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Scrum and the F Word

At the 94th SPIN meeting last week, Sheetal Gordhan (@sheetalgordhan) of Praekelt gave an interactive and exciting talk about her experiences with Scrum and lots of F words (fun, focus, failure, faith, and, of course, that one.). She presented in an informal, friendly, style and brought a lot of character to her stories.

At her previous company, Sheetal's interest in the technical side of things led to her being thrust into a Scrum Master role. She starting going to meetups and found a common thread that everyone was struggling: that Agile is difficult to do well.

She got the whole room on their feet and running around playing two games around collaboration and persuasion. They were a great ice-breaker and a great jolt to get the blood pumping! After the games, we discussed the psychology behind the games and how we reacted to them. The group talked about how at first it was awkward, confusing, and a bit uncomfortable, but soon we were invested in the game and were concentrating on winning.

One of the Fs that Sheetal focused on was fun. She stressed the importance of having a fun environment to work in. We're better people, more creative, more productive, and more focused when we're having fun, and feel supported. This was a very important part of her Scrum journey. She recommends checking out the TED talk: Stuart Brown: Play is more than just fun.

Getting to a fun environment takes courage, trust, and time, though. Simple games can often help you get past a block, like using lego to build or track things. How is it possible to solve a problem with fun? By making it more like a game, by gamifying it. Sheetal said that the most important question of her talk was "How do we make work more fun?"

The other F word she looked at was failure. She discussed how it was important to look at our relationship with failure. We're raised to treat failure as very negative. Talking about failure means making it visible, and helps to make an environment where it is safe to fail. We have to admit that failure is a possibility, but we must make sure that we have data, so that we can try our best not to make the same mistakes again. She referenced Bob Hartman's Acceptable Conditions for Failure:

  1. Fail fast.
  2. Learn from it.
  3. Don’t do it the same way again.

Failure should be discussed openly and honestly in team retrospectives, but must be facilitated to make sure it doesn't devolve into a blame game.