One of the things that I really enjoy is playing basketball.  There are multiple morning and noon pickup games at a nearby health club that several Microsoft team members attend.  It’s a good mix of younger and older players; I’m a proud member of the latter age group!

I don’t play nearly as much as I would like or as well as I would like, but there are still some days that I feel like I’m ‘in the flow’.  Being in the flow means that you stop thinking about the game and you are able to simply react to the game in a positive way.  No matter what your game is, it’s always much easier on the days when you are in the flow.

Sometimes it’s a personal flow – I’m feeling stronger and quicker than normal, the jump shots are falling, and I’m making good decisions on the court.  While personal flow is a great feeling, team flow is even better.  The team is making good passes leading to easy shots, helping each out on defense, and running the court.  Players on the team find the role most needed by the team and readily adapt to it, even changing roles from game to game.  Team flow usually leads to victories and the opportunity to stay on the court.  Even though extended play like this can leave me physically drained, being in the flow leaves me feeling completely refreshed and energized for the rest of the day.

Some Scrum sprints are similar to those ‘in the flow’ basketball games.  The characteristics are like those of the team flow.  The team is collaborating to knock off sprint goals, helping each other to solve problems, and confidently burning down hours.  Team members adapt to different roles over the course of the sprint.  At the end of the sprint, the team has met all, nearly all, or even more than its planned goals.  Even though the team has worked hard for its ‘victory’, it leaves the sprint feeling refreshed and energized for the next sprint.

As with my weekly basketball games, I haven’t figured out a recipe to apply to a team to get it ‘in the flow’ for a given sprint – as much as I wish I could!  Fortunately, I think I have a better idea for Scrum teams than for pickup basketball.  Here are a few characteristics of a Scrum team being in the flow for a sprint:

  • Unifying goals – the team has a well known, well understood goal or set of goals.
  • Great collaboration – the team, frequently a small team in my experience, works very well together.  Daily meetings are used to leverage knowledge to move the team ahead.
  • Shared responsibilities – responsibilities are seamlessly moved between individuals.

OK, readers – I’m looking for some help here.  If you have some ingredients for helping a team – Scrum or basketball or whatever your game is – get into the flow, give me some feedback!