Measuring Scrum Session Success (fist of five)

A lightweight, but effective, technique I sometimes use to measure the success of a scrum session (or ceremony) is through the use of ‘fist of five’.

Various questions can be asked at the end of the session to gain insight from the team members, but I quite like focusing on three specific areas:

  1. PURPOSE: did the session accomplish its purpose?
  2. TIME: was the time invested worthwhile?
  3. EMOTION: do you feel better having taken part in the session?

By asking these questions and asking the team members to rate with their fists (0/fist – low; 5 fingers – high), a quick gauge can be ascertained with the view to either keeping the same format and time allocated or whether change is required to make the session more effective.

I have seen this being particularly effective with retrospective sessions, where the team have time to review their previous sprint retro actions and come up with ideas for improvement but lack the time to define specific actions for the next sprint.  Through the ‘fist of five’ technique, we can quickly recognise where there exists a need for change and tweak a few things to make the retro much more effective. In one case, this was accomplished through stricter time-boxing and extending the session by 15mins.

Extending Use

The fist of five technique is also useful during scrum planning sessions, to gauge mutual alignment of understanding of a user story, and of course to estimate user stories (in the absence of planning poker cards).

Further reading:

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Paul Thornton

Paul was one of a small number of people who instigated Sky’s (UK) move to Scrum and the digitisation of their services (such as Sky Go, Sky News, and the award winning Sky Sports app), across web and mobile (this waslater mirrored by Foxtel so you can thank him for Foxtel Go!). He has with a wealth of experience having worked for leading bluechip companies (Trinity Mirror, Elsevier, Sky, UKTV) over the past 19 years and comes from computer science, software engineering, web development background – still loves to dabble with new tech when given the chance. As a long term believer and practitioner of the agile principles and extreme programming practices over the past 10 years, gives him the ability to oversee the success of large and complex agile programs whilst also coaching the improvement of the team’s technical practices.