Have you ever wondered how the practical work of producing a product relates back to the Scrum Values? I know that the teams I’ve worked with often separate out the two, with one being the reason they come to work and the other being something theoretical that doesn’t really apply to the practicality of their day to day activities. I wanted to find a way to illustrate the link between the two so, I created the Value Star activity… It’s designed to be run as a retrospective and uses a heat map to visualise which values the team feel they do well in and which could use some attention.
Here’s how to facilitate it:
- Set the context for your retrospective (e.g. “The last sprint”, “How we work together as a team”, “The last release”, etc)
- Hand out yellow sticky notes to all the team members and give them 5 minutes to write down things that are/were positive about the context (e.g. “What went well in the sprint”, “What do you like about how we work together”, etc)
- Hand out blue sticky notes and give another 5 minutes to capture things that could be improved about the context.
- Write up 5 sticky notes, one for each of the Scrum Values (Focus, Respect, Openness, Commitment, and Courage). You can use any colour sticky note other than blue or yellow for this.
- Place the values on the white board and draw a star between them. Leave as much space as you can between them. You might want to place values that closely relate to each other closer together (e.g. Place focus and commitment, or respect and courage, or courage and openness together)
- Ask the team members to take turns reading out their yellow and blue stickies and placing them on the whiteboard in alignment with the Scrum value it most closely represents. If it is a combination of values then the sticky can be placed between those values.
- Once all of the team’s stickies are on the board you should see a heat map around the values. Values with a lot of yellow show the team that they believe they are doing well with that value. Areas with a lot of blue show the team that they could find ways to improve with that value as the focus. Areas without any stickies show the team values that they may be neutral on or haven’t really thought about. Give the team some time to discuss what they see (allocate the time according to your retrospective timebox. I like to allow around 20 minutes)
- After the discussion, ask the team to chose a value to focus on for the next sprint (you can use any method you like, most teams that I’ve run this with have chosen fairly quickly based on the heat map but if you are struggling for a consensus you could use dot voting)
- Give the team some time to brainstorm ways to improve in their chosen value (again, allocate the time according to the timebox for your retrospective)
- Take 5 – 10 minutes at the end of the retrospective to ensure that the team has decided on one or two actions for the next sprint.
So, how does this go down with the teams? Well, so far so good. I’ve found the usual pattern to be that, at first the teams struggle to equate what they have written on their stickies with the values on the wall which prompts some interesting discussion. After a few stickies have gone up the team start to think a little differently about what they have written and the stickies go up much easier. For example, one complained that their stories were too large so they had failed the sprint. Sizing isn’t one of the values, but the team started to discuss why that had happened. There were comments about not speaking up in refinement (courage), not listening to each other’s opinion in refinement (respect), and bringing too much into the sprint (commitment). They settled on the middle between courage and respect. The team discussed each sticky that went up and got quicker at deciding where to place it each time.
The value of this exercise is in the discussion that it generates. It encourages teams to understand why the Scrum Values are there and how they have practical benefit when applied. The key to cementing this with the team is to come out with practical value based actions for the next sprint, and make sure they get done!