If you're tired of reading long articles about Agile and would like to save time, look at the title of this article. Start implementing this in your Daily Scrum, and observe how easily it works.
If you're interested in the details of how to play the My Favorite Name game and want to understand how it helps teams gel, keep reading. The game reinforces the Scrum values of focus, courage, openness, commitment, and respect.
It happened almost by accident. I was working with a team that was trained on a similar routine. A product manager calls people's names during the daily stand-up. Each member provides his or her status. Easy, right? Not if you are new to the team. You don't know the names! In that case, we'd introduce ourselves, and I'd start calling out the names, and they'd provide their status. People got used to it, but this was the good ol' command-and-control type of leadership.
"Mark, what did you do yesterday?"
"What did you do today?"
"Do you have any blocking issues?"
"Next, Sue. How was yesterday?"
"What is planned for today?"
And so it went. Yes, I could do this indefinitely, but what if I went on vacation for a week? Someone would have to take my place. But if the person isn't social or an extrovert, he or she doesn't know what to say! People often want an authoritative figure to feel comfortable providing their status. But authority is gone with Agile, so there's no need for a status report.
Another issue is that some team members are tardy. This becomes my problem, so I need to remind, align, and discipline. It's hard work! Again, if I'm on vacation, everyone has an easy time — nobody needs to be on time because there's no one to discipline them.
I don't like being the "center of the universe." How could I change this dynamic so that team members would care for each other? We tried a new approach by going around the table, one by one, providing our status. However, there were three people on the call from another office, so they were not seated "around the table." And another was working from home that day.
It happened almost accidentally when we organized a chain. I'm what you call the "first" person. "Sue, you start today. When you finish, say who is next, please." She gives her report and then stops. I remind her, "Could you say who is next, please?"
"Mark is!" she replies.
"Can I call on people who are online?"
"Does the order matter?"
It was as easy as breathing.
I can improve on this game by saying, "Today my favorite name
is Sue!" This sounds exciting, respectful, and even sympathetic. It builds relationships. Next time it will be Mark, then it will be Tim, or Lakshmi, or Mike. It doesn't matter. Just don't forget to nominate people equally. I really do care to show that everybody's an "equal favorite."
It's not about me anymore; I'm here to only start the game. Anyone can do it, so I share my leader (presenter) code for my online conference with my team. If I'm not present, any team member can open the meeting and start the Daily Scrum. This shows my trust in the team and empowers every team member.
What if you join the meeting late and somebody calls your name? No pressure. You simply won't know who went and who didn't. I don't need to discipline you because this is your problem now. You might ask: Christy, did you go? Anne, did you go? Who didn't go? Of course, somebody saves you by saying, "This is Tom; I didn't go." You are so grateful that you now call Tom your "favorite person."
I've noticed that people are more relaxed, more engaged, and say "thank you" when they are called a "favorite person." They trust each other more and even have more fun. I do nothing and stay on mute.
There are many other benefits to this approach. There's too little time to describe them all, but here are a few tips:
- As a ScrumMaster, I still need to keep people on topic. We collaborate and raise issues, but we don't try to solve all the problems and answer all the questions on the spot. We keep it short.
- Make sure that people communicate what they are going to work on so that there's no confusion over who is doing what. This is still the purpose of the Daily Scrum.
- Let people commit to completing something every day. It's not good enough to say, "I'm just working. Ken, you're next." The ScrumMaster is still there to prevent this type of response.