Pinterest, Retros, Scrum Master, Uncategorized

The Hobbit/LOTR retro

September 22nd is Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday, also known as Hobbit Day. So in honor of Hobbit Day I created a retro for the team to asses how Scrum is going Hobbit/LOTR style.

Stage #1 – Set the goal/ context (1 min)

The goal of this retrospective is to look at how the adventure of Scrum is working or not working for the team, to identify and gather feedback from Sprint XX, and to create action items to improve challenges as well as continue to maximize what is working for the team.

Stage #2 – Focus ON: How Scrum is/ has been an adventure for the team (5-10 min)

Post and have team members read the following memes. Then ask the questions below and write down the responses from the team.


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  1. How has Scrum been an adventure during the last however long you have been using it?
  2. What has surprised you about how the adventure of Scrum has been? Have you been surprised by any changes you have seen in yourself, your team, &/or your place of employment?

Stage #3 – Check – In; Riddles (5 min)

Post where everyone can see/ read these or copy and pass out. Give everyone a couple minutes to write down answers on a post it note. Go over answers and laugh/ see who watched/read the Hobbit so many times they memorized/ know answers.

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Stage #4 – Energizer; The Hobbit Questions

Type each question out and cut into strips, place in a bag, hat, bowl… and let each team member pick two and answer.


Stage #5 – Gathering Feedback

  1. Create 4 quadrants on a white board and draw an image for each or use the pics below.

The-Shire-the-shire-33427044-600-382 The Shire, represents everything that is good and right in the world/ your team/ job etc.

782px-Ted_Nasmith_-_Across_Gorgoroth Mordoor, represents everything that is so bad and wrong in the world/ your team/ job etc,.. that it needs to stop.

735px-Ted_Nasmith_-_Entering_Mirkwood Mirkwood/ (The Forest of Great Fear) – represents things that you are fearful of happening or are happening. It is where you see entropy at work, things that suck you in and you can’t get out easily.

images (2) Rivendell, represents the place where things are good but there are multiple threats and that good state could change if not protected. In this space put things that are working but could stop working if attention is not given to them.

2. Ask teammates to add notes to each area; “So, in the context of the adventure Scrum has been/ is, please share what you consider; things that are good and under little to no threat this is represented by the Shire, things that are not good and need to be changed/ stopped this is represented by Mordoor, things that you are fearful will or are happening and areas where entropy is at work this is represented by Mirkwood, and things that are good but are threatened and without attention could turn into Mordoor, this is represented by Rivendell. Please write one on each post it note and place them on the board where they go when you are ready.

Stage #6 Analyze and Create Action Items

  1. Go through and read the post it notes, group them together if applicable, and dot vote to chose one or two to brainstorm on Action Items on if applicable. Reminder to ask the team for solutions rather than proposing them yourself 🙂
  2. Write down the Action Items that team agrees to commit to and make sure it is a SMART goal.
  3. Review the progress on the Action Items from last sprint and adjust accordingly, if need be.

Stage #7 – Close-Out; team choice “Would You Rather Hobbit Style” or 5-10 min of playing a Hobbit video game individually.

Would you Rather questions – print and cut them out and pass around like energizer questions.

  1. Would you rather Be a dwarf or a hobbit?
  2. Would you rather hang out with Peregrin “Pippin” Took and Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck or Aragorn and Gandalf?
  3. Would you rather be part of The Fellowship of the Ring or Dumbledore’s Army?
  4. Would you rather watch Hunger Games or the Hobbit Trilogy?
  5. For your birthday would you rather have the Hobbits be in charge of the festivities and Gandolf at the fireworks (party may last a few days) or be given a birthday present by the Elves and Dwarves?
  6. Would you rather shoot arrows like Katniss Everdeen or Legolas?
  7. Would you rather be roommates with the Seven Dwarfs or Thorin Oakenshield and his dwarfs
  8. Would you rather live in a Hobbit house or a tree house?
  9. What was the better prequel trilogy, Star Wars 1-3 or The Hobbit?
  10. Would you rather have to fight goblins or orcs?

The video game is HERE

Enjoy and please don’t forget to incorporate FOOD into your festivities. There are so many fun things to make like lembas, seed cakes, and bacon and eggs plus things you can just bring like Swedish fish, hot tea, cheese plate etc. Here is a Pinterest page  I manage full of snack ideas and HERE is a website with recipes.

Please share your pics and feedback – and stay tuned for our pics. We will be doing this on Tuesday, September 26th.


Let’s Meetup and discuss Solving Software Problems Part II on a Tuesday

Tuesday, July 26th 6:30 – 8:00 PM Saw Works Brewing Company

Since part 1 of Solving Software Problems was such a hit, we are honored to have an awesome Agile mentor, author, coach, and teacher, Don Gray, come back again from North Carolina to facilitate Part 2.

For those that weren’t able to attend or you want to learn more, you can learn about his experience and everything he does, like coach sessions with Esther Derby by checking out his website; Be sure to check out his endorsements also to really see the depth he brings.

Solving Software Problems
Creative problem solving is the essence of software development. We never solve the same problem twice. We reuse previous solutions (or parts of them) when possible. But every application has novelty, a newness and difference that requires fresh thinking. Otherwise we’d use the existing application.

However all problems are not created equal. In this session we’ll experience solving different types of problems. We’ll explore similarities and differences. What happens when we use an improper solving heuristic?

Join us and have fun exploring the world of problem solving!

Food will be provided by RecuitWise! 🙂
We will begin at 6:30, session will begin at 7 as usual, and wrap up around 8.

Come prepared to learn and participate!

Let me know if you have any questions. Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Change, Meetups, Retros, Uncategorized

May the 4th Be With You Retro

Set the goal/ context (1)

The goal of this retrospective is to look at the values of the team; openness, respect, commitment, focus, and courage, to identify and gather feedback from Sprint __, and to create action items to improve challenges as well as continue to maximize what is working for the team.

Focus ON: Agile, Scrum, Team (5)

Ask the team, “who said each of these and how do these quotes relate to Scrum, this team, or Agile in general?”

 “This is a new day, a new beginning” – Ahsoka Tano. Agile and Scrum are centered on change and new beginnings, trying new things to improve and grow.

 “Your focus determines you reality” – Qui-Gon Jinn. It relates to Scrum b/c it is highlighting how Scrum is about focus and how if you focus on succeeding you will and conversely if you focus on failing you will.

 “Great kid, Don’t get cocky.” – Han Solo. Scrum is about being creative and courageous but remaining humble with estimation, team work, and iterations that produce in smaller amounts so that the business side is able to weigh in on if they really want what they think they want.

“Your eyes can device you. Don’t trust them – Obi-Wan Kenobi. Agile and Scrum if done well are a great blend of analytical quantifiable information mixed with gut feeling, hunches, and instinct.

“Do. Or do not. There is no try” – Yoda. Scrum is about doing – granted we try different things to see what works but in attitude we DO – and then make adjustments and DO again.

Focus ON

GOAL: Help the team to think about how many things around them in day to day life, movies, etc relate to Agile, Scrum, and being part of a team. Ideally, this will also help them to feel better connected to the underlying principles of Agile so that they can become more Agile in their mindset.

Check In – Scene Sharing (homework required) Here is the homework to email to your team, be sure to give them some time to prepare. “Prior to the retro please think of a scene from Star Wars (or any other movie) that represents one or more of the 5 team values; respect, openness, courage, commitment, and focus. You can either describe it to the team or share a clip of the scene on video through a phone or laptop.”

Watch the clips as a group and guess what the team value/s is that each clip is supposed to represent.

GOAL: Help the team connect with each of the values by thinking of scenes from favorite movies where they are exhibited.

Energizer – Human Rock Paper Scissors STAR WARS STYLE  

Divide the team into two teams by starting at one end and having the first person say 1, the next person says, 2, the next says 1, and so on. Then have all of the 1’s stand on one side and all of the 2’s stand on the other to make 2 teams.

Then instruct the two teams they will have 2 minutes to come up with their own hand signs for light saber, force choke, and blaster and that they need to create a strategy for winning best out of three Human Light Saber, Force Choke, Blaster.

Then say something like, “OK we are going to do three rounds back to back. Best out of 3 wins. I’ll say 1, 2, 3 and on 3 each team should do their first strategy. Immediately, I’ll do it two more times. Remember, light saber beats blaster, force choke beats light saber, and blaster beats force choke. Whoever wins the most out of 3 wins.

Goal: They worked on teamwork, strategic thinking, and being creative, all while having fun and getting up out of their seat 😉

Gather Insights – Star Wars

Divide the canvas into four parts, drawings are encouraged, (they don’t have to be pretty, but they encourage the team to participate). The right side is the Jedi – Good side of the force, the left side is Sith – Evil side of the force. Add the following, one into each quadrant;

  • Alderaan – things that are good, keep us moving forward, increase the forward momentum of the force of the project and team as a whole.
  • Death  Star – things that are killing the team or progress, slowing us down, not helpful or good. We should stop doing them.
  • Tatooine – dry lifeless, not fruitful, we should do less, do better or change them.
  • Forest Moon of Endor – helpful, productive things we should do more of but still need refinement.

Gathering Data Empty

  • Explain each of the quadrants with the team and ask if they have any questions?
  • Remind them to put one idea per post it note.
  • Either have everyone hold feedback and put it up at once or have people add their feedback when ready.
  • Read them out loud, combine any duplicate comments, and ask if anyone wants to elaborate on what they shared.
  • Ask the team to come up with SMART Action Item/s for the most popular issue/s.


Close-Out – “Would you rather?” Star Wars style

Create your own or use any of these below. Print and cut them into strips. Place them into a bag or container of some kind and have the team pass it around. Start with the first person, they select one, open and answer, then pass the container to the person next to them.

  • Would you rather be Jedi or Sith?
  • Would you rather be Obi Wan Kenobi or Yoda?
  • Would you rather talk like Yoda or breathe like Darth Vader?
  • Would you rather fight with a light saber or a blaster?
  • Would you rather live with the Ewoks or Jar Jar Binks people the Gungans?
  • Would you rather live on Tatooine or Hoth?
  • Would you rather ride a Tauntaun or a Bantha?
  • Would you rather have Han Solo or Rey as your pilot?
  • Who would you rather have as a side kick, Chewbacca, Maz, or BB-8?
  • Meet Jabba the Hutt or Darth Sidious?
  • Would you rather be Anakin or Luke Skywalker?
  • Would you rather be C3PO, R2-D2, or BB-8?

GOAL: fun way to close out the meeting, everyone can learn a bit about their team mates.

Normally we have snacks during Planning Meeting, but we mixed it up for this one and everyone brought in a StarWars themed snack. I have compiled a great list on Pinterest – you can check out with out an account here. The Star Wars font can be downloaded for free and signs can quickly be made. Everyone really enjoys it!

Food wide shot Food 3

Food 2  Food 1

Change, Goals, Meetups, Uncategorized

Help Agile Knoxville BE Agile

Let’s not just Do agile, let’s BE agile!
Transparency is the stem that everything comes out of.
Adaptation and Inspection are the other two foundation principles.


So let’s practice inspection and adaption with Agile Knoxville Meetup and help me make it better or at least get a few more people to come! 😉

Just takes a few moments of your time

Meetups, Retros, Scrum Master

Let’s Meetup and Retro Notes

Retro Notes for Agile Knoxville Meetup and Retro


Check-In (5) One Word

Please write on a post it note how you would describe 2016 with one word – you may also use one song, book, or movie title, even if it is more than one word.

RESULT: Everyone shared a word or a movie and why and we all got to know each other a little better 🙂

Focus ON/ Points to Consider (5) Being Agile vs Doing Agile

47248cf16bd691d952e1f623369c8a31 agile-definition agile doing-agile-not-being-agile dont-do-agile-be-agile-4-638

 Discussion questions:

  1. Is thinking about being agile vs doing agile new for anyone?
  2. Is anyone seeing any areas where things could stand to improve at your job?

RESULT: It wasn’t exactly new for anyone but after looking at the handouts they were thinking about it in a different way and saw that there was a major difference, AND that it was often the missing link between how things “should” be and how things “are”. Everyone saw areas where things could improve at work and within ourselves as well.

Set the goal/ context (1) The goal of this retrospective is to look at being agile vs doing agile, to identify and gather feedback from each of our places of employment, and to create action items to improve challenges as well as continue to maximize what is working that any team could also use.

Energizer – Agile Principles

  1. Ask the team about the twelve Agile principles. If they know it jump to the next point, if they don’t do a brief introduction to Agile values and principles.
  2. Ask all team members to stand up.
  3. Read loud and clear the twelve Agile principles. For each one of them, any team member that thinks the team is accomplishing the principle should remain standing up, but if they think they are not fulfilling the principle they should sit down
  4. Keep reading until everyone is sitting down.


RESULT: The team sat down fairly quickly, but I continued reading through all of them and the team shared if they would stay sitting or not on each one.

Gathering DataDAKI Drop, Add, Keep, Improve


While thinking about the difference between BEING Agile and DOING Agile factor in how things are at your place of employment or an old place of employment. Then think about what things you would drop and what you would add. What you would keep and what you would improve on. Please write one thing only per post it note and when you are finished go ahead and bring them up and place them where they go. We’ll take about 5 minutes to think about it.

  • Opportunities
    • Report Portal Revamp, New Portal, Portal Reincarnation
    • Team Services
    • Performance Optimization Refactory
    • New Markets
    • Rapid Company Growth – Future
  • Threats
    • Work Space
    • Non-Sprint Distractions
    • Production Issues/ Performance Issues
    • Loss of Focus
    • Snow
    • Internet Issues
    • Got an email from Casamba aka Source Medical
    • Org Merges (Athletico, Doesn’t in Scrum)
    • Computer Issues
    • Time
    • Office Space
  • Weakness
    • Company Communication or rather Non Communication
    • Performance Issues, toed to performance – overall tech
    • Getting bogged down in complex work, moving too slowly
    • Lack of Focus (personal)
    • We have slipped back into vague tickets (no defined acceptance criteria)
  • Strengths
    • Agile responses to new production problems
    • Communication
    • Scrum Communication
    • Faith
    • Team, Great team, Team, We are a pretty disciplined Scrum team, Open environment for new ideas and improvements

 Analyze and Create Action Items:

Since we are all on separate teams this is not the same as it usually would be but I thought we could still take a few that have several people mentioning them or are the most common and we could come up with some Action Items that any one of us could take back to our jobs and implement.

Action Items – not in usual SMART format b/c of the nature of doing a retro for people working in different places etc.

  1. Accountability
  • Create exposure
  • Create a process for people on the team who have to deal with other commitments
  • Work with people who go off and do their own thing individually and help them to be part of the team
  1. Show the 12 principles of Agile and help teach the team with them
    • Show one a day and discuss or do a game with it to practice it
    • Show/ discuss one per retro and go a little more in depth, it will also take longer
    • Gamify the principles
    • Teach about the value of being Agile vs being Agile
  2. For negativity/ apathy etc,..
  • Deal one on one and find the root, what are they opposed to and address it with them
  • Don’t push, nudge OK depending on who?
  • Try to find a way to cater Agile to them so it serves their interests so they see how it benefits them
  • Go slow – don’t do everything at once
  1. Companies should adjust their thinking to attract the type of people and skill sets they want to be added to their teams and acknowledge that these awesome people could also go work at other places like Google, or Facebook.

Close Out – ROI

Vertical line with smiley face at top and sad face at the bottom. Asked for a post it note to be placed where on the scale you think it should be when thinking about your ROI on the retro/ meeting and if you want to say why good or bad just leave a note on the post it not and I will use the feedback to improve retros and you will have the opportunity to share your thoughts to make them even better.


  • Great retro
  • Your ability to maintain control over conversation while listening to responses

P.S. I’m aware that the formatting for this particularly the Action Items is not the best but I’d rather not delay getting this out any longer vs make it perfect – I hope it doesn’t detract from the content too much 😉

Change, Coaching, Goals, Scrum Master, Series, Uncategorized

Comfort Zone Series – Goals II

Fear of change is another major factor that many have to contend with in order to set goals, especially as a team.

Fear – noun 1. an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
virginia-satir-change_process-by-michael-ericksonFor some people the fear of change trumps the potential benefits of the change itself, at least initially. The old status quo may need improvements but at least it is familiar, at least it isn’t change. As a member or leader of a team, it is good to keep in mind that some in your team may be resisting change because they fear it. It can be tempting to pull back when there is resistance. But resistance itself isn’t enough to make you not follow through with the change, the question is why is there resistance?

Courage – noun 1. the ability to do something that frightens one. 2. Strength in the face of pain or grief


It takes courage to push through resistance. Being able to help the team be courageous is one of ways a Scrum Master “encourages” the team. In this instance, ultimately the goal is to uncover both the logical and emotional blocks and to eliminate each one. Brainstorming on the pros and cons, and taking the time to allow everyone to have the opportunity to share any concerns helps to identify most, if not all of the issues to resolve. During this process listen closely to not only what people are saying but how they are saying it as well, to look for emotional concerns as well. Often resistance comes from a bad past experience at another job, or even where everyone is now. Sometimes it is something personal, and sometimes a group setting isn’t the place to address everything. Remember not every reason is logical, be respectful when helping people confront fears. Think the monster under the bed, allowing your child to get up and look under the bed with you and determine for themselves that there is nothing there to be afraid of, eliminates that issue, usually. Did you know you would be part counselor when you wanted to be a Scrum Master? 🙂


Every time I have been a part of a team there is a mix of people; some are eager to try new things and experiment to make things better = build windmills. Others shut down, resist, and drag their heels when it come to change = build walls. The way this usually plays out is that change happens at a much slower pace than some on the team want it while simultaneously happening faster than others on the team want it!

  • Do you have any windmills builders on your team?
  • Do you have any wall builders?
  • How do you navigate the dynamics between the two?

So how are the blocks eliminated? How can we help those afraid of change to feel better about it, to be courageous?


  1. One of the best ways is to help them to focus all of their energy on building the new, not fighting the old. This can be anything from creating a detailed plan, to daily reminders of progress, or the benefits of the goal. Think loosing weight and how much more productive it is to focus on making good choices than to sit around all day and wish you could eat a chocolate cake!
  2. Doing it as a group often helps many people by giving them a sense of camaraderie and fellowship which increases their courage knowing they aren’t taking the risk alone.
  3. If a success after a failure can be identified, reminding everyone that endings can change and just because something didn’t work once, doesn’t mean that no matter what you do, it is doomed to fail for eternity.

How do you encourage your team? How do you handle those who fear change?

Coaching, Goals, Scrum Master, Series, Uncategorized

Comfort Zone Series – Goals

One of the challenges with getting out of our comfort zones is the unknowns

  • What if it doesn’t work?
  • What if I can’t do it?
  • What do I do if I can’t sustain the change?

They can pile up and overwhelm some of us pretty quickly!

One of the first things I do with my teams to help them get comfortable (pun intended) with getting out of their comfort zones is to help them see the value of having goals.


In my experience people seem to fall into one of four camps when it comes to setting goals;

  1. Set big goals that come closer to requiring a miracle to achieve than not, and use the “long-shot” of it as motivation to keep working towards it.
  2. Set goals that they know are achievable, they may require some considerable effort but they can see the steps from a to z and with persistence, time, and hard work they know they can achieve it.
  3. Set goals that require barely any change or effort where the emphasis is building confidence because you can feel good about yourself for achieving it.
  4. Don’t set goals, some rarely make plans and live on a whim and how they feel at the moment.

I have yet to work with a team that doesn’t have a mix of these four types which makes the first challenge in helping the team get out of their comfort zone, agreeing on a kind of goal!

There are pros and cons in each of these goal setting camps.

  1. A pro of setting big goals is that it stretches you beyond what you knew you could do or go. A con is that for some people if it is too much of a long shot they will never really try for a myriad of reasons.
  2. A pro of setting goals that are achievable with work, time, and a plan is that it can motivate some people to push harder than they would without the goal. A con is that it doesn’t require much of a stretch and some need more motivation.
  3. A pro of setting goals that require barely any effort at all or something you are already doing anyway is that they can be great at boosting confidence. A con is that it can become extra work to log and track completing things that you would be doing any way.
  4. A pro of not setting goals at all is that if concentration, creativity, or something like that is helpful to accomplish the goal than “feeling” creative sure helps to do it. A potential con is that it is increasingly difficult to accomplish much in life with out any goals and only doing things when you “feel” like it. Some still seem perfectly happy about this, others, not so much.
  1. What camp do you fall in when it comes to goal setting? Do you go big? Go safe?
  2. Can you name your team members and what camp each of them fit in?

If not – have a discussion about goals and find out where everyone is, it will help later…


Other factors can also play a part in the challenge of setting goals, we’ll discuss those next time.

Change, Coaching, Scrum Master, Series, Uncategorized

Comfort Zone Series



com·fort zone noun

1. a place or situation where one feels safe or at ease and without stress. “times when we must act beyond our comfort zones”


When I see the image above, I think of the old adage below,

 As a Scrum Master, your job (or part of it) is to help the team get to where the magic happens. And yet as a Scrum Master this insanity is one of the main things that I see again and again. So many teams want the benefit of change but when it comes to acting and thinking differently they often resist! There is plenty of talk about the benefits of increased productivity, satisfaction, and creativity but it seems few mention that 90% + of the time the team will have to get out of their comfort zone in order to truly accomplish these goals.

One of the things I’ve noticed about effectively implementing Agile is it always seems to require that at least one, if not several team members get out of their comfort zone. And while everyone usually wants the benefits of implementing Scrum or some other Agile methodology, it is rare to find a team member that is actually willing to cheerfully get outside of their comfort zone.

It reminds me of how many of us want to lose 5 lbs (or more!) but don’t want to watch what we eat and get more active because it takes us out of our comfort zone. It is easier to give in to the craving and not push ourselves past where we are comfortable and so we remain in the same ole’ place. Sometimes there is fear associated with the resistance as well. Using the weight example, I may know what I like to eat that has caused me to be overweight but what will I eat if I don’t eat what I’m used to? What if I don’t like it? What if it takes too long to prepare or is more expensive?  Change can be scary for some people, so in a team setting we also need to manage the different time frames that various team members are able and willing to adopt change.

  • Do you agree that the magic happens outside of our comfort zone?
  • Do you have any tools to help your team get out of their comfort zone?
  • Could you use some coaching on how to coach your team to get out of their comfort zone?

I’m going to do a series on how to help your team get out of their comfort zone with practical exercises, tips, and experiences from what has and has not worked for me. The goal is to do weekly updates.

Stay tuned for more!