Scrum from Hell

Goal: Practice standup meetings with a dysfunctional one.

Time: 15-20 minutes.

This exercise is for a group of 6 to 8 participants who stand up, and some number of observers who may sit and watch.

Background

  • Describe a Scrum meeting, so people understand the three questions and the flow of the meeting.
  • Describe common problems and interventions that address them. For example:
    • Implicit impediment: Listen to everything; sometimes someone mentions an impediment but doesn’t identify it as such.
    • Side discussion: ask people to listen when they’re not speaking.
    • Rambling on: ask people to summarize more quickly.
    • Sidetracked meeting: ask people to have a meeting immediately afterwards for people who care about the topic.
    • Observer ("chicken") who speaks: remind them that they’re an observer.
    • Late arrival: Charge them $1 if that’s what your team does; offer to fill them in after the meeting.
    • etc.

Preparation

Prepare a set of cards, each with a secret goal.

Make twenty identical cards that say:

  • Answer the three questions.

The other ten cards should say (one each):

  • Only speak to or look at the ScrumMaster (ignoring everybody else unless you’re asked a direct question).
  • Arrive late.
  • Hidden impediment: Mention an impediment but don’t be obvious about it.
  • Noisy chicken: start by saying, "I’m only an observer" and then report on things the group doesn’t care about.
  • Silent chicken: as an observer, just say "pass" or "I’m just observing" when it’s your turn.
  • Ask a clarifying question on somebody else’s turn.
  • Ramble on until you’re asked to move on.
  • Try to sidetrack the meeting.
  • Try to solve somebody’s problem.
  • Start a side discussion.

Shuffle the cards together.

Mechanics

Have the group stand in a circle. Identify one person as the ScrumMaster.

Tell the group these three things:

  1. "I’d like you to imagine that you’re a member of a team developing an e-commerce site; take a moment to decide what you’ve been working on and how you’ll answer the three questions."
  2. "I’m going to give each of you a secret goal; this card is for you only to see. During the scene, you’ll have this goal as hidden second agenda."
  3. "If the ScrumMaster addresses your behavior, then don’t persist in it."

Have the group do their standup meeting. Then debrief them.

Debrief

"What behaviors did you see?"
This question is for participants and observers.

"How was it for you?"
ScrumMaster
Participant

"What insights do you have for the ScrumMaster?"
This question is for participants and observers.

"What does this tell you about the role of the ScrumMaster?"
This question is for anybody. 

"What will you do in the future?"
This question is for anybody.

Variations

  • You can vary the balance of "simple" vs. dysfunctional cards. (Try the exercise before you make it harder.)
  • You can repeat the article with different people acting as ScrumMaster.
  • You can do a large group "fishbowl" style, with the bulk of the group observing the team.

Source:
[William C. Wake, 2004. Developed for the Scrum Gathering in Denver, October, 2004. Thanks to the participants there for helping to improve it. Name changed 5-16-05; was originally "Second Agenda."]

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