Back when I first started Agile/Scrum, we randomly picked names for our sprint that had little or no meaning/effect on anything beyond the name of our feature branches in git. It was fun for the entire 30 seconds it took to think of a name and add it to Jira.
I like to have a bit more fun with things, and I see the sprint name as a way to inject some humor, fun, and additional opportunities for camaraderie in our ceremonies.
My current method for naming a sprint is a little convoluted, but it’s on purpose – all of the requirements add to the ceremony aspect of making the naming process special and an integral part of the process.
First, a caveat
As a Scrum Master it’s sometimes easy to fall into the trap of “I’m going to MAKE my team do this because I say so.” That’s a dangerous trap. Sometimes, yes, you need to drop the hammer and be the enforcer. Most of the time, though, you want to guide your team gently and have ideas come from the team organically. Anything that didn’t organically come up as an idea from the team, I was sure to present to them and get their buy-in before we committed. I recommend you do the same.
52/2 = 26
Let’s start off with the fact that my current team (and a lot of scrum teams) work in 2-week iterations. If you divide that up between the 52 weeks in a year and you stick to your 2-week cycle without change, you’ll get exactly 26 sprints in a year. That corresponds very nicely to the fact that there are 26 letters in the alphabet. So starting with sprint 1 / the first iteration of the cycle, your sprint name has to start with the letter A, sprint 2 is the letter B, and so on and so forth.
Pick a Card, ANY Card!
To create the first part of the ceremony, I have an index card for each of my team members. I have the same number of corresponding index cards with different categories. Some of them are simple like “Food” – others are a bit more challenging like “Something found at IKEA.”
As the current sprint is wrapping up and we’re preparing our sprint review/demo, I find a team member to draw a card from each stack – thus picking who will get to name the next sprint. That person must not only pick a name based on the chosen category, but also starting with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. So for example, when one of our team member picked the “Something found at Ikea” card on the sprint that had to start with the letter F, he chose the name Frakta. (For those of you that don’t know, “Frakta” is the name for those big, blue Ikea shopping bags).
At the end of our sprint review, we announce the name of the next sprint and the date of our next sprint review ceremony. This already begins to set the stage for engaging our stakeholders into the next sprint.
Today’s Fun Fact is Brought to you by the Letter ‘H’
The next part of the ceremonialization of the sprint name, is that for our daily standup I’ll open with a little bit of trivia or a quick game that relates to the name of the sprint. For our “Hummingbird” sprint I told a different fact about Hummingbirds every day (did you know that Hummingbirds can’t walk?). For the IKEA sprint mentioned above, I went to the kid’s section of IKEA and bought a game of IKEA “memory” cards. I would tell the team the name of the product on the card, and they would have guess what kind of a product it was. In our sprint review I even set up the game and afterwards challenged our stakeholders to games of memory.
This process quickly became part of our ritual and if I ever forget to open the huddle in this fashion the team will call me out! It’s a great way to grab everyone’s attention before we jump into the actual huddle. The only catch is to be sure you timebox it and account for it in your schedule. Most often these little tidbits/games only take up 30 seconds or so.
Feed Them and They Will Come
The next part of the naming ceremony came a bit by accident. We had scheduled the first sprint review for our new project, there were to be about 15 team members present along with about 20 stakeholders from various departments. One of our team members thought that the situation warranted a snack of some sort, and he went out and bought a bunch of mini cupcakes for everyone. When the next sprint review came around, the team (and some of our stakeholders) started asking what the treat was going to be for that sprint.
For each sprint review now, we have a little treat for everyone who attends the meeting. Call it a bribe, if you will – but it serves many purposes. For one, it helps draw people to the meeting. Secondarily, it gives people a reason to stay after the meeting and engage with each other. Stakeholders will hang around with our sprint team members for a while enjoying our treat. During this time they can get to know each other better, they can talk about our project in a less formal atmosphere, and it shows off the talents of our team. One sprint we had a team member bring in homemade Samosa. Another sprint I baked a couple cakes.
Do you have to follow this model? Of course not! Would an agile purist scoff at us contaminating the sprint review with slices of cake? Maybe. It works for my current team – and maybe it will spawn some ideas on what you can do to create more engagement and camaraderie with your teams.