ART OF SCRUM: Why Scrums Need Squeaky Toys

Posted: November 27, 2007 in Art of Scrum
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In Scrum training, I was a little weirded out when Dan Rawsthorne, the session leader, insisted on handing out rubber mice for each table that squeaked when you squeezed them. Everyone at the table looked a little sideways at them, then forgot about them as the presentation went along.

That was, until Dan picked one off of a participant’s table when the one inevitable “I-have-a-question-that-takes-10-minutes-to-ask” person interrupted him with a monologue for the third time in a half an hour. He started squeezing the toy vigorously until this person got the hint to STFU. Dan had demonstrated the Importance of Squeaky Toys in Scrum.

The point of ALL Scrums is to be quick and to the point, that point being to maximize the helpful knowledge transfer between team members and minimize the time-stretching effects of those that soliloquize. A good Planning Scrum for a week-long sprint should be no more than 30 minutes, including taking whatever you need off of the whiteboard and making a list of action items. A Daily Scrum should be over in no more than 15 minutes, and when really done well, less than 10. This brings me to the Use of Squeaky Toys.

No matter how excellent the opportunity looks to get your team members’ input on that thorny issue you have been contemplating how to tackle, dollars to doughnuts, it should NOT be discussed in a Daily Scrum. In my experience, usually these things arise as part of the “what you did yesterday / what are you going to do today” round table, and then someone else jumps in with a possible solution, and then we are off to the races trying to figure out this one problem instead of staying focused. It is difficult to derail these types of (usually) enthusiastic participation, so the completely-out-of-left-field sound of a Squeaky Toy does a great job of breaking into a sidetracked conversation without hurting anyone’s feelings.

After two days of Scrum training, and witnessing the effectiveness of a compressed Scrum (we had 5 minutes for Planning and 2 minutes for Daily at the end of the session), the elected ScrumMaster would always keep his or her hand on the Squeaky Toy, nobody got off topic, and the exercises were completed much faster than we ever thought possible.

Of course, the phrase “OFFLINE!” also became very popular…

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