The Scrum Café: Bringing the World Café Format to the Scrum World
By Juan Banda
On August 17, I organized in Santa Cruz-Bolivia the first Scrum Café, which was intended to be an event for the local Scrum community to learn and interact during a whole morning. I saw in this event the perfect opportunity to experiment and blend disciplines, like the World Café social technology and the Teaching from the Back of the Room approach, to keep people focused and engaged in productive discussions. The results were awesome since people not only remained focused but also learned and connected. More important, they had fun in the process. The following are some insights that I'd like to share with the community.
Make sure that attendants know in advance that they are not coming to a formal class.
In the event's website I posted information about the World Café format so attendants could read about it. I also sent several e-mails on the weeks before the event, describing the format that we would be using.
Of course not everybody read or understood the event's format, and that is why, as the first activity on the day of the event, I invested four minutes explaining to the audience the World Café etiquette.
This part is especially important because people need to know the dynamics in advance, so they can be prepared and set their own expectations.
Prepare the room at least one hour before the event.
For this event we rented a hotel conference room big enough for hosting 100 people. I arrived an hour beforehand, not only to make sure that we had round tables with six chairs but also to hang the posters that I'd prepared the day before. Posters are an important ingredient because they help create the illusion that you're entering a café salon. My posters were far from being art pieces; instead they were just flip charts with big colorful letters; each poster had one or two Scrum principles and values written on it. Key for the posters was that they could be read from everywhere in the room.
On each table I put flip chart paper down as tablecloths so people could doodle, draw mind maps, or just take notes. Also available at each table: sharpies, post-it notes, and index cards.
Prepare a slide deck with the question the audience will discuss.
Questions need to be ready beforehand. As facilitator, I had a long list of questions that I knew we wouldn't cover completely during the event. However, having many questions gives you options in case the audience responds faster than you expect or the questions you're presenting to them are either to easy or too hard to respond to.
One important note here is that the questions need to open a debate. They shouldn't be questions that can be easily answered with a short affirmative/negative answer.
Have a sign to indicate that the time is up.
Create some sort of working agreement to indicate that the discussion time is over and everybody should be quiet. For me it worked nicely just raising my hand and asking that everyone imitate me and stop talking.
Timebox discussion time.
I timeboxed the first question for seven minutes, then I reduced to six; once the audience got used to the mechanics, I set the timebox to five minutes. The idea here is that every time a question was presented, each table would have five minutes to try to answer it and then present their answers to the rest of the group.
Let people present their answers.
After each five minutes, I randomly selected one table; one person in that table presented the answer they came up with as a group. In each rotation, three or four table were selected and then I asked whether someone else had any other answer. This part did not last more than three or four minutes.
The facilitator provides additional insights.
When I felt that the answers were missing something important, or I just felt that I had something important to contribute, I talked for no more than one or two minutes before moving to the next question.
For each new question, someone at the table left and someone from another table came. The best way to organize this is to go clockwise around the room and around each table. It's important to note that one person always remains at the table as the table host.
Let them draw, write, and walk.
After some rotations, I asked people to invest the next five minutes in drawing a poster with the main concepts or ideas that they'd learned thus far. Then, for the next three or four minutes, they did a gallery walk to see, read, and discuss the posters from all the other tables.
Let them take pictures.
Cellphone cameras are powerful documenting tools. I encouraged participants to take photos of everything that they considered important. They photographed posters, drawings, index cards, people at their table and at other tables.
Use the break to let them reconnect.
We had a half-hour break after one and a half hours of questions. During the break, the idea was that everybody would gather with the people at their initial table configuration to talk and discuss what they'd learned. This worked nicely because it produced extra movement in the hallway, where coffee was also served. Eventually groups formed, and it was great to see that people felt comfortable telling what they'd learned to a group of people they considered familiar.
Say good-bye to people and provide additional questions for them to answer.
The goal of the Scrum Café was not to answer to bunch of questions but to produce constructive dialog and make people think reflectively about Scrum concepts. To reinforce this, we finished on time and let people know that the slide deck with additional questions was going to be publicly available. Interestingly, people said that they felt they'd learned enough and had had a lot of fun in the process.