• Agile Queen

Book Club

Updated: Feb 13, 2019

When working with teams new to Scrum, having the team do a book club on Jeff Sutherland's book The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time" can be really useful. Teams new to Scrum are often hesitant to change and having a coach or Scrum Master repeatedly tell them why they need to jump on board can get old. If these new teams can read about Scrum and self-discover the value in Scrum, they are often a lot more receptive and open to applying Scrum on the team. This book also gives the history of Scrum with real-life examples of successes and even failures so it's hard to refute.

I recommend reaching 1 chapter a sprint and then using the retrospective meeting to discuss the book chapter. After discussing the chapter, the team will determine an action they want to try for next sprint to help them improve and get better at Scrum. This allows the team to slowly change and embrace what Scrum is all about. It's also useful to have team members take turns at facilitating the book discussion so that the Scrum Master isn't the one framing the discussion.

I follow the basic 5 step retrospective format and instead of a Data Gathering Activity, I input the book discussion. I used the Set the Stage Activity to tie into the book chapter.

Here are the Set the Stage Activities by Chapter:

Chapter 1 Set the Stage Activity:

Part one: Tell everyone that you are going to line them up in ascending order based on their hire date. Start a stopwatch and record how long this process takes: Proceed to ask everyone their hire date, record the dates and then instruct team members to line up in ascending order with you telling everyone where to stand. Once everyone is in order, stop the clock and record the time.

Part two: Tell everyone they are going to line themselves up in ascending order based on birth month and birth day. The team is going to use self-organization instead of being told what to do. Start a stopwatch and tell the team to line up. Stop the clock once everyone is correctly lined up.

Compare the two times. You should see that having the team self-organize to achieve a result is much faster than using a command and control approach. This re-enforces the benefit and value in self-organization which is a staple of agile teams.

Chapter 2 Set the Stage Activity:

The Potato Icebreaker: You will need to buy a bag of russet potatoes and a bag of straws that do not bend. (I went to a local fast food store and grabbed a handful of straws.) Pass a potato and straw to each team member. Tell them they need to stab the potato with the straw so that the straw goes all the way through the potato. You will probably get some weird looks as most people think this is impossible. The key is to no hesitate - as soon as you hesitate, the straw gets stuck in the potato. If you have belief and follow-through, the straw will smoothly go through the entire potato. The correlation to the chapter is that hesitation allows people/teams to get stuck - we need to make decisions and act without hesitation so that we can deliver.

Chapter 3 Set the Stage Activity:

Email the team the following 2 questions and tell them you will be asking these two questions in retro but you want to give the team time to think on the answers. Then at retro, ask the questions and have each person share their responses so that everyone can learn about their teammates:

1) What is your biggest strength that you bring to the team?

2) What do you wish your colleagues realized about you that would help them work better with you?

These answers should shed light on how to work better as a team and nicely ties into the team concept discussed in chapter 3.

Chapter 4 Set the Stage Activity:

Develop T-Shape people by playing the X-team Silos Game Part 1 and Part 2

In the image below, the colors represent different skills necessary to complete the story. The goal is for the team to get as many stories done as possible in 5 rounds.

Playing instructions:

Part 1 - Rules:

- Each person gets 12 Lego pieces of a single color (Red, White, Blue, Yellow)

- Each round, a player takes a Lego and places it in any of the stories calling for that color brick.

- Order of players: Red, white, blue, yellow (must follow this order)

- If a player cannot place a Lego, then they skip their turn. It’s counted as a “miss”.

- When a story is completed, note the round the story was completed in

Part 2 - Rules:

- Each person gets 6 Lego pieces of a single color and 2 pieces of the remaining colors (6 Red, 2 White, 2 Blue, 2 Yellow)

- Each round, a player takes a Lego and places it in any of the stories calling for that color brick.

- Order of players based on primary color: Red, white, blue, yellow

- If a player cannot place a Lego, then they skip their turn. It’s counted as a “miss”.

- When a story is completed, note the round the story was completed in

Use this graph in each part to track misses and when a story is completed

The takeaway is having cross-functional teams (as represented by the multi-colored Legos) leads to higher productivity and faster delivery. Remind the team that the Scrum guide recognizes no titles for team members or no sub teams such as architecture, operations, business analysis, etc.

Chapter 5 Set the Stage Activity:

Play the Ball Point Game - I use 24 standard tennis balls. The balls are in a box. You will need a room large enough for the team to play in.

Goal: Pass as many balls as possible through every team member in 2 minutes


• Start and end in the box – even if ball is dropped, has to start over from box

• Before each round, the team will have 1 minute to strategize and provide an estimate on how many balls they will get through the process.

• There will be four rounds of 2 minutes each followed with a 1 minute retrospective.

• After each round, record number of balls successfully passed and number of drops.

• You may not split into smaller teams.

• Each ball must be touched by each team member at least once and must start and end with the same person.

• As the ball is passed between team members, it must have air time.

• You cannot pass the ball to the person immediately to your left or to your right.

• Give 1 point for each ball that completes the process.

• Subtract 2 points from the score for each dropped ball.

For each round, track the estimate given, balls passed, balls dropped and calculate velocity:

Post-game, discuss how dropped balls are a waste and draw a correlation to dropping balls in a sprint which creates waste.

Chapter 6 Set the Stage Activity:

Play the Minute-to-win-it game Suck It Up

You will need M & M's, straws (not bendable straws) and plates.

Instructions: Players place a straw in their mouth and use suction to transfer a pile of M&M’s from one plate to another in under one minute. Only one hand may be used to hold the straw. Everyone gets to eat their candy when the round is finished!  Before the team starts play, make each team member write down their estimate for how many M & M's they can successfully transfer. Once the minute is up, ask how many people were accurate with their estimate. This ties into the chapter because teams are typically bad at estimation which is why Scrum uses relative sizing

Chapter 7 Set the Stage Activity:

Do the Happiness Metric with the team - I use Happy, Straight Face and Frowny face emoticons rather than having team members give a rating of 1 to 5. I have the team use post-its to vote. I also have the team write down 1-2 ideas on post-its for what would make them happier and place those next to the Happiness matrix. We review the votes and discuss results as well as the items to make the team happier and try to focus on one idea for next sprint. This ties directly to the chapter since the chapter discusses using a Happiness Metric.

Chapter 8 Set the Stage Activity:

Put together a puzzle. I use kid puzzles because they are small and easy to do in this time frame. Do not show the team the puzzle. Hand out one (or two) puzzle piece to each team member. Start with one team member and have them lay down their puzzle piece. The next person looks to see if they can lay down their puzzle piece, if not, then move on to the next person. Time-box this to no more than 3 minutes. Then, show the team the "big picture" of what the puzzle looks like. Now, repeat the game and see how much faster the team can put the puzzle together. This ties to the chapter in that the PO needs to provide the team a vision/big picture so the team understands where they are going.

Chapter 9 Set the Stage Activity:

Have the team write down at least one thing that they have changed personally since using Scrum. It could be asking for help quicker, communicating more, having better team relationships, learned how to mob program, etc. Then, discuss as a group if there are any other departments within your organization that could benefit from Scrum. Instead of changing the world, determine if there is a way to change your organization which ties nicely into chapter 9.