Great Games for Scrum and Agile Learning

I love using games and interactive activities when I share Scrum and Agile with people. Here's a list of some of the games I use.

Name games
These games are from Stanley Pollack's excellent book, Moving Beyond Icebreakers.
  • Name shout, name wave, name race, name and motion, name and secret skill, name and adjective
  • Bag Toss 
Class start-up
These ways of collaborating are some of the Core Protocols.
Scrum and Agile fundamentals
  • Line Up
  • 60 Paces
  • Triangles
  • Human Knot
  • Human Sculpture
  • Alphabet and numbers: How fast can you go at simple tasks? What if you multitask? Round one: in 10 seconds, write the letters, e.g. A B C D. Round two: in 20 seconds, write letters and numbers, e.g. A1 B2 C3 D4. Round three: in 30 seconds, write letters, numbers, and the letters of your name, e.g. A1R B2I C3C D4H. Round four: in 40 seconds, write letters, numbers, the letters of your name, and the letters of the alphabet backward, e.g. A1RZ B2IX C3CY. Michael de la Maza taught me this game. Here’s a timer you can use.
Batch size

What are you favorite Agile and Scrum learning games?


How to Facilitate a Great Daily Scrum (Scrum Master skills series)

Welcome back to the Scrum Master Skills Series! In part 1, I shared my notes on how to facilitate a great Sprint Planning session. Here, in part 2, I share my notes on ho to facilitate a great Daily Scrum. Enjoy!


  • Facilitate: to make facile, to make easy. That’s your job as facilitator.
  • Create an experience. Design the experience. Want the team to feel positive? Design a positive experience.
  • Begin with, “The purpose of this meeting is …”
  • Make it a Visual Meeting. Use a kanban board, Post-Its or Stattys or EcoStatics, paper, and pens. 
  • Make it a human meeting. Use your bodies and your voices, and make eye contact.
  • Use a Time Timer.
  • Read the Scrum Guide. As Scrum Master, you’re expected to know Scrum. The Scrum Guide is your guide.

Daily Scrum

  • Set a recurring appointment series--the same time and place every day. Make it easy for people to attend.
  • Get it done in 15 minutes--or less! The time box is 15 minutes. That's 1 minute per person, followed by 5-10 minutes for the team to adapt. 
  • Read the Scrum Guide. Do what it says. Use the three questions in it.
  • Make it a physical meeting. Use a kanban board. Ask Development Team members to touch the Post-It Note for each activity they discuss, and to physically move their Post-It Note to its new column on the kanban board.
  • The first question, "What did I do yesterday that helped the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?", helps with Student Syndrome: there’s peer pressure to get stuff done every day, not just every sprint.
  • The third question, "Do I see an impediment that prevents me or the team from meeting the Sprint Goal", is a form of Ask For Help. Encourage team members to ask each other for help--ask them, “Do you need help from anyone on that?” You might even think of the first two questions as warm-ups for this one, the most important question.
  • Try: Really facilitate! Keep the team focused. 
  • Try: If some team members are remote, attending by voice, call on people by name 
  • Try: Scrum Masters observe each other and play Perfection Game  
  • Practice every day!
  • Try: Use a burndown chart that you drew in Excel or by hand. Tape it to the wall. 
  • Avoid: Electronic tools during the Daily Scrum. VersionOne and Rally slow you down. You can only go as fast as the tool, which isn’t fast enough for people-speed.
  • Try: Don't call on people. They aren't reporting to you. They are reporting to each other. Honor the principle that they are self organized.  
  • Try: Don’t say anything. There’s limited conversation bandwidth. The more of it you use, the less information shared amongst team members.
  • Try: A talking stick. Or at least, “Hang on, one conversation at a time.”
  • Avoid: Free form discussions. 
  • Avoid: “We can take it offline.” Oftentimes, that’s a euphemism for, this conversation has no value, and we’ll drop it now, and we won’t remember to get back to it later.
  • Try: Use a Parking Lot to log important conversation topics to discuss after the Daily Scrum, with whomever is interested in those topics. 
  • Try: Track impediments on a kanban board 
  • Try: Let the team do it--only prompt them if they need it. It’s the team’s meeting, not yours. Let them report to each other
  • Try: Show up late, see whether they started the meeting without you. Remind them that it’s their meeting and they should start without you--we start on time, every time.
  • Try: Invite your Product Owner. It’s a great way to make sure your PO isn’t surprised at the end of the Sprint.
  • Avoid: Dismissing people early because they said their piece. Don’t optimize for the individual’s time. Optimize for the team’s overall success.
  • Avoid: “We’ll skip you.” My NVC reaction: Anger! Your skipped me! Try: Let me take a turn; being respectful of the team’s time, I’ll probably say, “Pass”.


  • Practice a Daily Scrum: answer the 3 questions
  • Update the task board on the wall
  • Update the burndown chart on the wall


How to Facilitate a Great Sprint Planning Session (Scrum Master skills series)

Welcome to the Scrum Masters Skills Series! In part 1, I share my notes on how to facilitate a great Sprint Planning session. Enjoy!


  • Facilitate: to make facile, to make easy. That’s your job as facilitator.
  • Create an experience. Design the experience. Want the team to feel positive? Design a positive experience.
  • Make it a visual meeting. Try a kanban board with 4 items To Do: what, how, sprint goal, enthusiastically agree. Use a Time Timer.
  • Read the Scrum Guide. As Scrum Master, you’re expected to know Scrum. The Scrum Guide is your guide.
  • Set a recurring appointment series--the same time and place every sprint-start. Not a day earlier, not a day later.
  • Take the full 4 hours (for a 2 week sprint).
  • Get it done in one day.
  • Don’t like 4 hours? Do a shorter sprint! It really does take 4 hours to plan 2 weeks of work. Don’t skimp!
  • Do it as the very first event of your sprint.
  • Sprint Planning goal: produce a credible plan for how to implement the next most important PBIs in the Product Backlog

Part 1: What

  • All Scrum Team members are present, including the Product Owner. Ask the PO for help to clarify the intent of Product Backlog Items.
  • Given: A Ready Product Backlog. If you don't have a Product Backlog in a Ready state, you're in trouble!
  • Pull the highest-order items off the Product Backlog.
  • Try: Do it on a wall, with Post-Its. Your Scrum kanban board can have these columns: Product Backlog, Sprint To Do, Sprint Doing, and Sprint Done.
  • Try: Use your last-10-sprints average velocity (and best-3-max and best-3-min) in story points to guide you as you forecast What might fit into your Sprint.

Part 2: How

  • Development Team and Scrum Master are present. PO is available to answer subsequent questions about PBIs.
  • Self organization: Dev Team plans HOW to get the PBIs done.
  • Try: Decompose each PBI, one at a time, into tasks.
  • Try: Each task can get done in 1 day. Helps team gauge progress every day during the Daily Scrum.
  • Try: Use the PBI’s acceptance criteria to guide your task breakdown.
  • Try: Use your Definition of Done, let it guide your task breakdown.
  • Try: How will you demonstrate that you got the PBI done? Make sure you have tasks for the elements of the demo.
  • Try: Focus on the value you’ll deliver to your stakeholders. E.g., if you don’t need documentation, don’t do documentation!
  • Try: Think about risks and dependencies
  • Try: Think of it as a mini-project plan, for a 2-week-long project. What are the elements of a “credible plan” for your mini-project? Did you include them all?
  • Try: Estimate tasks in person-hours. Try: use last sprint’s capacity as forecast for this sprint. Try Use person-by-person availability to forecast this sprint’s capacity in person-hours.
  • Try: Don’t estimate tasks in person-hours; try every task is 1 day long

Sprint Goal

  • Simply state your sprint goal. Write it down. Post it on the wall with your kanban board and burndown chart.

Enthusiastic Agreement

  • Try: Look each other in the eye. Put your hands in. Really agree with each other that you can do it.
  • Try: Decider Protocol, Passionometer
  • Draw a burndown chart, put it on the wall.


  • Set up a simple kanban board for sprint planning. Play a quick sprint planning game.
  • Draw a burndown chart for your sprint plan.


The Manager’s Role in Agile

An Agile manager
What is the manager’s role in an Agile team? In the typical Agile training class, we learn about Scrum’s three roles: Product Owner, Development Team member, and Scrum Master. Where do managers fit in? Should managers be afraid that their job title isn’t part of Scrum?

What is a manager, anyway? In industrial management theory, a manager is a person who efficiently transforms inputs into outputs. Inputs are limited resources, like people, time, machines, money, and other capital. Outputs are things like cars, washing machines, paper cups, and software products. A successful manager transforms inputs into outputs efficiently, minimizing cost and maximizing profit. Throw in a bit of Theory of Constraints, and we’ll say a successful manager does all of that both now and in the future.

To be able to do that, managers have a Fancy Formal Job Title: Manager, or Director, or Vice President. They have formal authority and power. They hire and fire people, they review their direct reports, they set salaries and bonuses. They have budgets to spend. They are accountable for their team’s results.

They feel pressure to get results, because there’s a manager above them, who can them a bad review, cut their bonus, or even fire them and hire a replacement.

Throw people, complex adaptive systems, and innovation in the mix, and it’s a wonder they survive day to day.

And then one of their bosses decides Agile is the right way to do things. So the boss hires a trainer or coach and tells the team to play Scrum. And the word manager isn’t part of Scrum, and the manager feels anxious. There’s a Product Owner who sort of acts like the business manager. There’s a Scrum Master who facilitates the Scrum team’s activities. What is the manager supposed to do? Will Scrum damage his career?

Agile is your secret weapon. If you want to win, organize your team as a Scrum team. You are the boss of the Scrum team.

If you want your team to go slow, teach them that they can’t succeed without you. Be the bottleneck to their success. Don’t let them make decisions without your approval.

If you want them to go fast, invent awesome things, and be successful, teach them to self organize. Use Scrum. Be the Product Owner, or give the PO authority to make decisions on your behalf. Let the team do their thing without asking you for permission. Hire the best, fire the worst. Insulate them from big company BS. Be their champion. Present them as the model of the best team in your BigCo. They can be, and they probably are.

Your job is still to optimize the efficient performance of your team, to transform inputs into valuable outputs. Scrum is a great tool for that, so let your team use Scrum, by the book.

Your other tools for being a great manager in an Agile team include:
  • Remover of impediments: With your formal job title, formal authority, power, and influence, you help your team succeed by removing obstacles. You are the person who can obtain the tools they need, get dependent teams to deliver the things your team needs, and block people from disrupting your team.
  • Technical team lead: You probably rose from developer to manager. You know what it takes to be a great Development Team member. When the dev team asks you for help, offer it, drawing from your great experience.
  • Mentor: You pull younger or less experienced team members along, teach them things, show them the ropes. You ensure that they grow to their full potential, even when that means they end up leaving your team.
What is your experience as a manager of an Agile team?


Giving Thanks

This is a transcript of the pecha kucha I shared at Give Thanks for Scrum 2013 in November. My slides are here.

I’m Richard Kasperowski. I’m an independent Agile coach and Open Space facilitator. I wasn’t sure what to say today, so I followed the advice on page 11 of the Scrum Guide and held a retrospective. I used the PlusDeltaGratitude style of retrospective, skipping the Plus and Delta parts, and I discovered that I want to thank a bunch of people for all the kindness they’ve shown me. So this is like Thanksgiving dinner. We’re all going around the table giving thanks, and now it’s my turn.

Thank you, Spencer Marks, for practicing XP with me, leading me to write the best code I’ve ever written, pushing me to want the best, travel to Belgium to share our experiences at a conference. (I love traveling, discovering new places, connecting with new people. Scrum and Agile help me do that.) Experiences with Spencer ultimately led to my taking a CSM class.

Thank you, Jeff Sutherland, for my CSM class, for your academic papers and public talks, for a great conversation, and for an autograph in my copy of The Power of Scrum.

Thank you, Ken Schwaber, for your books, your irreverent spirit, your encouraging attitude, and a great conversation about cycling--go HUCA!

Thank you, Epiphany Vera and Glenn Dale. You are two of my former bosses. Thank you, Piph, for paying for the CSM class, letting me introduce and practice Scrum at our company (Nellymoser), and setting me on a journey of self-awareness and self improvement. Thank you, Glenn, for bringing me into Nokia because I was good at Scrum, for sending me to Finland to live and work, for sending me to India to coach teams there--all because I know Scrum.

Thank you, Harrison Owen. I presented at the Scrum Gathering---more fun travel! (Thanks again, Ken, for creating the Scrum Alliance, host of the Scrum Gathering. Thanks again, Scrum, for helping me travel.) At the Gathering, I experienced Open Space, facilitated by Harrison. I got to see the best in the world do Open Space, thanks to Scrum. Harrison inspired me to become an Open Space facilitator (and do more traveling!).

Thank you, Brian Bozzuto. I practiced Open Space, facilitating a 6 week long Open Space with my teams at Nokia. Brian invited me to be the Open Space facilitator at the Agile Games conference. It was an awesome experience! It gave me confidence with larger Open Spaces, leading to more travel and fun later on.

Thank you, Michael Sahota and Ellen Grove. You are two great people I met at Agile Games because I was an Open Space facilitator, because I went to the Scrum Gathering, because of Scrum. Michael helped set up Open Space at Agile Games and has become an important friend. Ellen connected me with Agile India and invited me to present there--more travel!

Thank you, Lee Devin, Elinor Slomba, and Paul Margrave. At the Agile Games conference, I was inspired by Lee and Artful Making. I met Elinor, who became a great friend and taught me about anthropology (which I’ve incorporated into my coaching), and to be an artist; we used Scrum to organize a huge art project, with >1000 people drawing a 100,000 square-foot art piece together. Elinor introduced be to Theatre of the Oppressed, which led me to Paul. Theater of the Oppressed is about exploring power, and so is Scrum.

Thank you, Johanna Rothman, for facilitating our post-Agile Games organizers’ retrospective including Gratitude, like I’m doing right now. (… because of Open Space, because of the Scrum Gathering, because of Scrum...)

Thank you, Dan Mezick, for teaching Scrum fundamentals before every Agile Boston meeting. Thank you for inviting me to participate as a volunteer and organizer and for inviting me to be a friend. Thank you for spreading Scrum and Open Space. Thank you for inviting me to be a presenter. (Dan is one of my special siblings, a brother; I’ll explain more in a minute.) Thank you for introducing me to Floyd.

Thank you, Floyd Marinescu, for inviting me to be the Open Space facilitator at QCon in New York and San Francisco, and maybe London, China, and Brazil in the future (more fun travel and connecting with people!), the grand finale of a recent 6 week tour. I’m an Open Space facilitator because I saw Harrison do it at Scrum Gathering.

Thank you, John Buck and Mathias Vestergaard, culture hackers and corporate rebels, who I discovered through Dan and Agile Boston, and through the Culture Conference, which I got involved with because I was practicing Scrum. You are inspirers! You gave me ideas that I use when I share Scrum with the teams I work with.

Thank you, Jim and Michele McCarthy, who I met through Dan and Agile Boston. Less than two years ago, you shared Core Protocols with me, you awakened me as a full human. You helped me discover feelings and courage. You connected me deeply with Dan Mezick the next three people I’m going to thank. And you gave me more travel: I plan to work with Jim in India.

Thank you, Pat Arcady. You are one of my siblings, my sister, my friend. Thank you for sharing Non Violent Communication, OFNR—tools that I use when I share Scrum with teams I work with. I know you because of Scrum.

Thank you, Frank Saucier and Andre Dhondt. You are two more siblings, brothers, and friends. Thank you for sharing coaching tips and life tips. I know you because of Scrum.

Thank you, Wyatt Sutherland and Michael de la Maza. Thank you for freedom and independence. Thank you for helping me find clients as an independent coach. Thank you for more travel! My six-week cross-country tour was awesome! I know you because of Scrum.

Thank you, Marilyn Pelz, Kent Pelz, and Molly Monet-Viera. You are brand new friends. Thank you for sharing tools for self awareness and connection. You taught me the idea that it’s good to have a high gratitude-to-complaints ratio in your life. (My quest for self awareness and connection is deeply related to Scrum.)

Thank you, Dan LeFebrve and Georgina Praiger. Dan LeFebrve is another sibling, a brother from Core Protocols. I know you because of Scrum. Thanks for inviting me to do this today. Georgina as chief organizer and get-it-done person for today’s event--let’s all thank her!

Thank you! I know I didn’t say thank you to everyone I should have. Like Heang Ly, who helped me become a better facilitator. And many more. Thank you, Ken and Jeff, for inventing and spreading Scrum, for giving me amazing skills that I’ve used all over the world, connecting with people, and helping people be great together. Finally, I thank all of you. You’re all great people. 

Soon it will be your turn at the Thanksgiving table. Who did you decide to thank? Will you thank that person today?


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