Build Your Own Scrum

Build your own Scrum


Since this original blog post, Build Your Own Scrum has grown substantially. It’s been used by Scrum Trainers to teach Scrum from the back of the room around the world at companies like Intel and Expedia, and in countries ranging from the United States to China. I am excited to see how it’s taken off, and what people have to say about it:

“Build Your Own Scrum is not only an effective tool for collaborative, interactive learning, but it’s also a starting point to deeper discussions about the elements of Scrum which challenge an organization the most. It’s one of the best tools in my coaching and training toolbox.”

Clinton Keith CSTAuthor of Agile Game Development with Scrum

I’ve created a facilitation guide that includes all the supporting materials to run the full 3-4 hour module. You can grab the original BYOS sheet, plus the facilitation guide and supporting materials for FREE:

Build Your Own Scrum

I’ve been working as a full time Agile Coach at Granicus in San Francisco. During my first month on the job I gave several Scrum 101 courses to the development organization. A month after that it was time to start building Scrum teams, and since I had already introduced the group to Scrum, I didn’t want to bore them with another lecture. Instead I created an exercise they could use to refresh their collective memory. I’ve since used it while co-teaching a CSM course as I pursue my CST certification.

The Lowdown

The goal of the exercise is to get small groups of 5 to 9 people collaborating with each other to recreate the workflow of Scrum from memory, or by using Michael James’ Scrum Reference Card. I’ve found this works equally well if they’ve attended a lecture on Scrum, if I review the workflow quickly prior to the exercise, or even if the individuals have just read the Scrum Guide. The magic of the exercise is that a group of people, even Scrum amateurs, can work it out together. And isn’t that what it’s all about? :)

The Setup

Each team will need:

  1. One printout of the Build your own Scrum worksheet
  2. Scissors
  3. Construction Paper (for use as the background)
  4. Scotch Tape
  5. Glue Stick
  6. Markers (not essential, but my teams have used them creatively)

I start by breaking the class into groups of 5 to 9 folks (depending on course size). I then hand a Build your own Scrum sheet to each of the teams, explaining that the sheets have everything they need to recreate the workflow. They should cut the elements out from the sheet and glue them down as they see fit. They’re timeboxed to 20 minutes. They’re free to talk to each other, but not the other teams, and while I may be in the room observing, I won’t be helping. I let them know that at the end of the 20 minutes they’ll need to share the work they’ve done with the rest of the class, explaining the workflow in their own words.

Show and Tell

During show and tell I have each of the groups present their work to the rest of the class. This is where you need to be on your game, drawing explanations out of the team, and facilitating others in the class to offer up suggestions or clarification if the team missed something. You of course can also jump in and offer up clarification, but I’ve found that most of the time the individual teams can help each other, which makes it even more powerful.

Ask the team about the impediment icon (if they used it) and how it’s handled. Ask them what they think about the size of the team on the sheet (you’ll noticed something is a bit amiss with the number of members ;). In one case, I had to ask why they drew horns and a tail on the ScrumMaster: “Remember though, in Scrum the ScrumMaster is a servant of the team, not a traditional project manager”. Good stuff.

I’ve been really amazed with how well this exercise works. It gets people participating right off the bat, fosters collaboration, and shows just how intuitive and clear the framework is.

Give it a Try

Download a copy of Build your own Scrum for your next course. While the guide and supporting materials are copyrighted and may not be altered or made in to derivative works, I’ve released the worksheet itself under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. You’re free to use it in a course you’re teaching, even if you’re charging money for said course. I’d love to hear how you’ve used it, and if you have any improvements for the exercise. I just ask that you contact me to request permission before reusing or remixing any of the content into coursework you’d sell.


20 Responses to “Build your own Scrum”

  1. Petri Heiramo March 26, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    Just to add to this thread, I'm using this as a regular part of my trainings and it just delivers. I usually use an ambassador technique to review instead of show-and-tell, though. I ask teams to split up, some staying at their diagram and some going to other teams' diagrams. Then have 5 minutes for teams to present to their diagram to ambassadors from other teams. Rotate so that more people can present and see others' diagrams. I wrap up with a shortish summary to add a few extra items.

  2. Yi Lv November 3, 2011 at 5:37 am #

    Hi, Adam! I like the exercise very much, may I include this into my CSM course? Thanks a lot for sharing! Yi

    • Adam Weisbart November 16, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

      Yes, of course! I'll have a new version and facilitation guide out shortly so stay tuned. If you use it in the field, I'd love to hear how it works for you.

  3. Martin Rowe October 19, 2011 at 12:55 pm #


    Thanks for your session at the Scrum Gathering in London. When you explained the content of the session I thought it was too simple. By the end of the session I was glad that I had taken part.

    Over the last two days I have delivered this with four groups of students and knew that the exercise was working when I was able to stand back and watch the groups become fully involved (always a good sign).

    It seems to me that the materials work on many levels. It is easy to think that simply delivering information is the job done. These materials helped to cement the information and to provide the Trainer/Lecturer an opportunity to check that the learning has taken place.

    Is this another example of the power of simplicity? When preparing and delivering a session perhaps it is a 'trap' to think that to go into more depth is the way to move the session forward. These materials perhaps help to prove the point that in some cases the way forward is to do the opposite and to make sure, with a simple exercise, that the information has been delivered and has been received – (done).

    Thanks again

    Martin Rowe
    University of Plymouth/Petroc
    Devon, England

  4. Paul Heidema October 13, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    Thank you Adam for facilitating the Build Your Own Scrum exercise at Scrum Gathering London. I learned a ton and it was great meeting you too. I hope to use this exercise with my own consulting team and with others that I train and coach. Awesome!

  5. Shane Warren June 23, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    I attended a talk of Adam's where he taught the Scrum process and used this exercise. It was a perfect exercise to see from all the information I received what I had actually learned. It was a lot of fun too!

  6. David Socha May 24, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    I was at Adam's session at the Scrum Gathering, and was impressed by the design of this exercise. Simple and insightful even for people experienced in Scrum. And I expect this exercise could be easily adapted for other processes. Thanks for providing the template.

  7. Karen May 21, 2011 at 12:06 am #

    Looks like a fantastic training exercise, thanks for sharing. I will give it a try in an upcoming course and let you know how it goes.

  8. Sameh May 19, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    I understand conversation is more important.

  9. Sameh May 14, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    Interesting post!

    Can you please share photos of the outcomes from the playing team?


    • Adam Weisbart May 19, 2011 at 7:53 am #

      Thanks Sameh.

      Sure. Have a look at what one of the teams at the Seattle Scrum Gathering did.

      The photo is great, but the conversations they had while explaining the result is much more important than the result in the photo.

  10. Pam May 10, 2011 at 9:03 am #

    Never underestimate the power of scissors, construction paper and glue sticks. Manipulating those objects activates areas in the brain that stimulate creativity and open thought. Got music to go with that?


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