13 Effective Ways for Scrum Masters to Build Happy Teams

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13 Effective Ways for Scrum Masters to Build Happy Teams

In this article, we discuss thirteen effective ways for Scrum master to build happier and more effective teams.

· Agile Zone ·
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In 1986 Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka published The New New Product Development Game in Harvard Business Review. They described a groundbreaking approach to complex product development. In the article, they borrowed the word "Scrum" from the game of Rugby. The analogy of product development to a game is quite interesting here. A team can achieve full potential if they are enjoying their work, like players playing a game with fun.   

Scrum masters can facilitate the ways to create this fun element in their team’s day to day work. Following are some actionable techniques which can help in doing it:   

1. Start on a Positive Note

  • Numerous studies have shown the positive effects of being grateful and the relationship between success and gratitude. 
  • Usually in Daily Scrum- teams answer the three questions: 'What I did yesterday?', 'What I will do today?' and 'What are my impediments?'  
  • On Monday’s Daily Scrum you can start the week by adding a fourth question: What I am grateful for in the last week?’ This simple step can start your team’s week with positivity and set them for a productive week ahead.   

2. Fish Philosophy

  • According to Gallup, only 15% of employees are engaged at work. Increasing engagement is important for creating high performing teams.  
  • The Fish philosophy is a technique to create happy, high performing workplaces by increasing employee engagement.  
  • The philosophy comprises of four core practices: 
    1. Choose Your Attitude: Choosing a positive attitude by choice.
    2. Be There: Being physically and emotionally present for the task you are doing.
    3. Make Their Day: Do something special for your co-workers or customers.
    4. Play: Enjoy your work to the fullest. 
  • Coach the team to use these core practices to live an inspired workday and reach new heights of productivity.  
You may also like: Agile Patterns.9 

3. Timebox Everything

  • One of the major complaints from the workplace is unproductive meetings that are blackholes of valuable time. Another excellent way to not let your team get bored is to keep meetings super-efficient by timeboxing them. 
  • The simple technique of starting a timer before each meeting helps everyone set clear expectations to be attentive until the timer ends. This technique helps to keep discussions to the point. 
  • Coach the team to use the  Pomodoro technique  for personal timeboxing. This technique will help them be more productive and complete their tasks. Research shows that completing tasks releases dopamine – the hormone responsible for happiness.  

4. Make Daily Scrum Fun

  • Making the Daily scrum fun and efficient can help your scrum team get more engaged in scrum practices and increase their buy-in.  
  • Few techniques that will help in this are: 
    • Toss a ball: Throw a softball and only allow the one holding it to speak. It's fun to play throw and catch every day with your team. 
    • Parking LotPark topics that need more time for later discussion. 
    • Random SpeakerThe last speaker randomly chooses the next speaker. This keeps the team agile in what's going on in the meeting. 
    • ApplaudCelebrate small little wins by a round of applause and cheers. 
    • Project happiness: If you are using a projector, project an inspirational quote or fun GIF until the team is waiting for everyone to come in. 

5. Making Retrospectives Fun

  • Agile retrospectives are a great way for the team to find things that work and resolve issues. Two things that can go wrong with retrospectives:  
    1. They can get monotonous and thus not unearth the real issues faced by the team. 
    2. If not facilitated efficiently, they can become battlegrounds of verbal conflicts. 
  • The following techniques can help avoid the above problems: 
    • Conduct retrospective in the cafeteria where the team is relaxed to talk freely. 
    • Rotate the facilitator position for each retrospective.  
    • Change the retrospective format. (E.g. ask the team to draw the last sprint instead of explaining it.)  
    • Play different games instead of "run of the mill" retrospectives: 

6. Big Visible Charts

  • Big, visible charts or Agile information radiators are placed in prominent locations to help the teams create a shared vision. 
  • Kanban or Scrum boards are a few widely used agile information radiators. Here are a few more ideas on creating information radiators that will add to your team’s happiness: 
    • Agile Wall: Display dynamic information at a common space that the entire team owns. Put sprint goals, days remaining in sprint, customer feedback, happiness index, etc. on your agile wall.  
    • Team poster: A static poster that displays team principles, agreed team protocols and team moto. The poster is your team’s foundation document that acts as a guiding light for the team to move ahead.  
    • Team vision boards: Picture format of goals a team aspires to achieve. It can range from a finished product diagram to a release party destination.  

7. Coding Dojos With Rock Music

  • Coding Dojo is a meeting where the entire team comes together to solve a programming challenge.  
  • Now add high energy background music to a dojo event and you can transform it to an absolute pumped up coding environment.  
  • Listening to music is a proven technique to increase team performance. Coupling music with coding dojos would be an innovative way to add fun to your working environment.  
  • Make sure the music is not too loud and the programmers can communicate while enjoying the musical high. 

8. The Team Takes Control

  • An empowered team is a happy team. A scrum team is motivated if they have the power to make their own decisions.   
  • But the process of group decision making often can lead to conflicts. Avoid these conflicts by efficiently facilitating this process using the below techniques:       
    • Thumb Voting: Use this when time is less, and the options are few.  
    • Dot voting: Use this to understand the consensus between many options.  
    • Fist of Five: Used to know the degree of voter confidence for many options. 
    • Delphi Method: Used for complex unbiased decision making. 

9. Create a Reward System

  • Neuroscience suggests that rewards are more effective than punishments when you want to inspire actions.  
  • If you want a motivated team, create a reward system that would recognize exceptional contributions. 
  • The following are some ideas on rewarding the teammates:  
    • Handwritten Thank you card (not an ‘Email’): For someone helping other teammates.  
    • Breakfast for champion: Once a week, take the high performer on breakfast.  
    • Spot awards: Gift coupon for someone caught doing something outstanding. 
    • Ice-cream Fridays: Treat the team if everyone is on time for an entire week.  
    • Revolving trophy: Pass a traveling trophy to a top performer every month.  

10. Celebrate Team Wins

  • Team wins are milestones achieved by the team as a group. The recognition goes to everyone and such celebrations help increase the team bonding.  
  • Celebrating small wins is as important as celebrating the big ones. After the Sprint Retrospective don’t jump to your next sprint right away. It is a good idea to cherish the completion of the current goal by treating the team for something nice.  
  • Such moments give the team time to relish their accomplishments. They form lasting memories and in difficult times act as something nice to look forward to. 

11: Create Team Rituals

  • Rituals are a way to reinforce positive behaviors in a team. Rituals help bond the team and give a sense of belonging. They also add fun and joy to daily routine work.  
  • Team rituals can be as small as ringing a bell when the team achieves a small win, like solving a complex bug or receiving a client appreciation email. 
  • Here are some examples of team rituals that promote company culture: 
    • New employees at Google wear a rainbow hat, like the company's logo colors. 
    • Flipboard hosting Mock O’Clock,  a weekly event to showcase employee projects. 
    • Knit Con an annual gathering at Pinterest to share personal interests via workshops. 

12. Core Protocols 

  • Core protocols are a set of commitments and protocols that help in creating a shared vision. You can find core protocols at liveingreatness.com 
  • Each protocol has specific steps to follow and formalizes the team interaction thus increasing efficiency and reducing stress. 
  • Core protocols have been successfully tested by Jim and Michelle McCarthy after years of studying different teams.  
  • Teams use core protocols to communicate efficiently, take swift decisions and create team alignment for a happy work environment 

13. Happiness Index

  • Happiness index is a simple way to periodically ask the team to rate their current happiness on a scale of 1 to 5.  
  • Jeff Sutherland, one of Scrum’s creators believes that measuring happiness index is a way to increase scrum velocity and team morale.  
  • You can use the Crisper model to measure it as seen here. A simple survey can give you measurable insights on whether the above techniques are working for your team and if you need to iterate-increment further to build your happy agile team. 

In a Nutshell

One of the 12 principles of Agile says "Build projects around motivated individuals." This principle is often overlooked in the pressure of project deliveries. A deliberate effort to create a happy work environment that motivates your team would go a long way in making sure your projects are delivered on time and under budget.

May all your projects be early, may all your customers be happy, and may all your teams be free of impediments!

- Jeff Sutherland
(Creator of Scrum software development process)

Further Reading

agile teams ,scrum facilitation ,agile coaching ,agile techniques ,agile best practices ,agile retrospective ,daily scrum ,team building ,agile mindset

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