The Confidence Game - Self-Managed Navigation Toward Successful Delivery

Team struggling to complete sprints? Having trouble achieving multi-sprint goals? Bogged down by onerous meetings to sync with other teams? Feel like teams aren't all pulling in the same direction?

Five or six years ago, I was working with a Scrum team that was struggling to complete its sprint goals. The team would start every sprint feeling optimistic, only to realize a few days before the sprint's end that they would never make it. One sprint, on a whim, I asked the team a question, and one of the team members made a wisecrack in response. We all laughed, but the joke gave me the idea to try something new. That experiment turned into an extremely reliable tool that I now use every single day. I call it The Daily Question. Though it is absurdly simple (it takes minutes to learn and seconds to use), I have found it to be one of the most powerful ways to help teams inspect and adapt effectively. Inspired by the reliability of this tool, I started experimenting with other applications of the basic mechanic: using confidence at an individual level to adapt for success at a broader level. In this talk, I'll go over the original tool, as well as the other successful applications I've found.


Outline/Structure of the Talk

  1. Demonstration: Reporting Progress
    • All participants will join in doing simple tasks within a time box, with pauses to assess progress in different ways.
    • Group discussion: compare/contrast these different ways.
  2. Demonstration: Reading Progress Assessments
    • Participants will try to glean status from progress assessments written in different ways (e.g., percent done, verbose status updates, confidence assessments, single-focus assessments).
    • Group discussion: compare/contrast the value of each variation to stakeholders.
  3. Case Study/How To: The Daily Question
    • Reminder from the Scrum Guide: Daily Scrum is a "key inspect and adapt meeting"
    • Discussion: What are we inspecting and what are we adapting?
    • Instruction on the technique: The Daily Question, and how to use it to drive adaptation discussions.
    • The core mechanic and why it works. Segue: might it apply elsewhere?
  4. Demonstration: The Power of Word Choice
    • I’ll ask for 5-6 volunteers to come to the front of the room.
    • They will play a team (I will give them scenario information).
    • I will ask them questions about progress in their team's work, and ask the remaining audience what they glean from the responses.
    • I will carefully vary the language of the questions (a) show the natural tendency to focus on a subset of the whole; and (b) show how to tweak the questions to encourage a more holistic focus, thereby yielding more valuable responses as well as fostering a sense of unity.
  5. Case Study/How To: Confidence Meter
    • Instruction on the technique: Confidence Meter
    • How our company has used this technique in multi-team coordination huddles to drive meaningful cross-team teamwork.
    • Sidebar: "xTeam Meeting" a variation aimed at helping teams coordinate efforts on very specific subsets of overall deliverables.
  6. Case Study/How To: Up Periscope
    • Instruction on the technique: Up Periscope
    • How our company has used this technique to help single teams (a) navigate toward multi-sprint goals; (b) stay connected to those goals on a day-to-day basis; and (c) stay aligned across teams and the organization at large, all without sacrificing agility.
  7. Wrap-Up
    • Reminder of techniques learned.
    • Reinforcement of key underlying concepts, so people can adapt techniques as necessary.
    • Q&A

Learning Outcome

Participants will leave with variations on a concrete, lightweight, and easy-to-implement technique for helping their teams and organization navigate toward success. They will also leave with an understanding of the fundamental concepts underpinning this technique, allowing them to adapt it to their own needs. The specific applications are:

  • Assessing team confidence every day to guide teams toward successful sprints.
  • Assessing team confidence to stay connected to medium-term (multi-sprint) goals and share progress in a lightweight way.
  • Assessing multi-team confidence periodically to guide groups toward shared, longer-term goals (e.g., project milestones, major releases, etc.).
  • Assessing cross-team confidence to guide joint efforts on particular subsets of deliverables (especially good for technical coordination).

Target Audience

Agile Coaches, ScrumMasters, Agile team members, Project/Program Managers

Prerequisites for Attendees

No prerequisites.


schedule Submitted 1 year ago