Scrum is fun

Scrum is fun

And if it's not then you're doing it wrong!

Ok, let's be a bit more reasonable. Not all projects are equally fun. Not every sprint is as enjoyable as the next one. Nobody wakes up every morning ready to give 110%. And that's ok. As a wise man once said: you gotta have a little sadness so you know when the good times come. Still I believe firmly that we own our time. We choose how to spend it and we own making the best of it, including the projects, sprints or days we may not feel like.

Why does fun matter?

It's harder to be productive when you're not happy. Random google search results will more than provide, if you are doubtful of this statement. But being productive also makes me feel happier. For me, they go hand in hand. A big part of my pride in work comes from actually being able to produce results.

I am also very aware, however, that spending about 50 hours away from home is a lot. They better be worth it, to me, and not just for having a job.

When you're not having fun you tend to drag others down with you. That's not a bad thing; it's an incentive for everyone to help eachother feel better. The team's happiness and productivity is everyone's responsibility.

Signs that you're not having fun

This may sounds weird, but: joking and laughter. Seriously. If there is a lot of joking then that's a telltale sign that your current endeavor is not fulfilling. Your smart mind needs more and it shows that by reaching out into a socially acceptable, but nonetheless destructive way. And worse, it's contagious. If you start, others who maybe were barely hanging on will start following and soon everyone is having fun, to avoid not having fun.

Another surefire sign for us was not timely discussing decisions. My team has two set team-testing moments every day, at 12:00 and at 15:45, and we noticed we "let them slip by" without anyone mentioning that it was testing time. Four people, and often one or two customers, and no one seemed to notice our test moments passed by until the stand-up or retrospective. We added an experiment to at least consciously decide not to have the test moment, and found that we did more test sessions, albeit with lot's of jokes.

Personally I'd also add "just one more news item", a quick glance at your phone or mail, and generally not starting your pomodoro's. These tend to get me, too. Procrastination is killing, but it's not the act itself that needs to be addressed. Fix underlying causes and procrastination will lessen, if not disappear entirely.

How to have more fun

In order to have more fun, it's critically important to accept and understand that something is not very fun. No point in misleading yourself or the team; truth will out.

Having fun is not to be confused with laughing and humor and all that. It's a kind of having fun, but what we really mean when we are talking about fun in a professional context is engagement. Engagement can come from many different things, but here are a couple of engagers for my team:

  • Doing technically challenging tasks (not confused with task that are, technically, challenging)
  • Doing meaningful tasks that add customer value
  • Doing the project "the right way" and taking and experiencing ownership, professionalism and excellence
  • Making sure the team and product owner are having fun

For a more concrete example we can look at the sprint planning meeting. After this meeting everyone should be able to start adding value. We found, though, that having a talking session was not working for us. Boredom, disengagement and joking ensued. So in stead the sprint planning is now a mostly silent session with sketching. For every story we take time, depending on the story points, to sketch and then discuss. We sketch screens, interactions, memes and visual images of things to consider or remember. This is much more engaging, gives a more diverse outlook and is more inclusive towards team member who are naturally more quiet.

So my tl;dr advice would be:

Be honest about your experience of the team meetings and pomodoro's. Talk to your team when you feel disengaged. Try to find out when you become disengaged, and experiment with different approaches and techniques to solve the same problem.

Good luck, and have fun!

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