them down.

We then took turns to talk through our changes in motivation with regards to the topic in hand.  We all found it much more useful than we had initially anticipated.  There were surprising themes we all shared, and some good insights for one or 2 of us as well.

This is the best demo I’ve found of how to use them, and you can get the background and print a free set off here.

Toyota Improvement Kata / Theory of Constraints

Our final session of the day was something of a wild card!  The much-learned Nigel Johnston picked his topics based on a combination of his whim, and a straw poll carried out over lunch!  We got a couple of really great sessions from him.  The first one was a refresher of the Toyota Improvement Kata which is always valuable (I like this synopsis of the idea if you’re new to it) .  This session segwayed very neatly into a shorter one on the Theory of Constraints.

Why I Wrote This Post

It can be hard for a group of Scrum Masters to bond and think of themselves as a team in their own right, and I know of several companies where Scrum Masters barely see or speak to each other.  This strikes me as a huge, wasted opportunity for learning.  Cramming 10 years experience into 2 or 3 years can be done if you share in your colleagues learning experiences also.

I know not every company is going to embrace Scrum Masters taking a day out of their working life to learn and share with others outside of their team.  In my mind though, the return on this investment is so compelling for the individual and for the company, its a no-brainer.

If you are in such a company, try not to despair :).  Start small, maybe an hour session every couple of months.  Do the work of rustling up some content for these sessions yourself initially – that way there is minimal burden on the other, perhaps more sceptical ones.

It might take a while, but soon people will start sending you ideas, and then you’ll need sessions more often to cope with all the ideas, and then… well, you get the picture.

Good luck!