Improve your Scrum Ceremonies…

Does your team have a common understanding of various Scrum Events? Are you looking for simple tools and techniques to help Improve your Scrum Ceremonies? Make them fun and Productive?

The Event Canvas

Look no further! Introducing Event Canvas!

Improve your scrum Ceromonies

Events canvas

[Download a PDF of this Event Canvas just put Zero on the Price]

As an Enterprise Transformation Coach, I do a lot of training. And, being an Agilist at heart, I am always looking for ways to improve the delivery of my training and the experience for the participants. I came up with this canvas to help me teach the basics of each of the events and ceremonies while keeping the participants engaged and interested.

How to use this Canvas…

I give out multiple copies of this canvas at each table during the training. Each table (team) also picks two to three events that they volunteer to discuss at the table and fill out this canvas. When the timebox is over, each team will debrief on the event they discuss; essentially walking the class through the canvas for the specific event.

As the debrief happens, you are using your facilitation skills to drive the conversation and explain the intricacies of the specific event. This is where you (as trainer, coach, and facilitator) make the magic happen 🙂

Try it with your team. I promise you, you won’t regret it!

More tools, please…

Want more tools to make your scrum events highly productive? I have a collection of simple tools that can help you as you coach and mentor your team. Your team will thank you for finding these gems. Check out Improve your Scrum as a first step towards uncovering these hidden gems.

Improve Your Scrum Ceremonies

Improve Your Scrum Ceremonies


Get it for only $20 

Get it here and start improving your scrum ceremonies right away 



Standard Work

Standard Work is one of the most powerful but least used Lean tools. By documenting the current practices, it forms the baseline for continuous improvement. Let’s review some of the benefits quickly.

Benefits of Standard Work

  • Standardizes the work across different teams, different people; ensuring consistency across the organization; making outcomes predictable and measurable.
  • Sets clear expectations, branding as to what’s ‘given’ when the team/individual says a certain activity is ‘Done’.
  • Ensure that certain routine, mundane tasks get done (and don’t get overlooked due to them being ‘boring’.)
  • A common ‘platform’ is set up, a baseline against which the effectiveness of the individuals and/or team can be measured; ensuring a certain level of quality.
  • It’s the DNA of continuous improvement (CI). It makes CI routine and ingrained in the very existence of the organization.
  • Standard Work is a ‘snapshot‘, a picture of the best way to do things at this moment in time, with an eye on continuous improvement.

Without standard work, there is no kaizen (CI)
– Taichii Ohno

In essence, Standard Work helps you in minimizing waste and maximizing value delivery.

Would it help to have your standard work documented? Can it help you, your team, your organization improve the productivity and deliver more VALUE for your customer?

Go ahead and document your Standard of Work.

What’s Better yet…

Get these Standard Work templates for FREE, and put your team on the “hyper Productivity” lane!

Standardized work is a collection and implementation of the best practices known to that point.

Scrum Master

Standard work



Product Owner

Standard work


Scrum Team

Standard work


Get them All

Standard work


Interested in more …

Interested in more than just the Standard Work? How about Checklists, template emails, and worksheets to help your Scrum team?
playbook for scrum teams
Why reinvent? Leverage these Pearls of Agile Wisdom! Grab this Playbook now, for a tiny price!

Get them Now!

Not convinced yet…

Listen to what Steph has to say below 🙂

Testimonial from an actual Customer

I purchased this playbook and find it very helpful.  I think the email templates came in handy when trying to wrangle folks from all over the company together.  They keep me organized and the email now provides more information with these structured templates.

The “Standard Work” for each role is great as well.  It provides helpful hints on role responsibility and helps with keeping me organized with all the artifacts related to a project.

Great work and thanks!

– Steph W

I am convinced! Give it to me Now!


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Agile timeline

Agile TimelineAgile timeline! Did you ever wonder how we got to where we are today? Who were the personalities that influenced the course of history? Wonder what were the events instrumental in shaping the future that we know as present today?

If these are the questions that peak your curiosity, you are in luck! Here is my attempt at chronicling the events that started the Agile revolution.

Along with the events, I also list the personalities, the artifacts (books, white papers) that shaped what Agile is today. Most of these items are clickable, leading you to a source with even more information

Enjoy the Agile timeline! Relive those moments, and walk with those personalities.

Think we missed some important event, book, or personality? Please do write to us and we will update the timeline accordingly.

Improve Daily StandUp

Daily Standup is a very important ceremony in the Scrum framework. As part of the daily standup, the team meets on a regular basis for a quick sync up of 15 minutes.


Scrum Calendar Events [DS=Daily Stand up]

Remember, you only have 15 minutes to finish this daily standup. We want to use every minute optimally during this ceremony, don’t we? So what are the different ways we can optimize it?  

Top 10 Tips for Daily Stand Up

Here are my tips to have the team gel together quickly, as well as eliminate unnecessary churns that will happen at the daily stand up. Again, the goal is to maximize every minute of this daily stand up and make it a high performing ceremony.

  1. Come Prepared

    Ask your team member to use this tool before they come to daily stand up. Have your team members think about their updates before they come to Daily Stand up. Write three things on the Post It notes.

    Daily standup

    Write your updates to the three basic Questions

  2. Be Explicit

    Announce the start and end of your daily stand up. Make it explicit, use some specific music or it could be a simple as some one just announcing that it is the ‘START’ and ‘END’ of the daily stand up (at the beginning and end of the 15-minute timebox respectively).

    make it Explicit - Announce START and STOP

    make it Explicit – Announce START and STOP

  3. Parking Lot

    Introduce Parking lot and use it extensively to defer the discussions (after the end of daily stand up). This will help you keep the momentum during the daily stand up and enable you to quickly go through the synch up from each team member.

  4. 4th Question

    Introduce 4th question: Is there anything that you want to discuss with your team member(s) after the daily stand up?

    4th Question - Defer to Parking Lot

    4th Question – Defer to Parking Lot

    If yes, the team member mentions it quickly and someone captures it into the Parking Lot. Review and discuss the items on Parking Lot after the daily stand up is completed.

  5. After Party

    This is a time set aside, allocated for the discussion that we deferred during the daily standup. You may have put a couple of items in the Parking Lot. Once the end of the stand up is announced, some of the team members would stay back for their respective discussions. This is what I refer to as to as After Party!

    All the team members do not need to stay back, only the ones who are required for the discussion would.

    Want to #getHyper?

    Want to know more tips to improve your Stand up? your Scrum implementation?
    Check out and grab a copy of my book Get Hyper [OFFER]

  6. (Better) Equipments

    Just have proper equipment(s) to provide better quality audio and video to the team members.

    Yes, the daily standup has to be in person. And team members have to be there physically for the Stand up. With that said, there will always be some exceptions where a team member cannot attend the daily standup in person. You will have to have a way for them to remotely attend the stand up. Having better quality audio will tremendously improve the productivity of your daily stand up.

    You can provide better quality audio for under $50 investment in a bluetooth speaker. Here is the one that I carry in my beg all the time.

  7. (Update) Working Agreements

    You need to cover those exceptions (as discussed in Tip# 6) in your working agreement, have the team talk about it as to how they will handle those scenarios where a team member cannot attend the stand up in person. Amend your working agreements to cover that scenario.

    For example, one of my team had this on their working agreement:
    When a team member cannot attend in person…

    1. S/he will provide the updates to his/her Buddy. This buddy will bring those updates to the team in person.
    2. If that cannot be done then the team member will jump on the conference call.
    3. When everything else fails, send an email addressed to the team with your updates.

    Bottom line is to have your team discuss these scenarios and update their working agreements accordingly.

  8. Break the eye contact

    I have seen this time and time again, especially with the new teams. Often times when providing the updates, a team member is looking at the Scrum Master (only) as if she is providing the updates to the Scrum Master and not the team. Now, remember Stand up is for the team. A team member is providing the updates to others on the team, not just to the Scrum master. To break this mode I often encourage my Scrum Masters to break the eye contact. As soon as a team member starts providing updates to you as a Scrum Master, look away from her. Look at the floor or look at your scrum board; do whatever to break that eye contact. This will encourage them to look at other team members.

  9. Be Absent, intentionally

    I encourage Scrum Master to occasionally skip the daily stand up, be absent intentionally.The goal here is to see how the team handles your absence.
    Does the daily standup break apart because you are not there or does the team step up and handle it nicely.
    This will also give you indication as to whether the team is self-organizing and tackles those scenarios by themselves

  10. Make it Visible

    The last and the most important tip I think is to make it Visible. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words! So, use all the visual props, you can use a wall in the hallway as your Scrum Board, or use some flip chart papers and start using that as your Scrum Board.

    Put your posters on that and use it while having the daily stand up. Post your Working Agreements, Definition of Done, and Definition of Ready in the daily stand up area. In short, make it visual!

As I mentioned, in the beginning, this are simple techniques that I have used a lot when I start working with new scrum teams. I often introduced this in an incremental fashion. They are very effective and impactful.

What tips are you employing to keep your Daily Stand up on track, to finish it on time while keeping it useful and productive for the Team?

Let us know and we will include it in this list, along with credit to you of course.

INVEST in your User Stories – Nimesh Soni

Write better User Stories with this Visual Worksheet

User Stories are the lifeline of an Agile team. Even the BEST, high performing teams will struggle to deliver Value if they are fed bad Stories. As they say, INVEST in your User Stories!

Use this visual worksheet to help you, guide you in writing better User Stories. Help your team Help you with this worksheet.invest in your user stories
Onwards to writing user stories that help teams in creating value, frequently and on a regular cadence.

The Art of getting MORE done with LESS

Can Agilists use Check Lists? Can checklists help them perform at a much better level? To answer this question, we will have to visit the two bookends of User Stories. Please grab copies of your team’s Definition of Ready (DoR) and Definition of Done (DoD).

Two book of end User Stories

Two books of end User Stories: DoR, DoD

A user story should not be allowed to go onto a sprint backlog unless it meets all the items listed on DoR; in order for it to be marked as READY. On the other end, teams are supposed to mark a user story as DONE only when it meets all the criteria a laid out in the DoD. Aren’t these checklists? Can we expand them to other areas of doing Agile?

Why use the Checklists?

If NASA can use checklists to send satellites into the outer space. If surgeons can use the checklist to eliminate contamination in the surgery room, why can’t we, the Agilists, use the checklists to eliminate the worst, minimize the waste, and improve our productivity? As Atul Gawande describes in his book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, the knowledge exists, but often times we fail to apply it correctly.

We need a different strategy for overcoming failure, one that builds on experience and takes advantage of the knowledge people have but somehow also makes up for our inevitable human inadequacies.
– Atul Gawande,  The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Listed below are some additional benefits of using Checklists.

  • Helps you analyze what you are doing, why you are doing and then eliminate unnecessary steps and optimize it by combining some of them.
  • Makes work results more predictable.
  • Helps you in making Repeatable, predictable process.
  • Helps in delivering consistent quality and results.

Outline path to Success

Checklists, in essence, can help you improve your performance. They outline the path to success, with minimal resistance, because they are infused with your experiences and learnings from the past.

As Edward Deming once said, “don’t look at the individual, look at the system.” You can start with a simple checklist, and infuse them with your experiences and learnings. Refine them as you use them by incorporating the lessons learned with each use.


make it-use it-refine it-agile checklists

You can create a checklist on pretty much anything! If I know that I’m going to be doing a specific activity more than once, I would create a checklist.

I follow a simple process to create them. Start with an outline of what tasks you would have to carry out to complete the activity. You don’t have to put in a lot of time and effort and come up with an elaborate checklist. Once you have the initial outline, just do ‘the thing’! And, as you do it, refine the list.

Yes, the initial list may not be complete. Yes, it may not be elaborate. But you have a checklist that you can improve on and make it better as you do it again and again. To ensure the ‘continuous improvement’, one of that last item that I almost always have is:
Is there any way I can improve this checklist?

Automate or Delegate

In his highly successful book The Four Hour Week, Tim Ferris suggests four simple steps to freedom:  Eliminate-Simplify-Automate-Delegate.

One of the side benefits of having checklists is that it helps you delegating the activity or individual tasks. It also helps you eliminate the unnecessary steps as you use them and optimize them. Once you have used a checklist to complete the activity couple of times, one of the three things could happen.

  • Automate:
    Find a way to automate the activity.
  • Delegate:
    If you cannot automate this process then find a way to delegate it to somebody who can follow your checklist.
  • Do It yourself:
    If you cannot delegate it and you are ‘forced’ to do it,  you should be able to finish it quickly and efficiently as you have optimized your checklist. This should allow you to finish the activity quickly, with a higher quality, minimizing, if not completely eliminating, the waste.

Enabling and Empowering

Checklists are enabling and empowering! They are ‘concentrated doses’ of experiences and learnings, acquired over multiple iterations. They help you in improving your Sprint Planning, the Backlog Refinement, Sprint Review, and many other events and activities.

Even the most expert among us can gain from searching out the patterns of mistakes and failures and putting a few checks in
– Atul Gawande,  The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Create one, use it, and you will realize how liberating they are! Let us know your experience in the comment below. And, don’t forget to share it with your peers and community.

Why reinvent the wheel? Get this booklet (containing various checklists) and get a jump start!

Add to Cart

Playbook for Scrum Teams – Get it Today!

Shrink or Grow Sprint Length

Why teams should not shrink or grow sprint length

Sprint length to shrink or grow. Jen, one of the Scrum Master I am coaching and mentoring asked recently:

I am scrum master for this team and generally, we do two-week sprints. But, for this sprint the team does not have enough work, so they want to shorten the sprint from two weeks to one week. Can I allow them to do that?

Grow Sprint Length

Now, let’s ponder on this question. Take a minute and think about it. What would be your answer? Why? 

To answer her original question, I said a big resounding NO! In bold capital letters!

Value of regular Heartbeats

There are many reasons for not allowing the Sprint to shrink or grow. We want the team to pick a sprint length and stick to it, no matter what. Instead of focusing on why we do not allow it to shrink or grow, let’s focus on the positives. Let’s review the reasons and value of staying on the same length. Keeping the sprint length same provides:

  • Consistency and a Rhythm for the team
  • Repeatable and Predictable Cadence
  • Consistent length provides valuable data that can be used for forecasting
  • Schedules that are known well in advance, and can be put onto calendar to help block time on key players calendar
  • Valuable data they can help team in deciding how much or how little work to take into next sprint

Don’t flush them down the toilet

There are several measurements that are linked to sprint length. Measurements such as:

  • Velocity
  • Say: do
  • Story burn-up
  • Release burn-up
  • Feature burn-up

You allow your sprint to shrink (or grow) and you are invalidating all the data, you are essentially flushing all these down the toilet!

Use it Wisely

If you have a situation where the team does not have enough work for the next sprint, it might be an indicator of the team not doing backlog grooming; or at a minimum, it is an indicator that the backlog grooming is not done properly.

In a scenario where the team has spare capacity, instead of shrinking the sprint length, the team could do other, very useful activities. They could use that extra time on:

  • Refactoring the code
  • Learning new stuff
  • Cross training within the team
  • Automation
  • Spike or research on the next priority features functionality
  • Experimentation

Sprint’s are fixed length. Scrum does not allow them to shrink or grow. Once the team agrees to a specific length, they have to, rather, they need to stick to it. Fixed length eventually will enable them to settle on a rhythm giving them even heartbeats!


We offer mentoring and coaching to up and coming Agilists; often time doing 1:1 coaching. If you want to grow in the agile space, if you want to expand your horizon, if you want to learn the tools and tricks, sign up for mentorME.

Got more questions? Please get in touch with us here.

Nimesh’s Coaching Box

A simple tool to deliver your message effectively that creates impact, and do it with eeeease!

Want to deliver your session with ease? That is effective and impactful?

Of course, you want to be clear about the message you want to deliver; but being clear about it is just a start. Delivering your message effectively that is impactful – that’s the key. And, making it easy to digest for your audience is essential.

One of my good friend and colleagues introduced me to this concept while we were together at Paypal, coaching and mentoring the organization and teams on Agile adoption. [Thank You Monica!] Nowadays, you will see me walking around with this coaching box, almost all the time.

Nimesh's Coaching Box
Nimesh’s Coaching Box

Why this Coaching Box?
You are the change agent, but you don’t just want to talk about the change. You want to deliver your message effectively that creates an impact, and doing it with ease is the key to success. I have found that having this coaching box handy helps tremendously in achieving that. With this coaching box on my side, I can deliver my message, my presentation, my session with an ease that is effective and impactful. As a coach, as a change agent, it is your Toolbox!

What’s in it?
This coaching box essentially has the tools of the trade in it, readily available by my side at a moment’s notice. No more fumbling around for a whiteboard marker that really works!

Let’s look at what I have in the coaching box:

  • Post It notes. We can’t live without them, can we? [Check out my series of posts on how I use Post It notes]
  • Sharpie Pens
  • Whiteboard markers, that really work!

At a minimum, you should have these three items in your Coaching box. You can throw in some electronic tools in it along with these three items.

  • Remote Clicker, with spare batteries
  • Mac connector cable (to connect to Projector)
  • Old iPhone (that is not connected to any network)
  • Evernote or OneNote on your mobile device, making sure that you have the reference material and worksheets handy. Most importantly, make sure that you have the worksheets and checklists handy.
  • Other apps such as Office Lens to take pictures of your whiteboard drawings, Scannable to scan physical papers, etc. [Read my post on various apps that can help you]
  • Spare reading glasses
  • Lip balm
  • Two Cereal bar (my emergency energy source)
  • Two tea bags – like to drink hot tea (no sugar,no milk) before and during the sessions I facilitate. Helps me keep hydrated while keeping my throat clear helping in projecting my voice higher.

I add in a few cereal bars that can double as my lunch as well as a snack. Often times while you are delivering your sessions, you don’t have the time and luxury to have the proper lunch!

But, I need reasons to carry this coaching box…

I will give you three reasons why you want this box by your side.

  1. Instead of grabbing ten things, you are grabbing just one thing. This has bailed me out many times as I have been asked to present or coach at a moments notice by the executives. You know your executives in the organization 🙂
  2. It sends a very clear, strong, positive message that this guy (or gal) is always ready!
  3. You have all the supplies handy and within arms reach, supplies that you are familiar with and know they work, supplies that help you deliver your message effectively that creates impact.

With this box handy, I am ready to deliver any session at a moment’s notice. Let’s go, and make change happen!

10 Apps for 10x Productivity

Increase Productivity on the Go with these Apps

I introduced you to my top three apps in my earlier post. Let’s continue where we left off, and let me introduced you to remaining apps on my list.

4. Google Photos

10 appsBeing Agilist who loves art and doodling, I take a lot of pictures. And, the limited storage space on my mobile devices could be a problem! This is where Google Photos comes to my rescue!

You can configure Google Photos to sync pictures from your mobile device automatically to your Google Drive. With auto sync configured, I can take a picture and my mobile device automatically uploads that to my Google account. Oh! by the way, Google gives you unlimited storage space for this auto sync!

The advantage is that you don’t need to keep on all those pictures on your mobile device. You can take as many pictures as you want, and they are always available to you from any device, anywhere, anytime!

5. iTalk

iTalkI use this app to record audio on my mobile when I have the sudden burst of creativity when you don’t have paper and pencil handy. You don’t want to slow down in those moments, you want to take notes at the Speed of thoughts! iTalk is my go-to app when I am having these bursts of creativity! All you have to do is talk into your mobile and capture those thoughts.

This app also connects to your Dropbox account allowing you to ‘extend’ storage on your mobile device. You record and it pushes it to your Dropbox! Once recorded, you can hire someone else to transcribe it. This way you could be ‘writing’ your article on the go while waiting at the airport lounge or while stuck in the traffic. Record your thoughts using iTalk, push it to Dropbox, and get more Done!

I use this workflow a lot! I record my thoughts, push the audio recording to my Virtual Assistant (VA) and he transcribes those notes yielding initial draft for my article.

Record your thoughts + Upload to Dropbox + Push to VA = First draft of your article

6. Trello

TrelloWith Trello, you can create your own Kanban board and use them to collaborate with your teams. Create different cards and move them around based on the priorities. There are no emails to send back and forth. You can add notes, checklists, as well as documents. You can even filter your cards based on specific tags or labels.

Essentially, Trello can become your work hub, where you organize your backlog, communicate with your team members, and orchestrate the development of your Minimum Marketable Product (MMP). And, you can be doing all these on the Go as well!

I use the mobile app all the time on my iPhone. This allows me to stay in touch with my team members constantly. As I mention earlier, I push my audio notes to my virtual assistant (VA) all the way to the other side of the world; using a Trello card on a board that I have shared with my team members.

7. Expensify

ExpensifyThis app has been my savior many times. Benefits of Using this app are manyfold:

  1. Minimize the use of the paper
  2. Often times I’m traveling for work and need to capture all the expenses. Just capture them quickly with this app, with the picture of the paper receipt and few details to categorize them appropriately. At the end of the week (or month), Expensify can generate a report and that becomes your expense report.
  3. It also helps me at the end of the year when it is Tax time! The first thing I do for tax filing is going to my Expensify account and download all the expenses for that year. All you have to do is download a report that gives you all the expenses categorized and ready to go into your Tax form.

8. Key Ring

KeyringWe all have ‘fat’ wallets! Unfortunately, instead of money, they are filled with all the plastic cards :-Did you know,  average American carries 17 plastic cards in his/her wallet. You can move all those cards to an electronic world as well, using Key Ring app. Just add your cards into Key Ring and trash all those physical plastic cards, unflatten your wallet, and get rid of that back pain!

9. Google Drive (Google Docs)

Google Drive / Google DocsI use Google Docs extensively for all my notes, documents, and spreadsheets. As we all know Google Docs is all cloud based solution and allows you to collaborate with your team members. Google gives you considerable amount of space for free that is more than enough for most of us

10. IFTTT (If This Then That)

IFTTT-If this Then thatIFTTT allows me to get rid of some of the repetitive tasks from my day. It allows me to delegate and automate some of that mundane task. Using simple recipes, you can automate most of the routine tasks. Use it and you will fall in love with it!

To Summarize…

Here is my list of 10 apps that can launch you into the world of Hyper Productivity.

  1. Evernote and One Note
  2. Scannable
  3. Office Lens
  4. Google Photos
  5. iTalk
  6. Trello
  7. Expensify
  8. Key Ring
  9. Google Drive
  10. IFTTT
Get yourself on hyper Productivity lane with these apps… Click To Tweet

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