One of the Scrum Masters in our Coaching Circle mentioned she had tried a lego burndown chart with her team. Since we LOVE lego, we thought this was a great idea, so we asked her to share it with us in the form of a guest post on our blog.

Here is Sheetal Gordhan’s story:

As a new Scrum Master I was invested in the team’s outcome and didn’t realise that the team should be the updating a visible burn down/up chart. It can be anything really. Something they are comfortable with, and that makes visible the status of the delivery. Then if a conversation is needed, it takes place rather than no delivery, stress and general unhappiness.

I took it upon myself to create a 3d representation of a release plan and it’s status using lego blocks. The objective of this was:

  1. The team could update it and I could know where we were, without having to interrupt team
  2. Other stakeholders could look at it and understand where we were, without technical jargon driven conversations that left them still not sure if the release was on track or not.

There is loads wrong with this scenario and I get that now, but had no idea then. So basically, I started playing with lego.

I went out, I bought some lego (the cheap kind). I printed some pictures. I put the pictures and the lego blocks together. I created a number of piles of lego blocks that represented the work we were planning to do, currently doing or done with. These three piles of lego sat in the middle of the scrum team’s working space and the piles moved.

There was a pile of lego blocks which represented work in progress, these were clearly marked and segregated from the other piles. There was another pile of lego blogs which represented planned work, also clearly marked. And finally, there was a forming group of lego blocks that either I or team were moving to represent that which was done. I wish now that I had the foresight to take a photo!

Even though this form of burndown was not from any text book, it empowered me, the team and other stakeholders to know how we were doing without words, jargon and without a big fuss. We knew how we were doing because the lego blocks told us. If the blocks were not moving, then I knew to ask some questions during the daily scrum to establish what impediments needed to be dealt with.

Do we still do this, no. Am I glad we did this, yes.

For a new team coming to grips with: each other, unknown work, deliverables and a new process (sometimes called Agile and sometimes called Scrum) those lego blocks were perfect for us. And now, many months later, we are a different team with different challenges and some great learning.

Now, as a team, we have stepped up and the team is playing with burn down charts – still not text book style but still a tool that I adore. Why? Because the team decided this is the way now. Because the team owns this. Now, with no effort or big scene or too many words, all of us in the team are able to know quickly if a conversation is needed, if we are on track or if we need to re-evaluate and make decisions.