In my daily life in intive-FDV I work as a Technical Leader (TL): I write check code, interchange opinions with lots of people and, with any luck, we achieve results as regards what is best to develop features while keeping up the quality of what we are developing. I actually love all that but, there is something inside me that always wants to explore a step further… especially as regards team work.
This question, gave me the chance to participate in some highly enriching Agile events, such as AOC. It also made me “do” things by myself, so that is why every now and then I facilitate some kind of meeting for kicks. I specially love challenges, which are, to my understanding, the most useful ceremony for teams and people development. That is why I normally look for different practices and activities that help obtain the best results.
Some time ago we spoke about the fat man technique, of a very simple character that allowed us to go deeper in some activities the team wants to work on. One of the issues of this type of dynamics is that they end up being quite similar among them. After a while we start observing the same patterns, so it is ok to seek for another alternative.
When I reached that saturation degree, I decided to use Story Cubes as a temporary solution, which work like triggers.
At first I used them as a warm-up, to be attuned and to understand a bit how some team members lived the sprint. The idea was that those stories helped us visualize topics we might have overlooked. I will retell the story here.
The first time we used Story Cubes
After a light-hearted introduction to switch off from work, I asked for volunteers. I asked each of them to say what their sprint had been like, “Buuuut…”, I told them they had to retell the sprint with some extra premises. I produced some cubes, I barely explained how they worked and off we went.
The usage rules of these cubes are dead easy: a story has to be developed using all the images that came out after the dice were rolled. The first volunteer started out with something like: “Once upon a time there was a team that…”
After each story finished, we talked about what each person had said. Some even added how they had felt and what problems they had which the team had not noticed. There were also people who developed more general topics.
When this stage was over we followed with the classic Keep Fix Try. Today, with a bit more of experience, I would have surely focused on this compilation in the stories and talks that went on in each “turn” incorporating a validation of those notes and allowing the team to add whatever they considered was missing.
What can we do with the Story Cubes?
There are other dynamics which can be carried out with these cubes and of great utility for the team. For instance:
- Count the sprint in a group using 9 dice and dividing them into 3 groups of three. Thus, we force ourselves to have an introduction, climax and denouement.
- Use them to check, making each member choose an image (after rolling the dice) that helps him/her retell “something”. A good trigger is to have already-made phrases we should complete with the image. For example:
- “The last sprint was good because…”
- “Today I feel…”
The idea is for the team member to choose a phrase that best fits what s/he can retell with the dice s/he got.
- Plan the future: Retelling a story about how we would like to work for the forthcoming sprints.
Using Story Cubes allowed to quit the daily routine, making the team see some aspects which are generally overlooked. This is one of the advantages of using them: they lead us to say things that otherwise would be left unsaid, with the mere objective of using all the images we got.
In next challenges we will surely use them again, but modifying the dynamic for some other that allows us to explore other variables. The WOW factor will be of course lost by then, but I actually believe there are still many positive aspects to contribute.