Wait, I'm Not Through Yet!

Last post 01:39 pm June 14, 2019
by Filip Łukaszewski
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04:13 pm June 13, 2019

“ELMO!”

“WINTY! Blah, blah . . .”

“ELMO!!”

“WINTY!! Blah, blah, blah . . .””

“ELMO!!!”

“WINTY!!! Blah, blah, blah, blah . . .””

The two fuming Cloud developers thundered back and forth, on and on, neither wanting to give in. Teammates stood around the BVIR alternately glancing at the clock, peering out windows or rolling their eyes as they prayed for it all to end so they could perform the Circle Clap ritual and mark the end of today’s grueling standup. Two desks away from the rolling scrum board splattered with post-it notes, painter’s tape and an array of hieroglyphics, the team’s scrum master and product owner stood nearby Slacking strategies for more cooperative daily scrums on their private channel.

* - * - *

By now you may be wondering, “I’ve heard of Elmo, but which Muppet is Winty,” or “Did I somehow miss the episode of Sesame Street where Winty was introduced?”

Truth be told, Elmo does exist in Muppetville. However, Winty doesn’t.

ELMO stands for “Enough, let’s move on.” A semi-polite, present-day verbal signal alerting the more verbose among us (me included) that their Toastmaster’s Table Topic Speech has sped through the proverbial big red light, and now bears closer resemblance to an excruciating monologue, diatribe, sermon, dissertation or filibuster. In other words, “Please be respectful of others in the meeting who also have wisdom to contribute,” and “Perhaps, we can discuss your reservations with our sprint plan later, outside the meeting?”

We can think of WINTY as a crafty counterstrike to ELMO requests for those verbose individuals who feel confident they can wrap-up their final thoughts if we merely grant them a few more minutes of our precious time. If you haven’t guessed by now, WINTY stands for “Wait, I’m not through yet.” Just what the world needs, a catchy acronym to parry the thrust of much needed ELMO’s.

Of course, we don’t want to encourage nor endorse spirited “ELMO versus WINTY” sword fights suddenly spawning up during timeboxed scrum events. How do we make WINTY happy so we can facilitate more of those peaceful “let’s move on” moments, while still allowing for assertive personalities with deep understanding of subject matter to have their say?

I have 3 suggestions that can help smooth the flow of your scrum events, yet ensure all voices get their full say on important matters.

First, if we have mature teams that communicate frequently outside of standups, we can agree to shorten the vital signs portion of the daily scrum to 5 - 10 minutes, with the remainder of the timebox dedicated to stretch time and sidebar conversations. With less mature teams, we can schedule 30-minute for standups, where the first 15 minutes are for covering daily vital signs, followed by 15 optional minutes for sidebars.

Next scenario, when a live demonstration would be more effective than lengthy verbal explanations, our development team SME could initiate and drive a brief pair session or team swarm immediately following the daily scrum to express their concerns. Applying this technique empowers the SME to quickly communicate with both words and visuals so team members can instantly get a firm grip on key points and sprint progress remains on pace.

Finally, when a development team SME’s input is important enough to be documented for future sprints, suggest they organize their brewing thoughts and update the local Wiki, SharePoint, etc. (shared documentation repository) for transparency. Implementing local Wiki pages can help stabilize upcoming velocities as information for future sizing decisions is now easily referenced during backlog refinement and sprint planning.

You can probably think of even more creative ways to keep scrum events on tempo while appeasing those with more to say. The possibilities are myriad. Please feel free to add to this topic by commenting below.

Thanks for reading.

Enough, let’s move on!

07:01 am June 14, 2019

I don't really like Elmo... or Winty... Have not since the first time I actually have seen one in the room.
For me, I see it as an external means to fight off a symptom, instead of coaching someone to become aware and improve from within.
I think it is not semi-polite way of making something known, I see it as a possible sign that some hard hot frightening subject is not spoken out loud and addressed in the most transparent way.
Surely, please feel free to use whatever works for you. But please, keep a keen eye out if your are not overlooking some actual problem or coaching opportunity here.

01:39 pm June 14, 2019

With less mature teams, we can schedule 30-minute for standups, where the first 15 minutes are for covering daily vital signs, followed by 15 optional minutes for sidebars.

I understand the intention, but scheduling 30-minutes for daily scrum (not necessarily standup!) will dilute the idea to keep it within 15-minutes timebox. I think this should be managed more per-case, and not with this regular longer timebox.