Steps: Agile for Entrepreneurs


  1. Prepare Roles and Requirements:
    1. Identify Team Guide
    2. Identify Facilitators and Meeting Schedule
    3. Choose a Tracker
    4. Create Initial User Stories
  2. Perform the Sprint Ceremony:
    1. Pre-Groom the Backlog
    2. Demonstrate the Prior Sprint’s Results
    3. Check for Lessons Learned
    4. Review the Backlog Order
    5. Groom a Story
    6. Address Risks
    7. Complete the Sprint Plan
  3. Conduct a Daily Standup

Prepare Roles and Requirements

Identify Team Guide

  1. Read the brief description of the Team Guide (TG) role.
    Note: The list includes some duties not relevant in “FuSca Light.”
  2. If your startup has one majority owner, that person is the TG unless they choose to designate someone else.
  3. Otherwise, have the owners choose whether:
    • One will be the sole TG, and whom.
    • The role will be rotated among them, in which case, also decide the frequency and order of rotation.
    • The role will be shared (not recommended).
      Tip: If you choose this option, consider splitting the duties by having one person handle product/service requirements and the other handle “build-the-business” requirements. Each will have opportunities within FuSca Light for input on the other type.

Identify Facilitators and Meeting Schedule

At a team meeting:

  1. Show everyone the descriptions of both the Team Guide and Facilitator roles, pointing out those include added tasks not required in FuSca Light.
  2. Identify people other than the Team Guide(s) to rotate the Facilitator role.
    Recommendation: Have all non-TG members try the role at least once.
  3. Create action items for each facilitator to read the “Meeting Facilitation” page.
  4. Show the team the “Conduct a Daily Standup” set below.
  5. Decide as a team what time each day to hold the standup, sometime after everyone usually starts work each day, and before their usual end-of-day.

Choose a Tracker

Team Guide(s):

  1. Review the options for tracking your work requirements (“user stories”):
    • The free FuSca Light Tracker spreadsheet—after downloading, see the “Legend” tab for instructions.
    • A paper tracker posted on a wall.
    • Any of a number of Agile trackers that are free online—search using the term “Agile tool,” going deep into the results, and make sure the description mentions Scrum.
  2. Depending on your choice:
    • Put the spreadsheet in a network or online location where everyone on the team can see it.
    • Create your paper tracker.
    • Set up the digital tracker, giving everyone on the team “editing” rights.
  3. If your team members are not in the same office, also choose and set up a tool for virtual meetings if not done already.
    Note: A feature allowing everyone to see each other during discussions will improve meeting productivity.

Create Initial User Stories

Team Guide:

  1. If you do not have enough customer and market requirements to fill at least two months of the team’s time under your current processes, try to gather that many.
  2. Write or convert all requirements into two-week-sized “user stories” in your Product Backlog, each with a draft of:
    • If using the FuSca Light Tracker—the “User,” “Requirement,” and “Purpose” columns for each requirement, plus “Notes” if desired.
      Note: Do not complete the other columns at this point; those are team decisions.
    • In other trackers, the story statement in this format: “As a [type of user], I want [to do this] so that I can [achieve this purpose].”
      Tip: Online trackers typically have a “Name” or “Description” field for this statement. For the paper tracker, enter it at the top of a sticky note or note card (one story each).
  3. Add an initial set of business and technical requirements, including other needed story types such as support and cross-training stories or known defects.
  4. Revise or delete stories near the top as desired.
    Note: If you want a record of deleted stories, create an archive backlog in your online tracker; use a folder/envelope for a paper tracker; or move each to the “Archive” tab of the FuSca Light Tracker with some indication it was deleted.
  5. Place approximately a month’s worth of requirements (regardless of type) at the top of the list in order of importance based on value to the business, however you choose to define “value.”
    Tip: Don’t worry about getting the order exactly right—the team will provide input later.


Perform the Sprint Ceremony

Pre-Groom the Backlog

Team Guide, shortly before each Sprint Ceremony:

  1. Add any new requirements desired to the backlog.
  2. Confirm the rank order and wording of the stories at the top, including several more than the team usually completes in a sprint.
    Example: If your team usually does seven stories per sprint, review the top 10. For the first ceremony, estimate based on the usual amount of work completed in two weeks.
  3. If any of those stories have blockers (see next step set) liable to continue into the ceremony, review that number of additional stories.

Details: “Pre-Groom for Speed.”

Demonstrate the Prior Sprint’s Results

Facilitator, at each ceremony after the first one:

  1. Show the list of stories worked in the sprint (the Sprint Plan).
  2. Have members take turns showing or describing the deliverables they completed.
  3. Ask the requester or TG to accept or reject any completed stories, and explain any rejections.
    Note: Add the explanation to the story (for example, in the “Notes” section of the FuSca Light Tracker), and revise the story statement if needed.
  4. Discuss what to do with any incomplete stories.
  5. If new requirements emerge, add them to the backlog.
  6. If at any point in the FuSca Light process a blocker is identified:
    1. Mark the story as blocked, with the reason, and if possible add an action item to clear the blocker.
    2. Cease discussion on that story (until unblocked), unless the person addressing the blocker needs more information.
  7. Continue to the next set.


Check for Lessons Learned

Facilitator, at the ceremony:

  1. Ask: “What is going right with the sprints or company?”
  2. Ask: “What is going wrong?”
  3. Ask: “What can we do differently next sprint?”
    Note: Address every “went wrong” item.
  4. Create user stories or action items to address the “do differently” items.
  5. Continue to the next set.

Details: “View the Sprint in Retrospect.”

Review the Backlog Order

  1. Show the team the backlog.
  2. Ask if there are suggestions for re-ranking stories.
  3. Briefly discuss the reasons for each suggested change, and ask the TG for permission to revise the order.
  4. If the TG wants to retain the current order of any item under discussion, retain it and close off further debate.
  5. Check whether any blocked stories can be unblocked.
  6. Continue to the next set.

Details: “Review the Order.”

Groom a Story

  1. Open the top ungroomed, unblocked story in the backlog (“groomed” means the team has reviewed it together per these steps).
  2. Review and revise the story until everyone’s questions have been answered.
    Details: “What’s the Real Story?” and “Why Do the Story?
  3. Ask if the story can be completed in one sprint.
  4. If not, break it into new, smaller stories that can be completely done in one sprint each, and perform the steps above for the first one in the series.
    Details: “Epics.”
  5. Indicate somewhere in the tracker that the team has groomed the story, in case you decide not to put it in the next sprint.
    Example: In the FuSca Light Tracker, place an “x” in the “Groomed” column.
  6. Continue to the next set.

Address Risks

  1. Ask:
    1. “What could go wrong that would affect our ability to complete the story within one sprint?”
    2. “What might go wrong if we complete this story—in other words, what could we break?”
      Note: If the answer is “nothing,” skip to the next step set.
    3. Add a list of possible answers (“risks”) to the tracker.
  2. Determine whether any or all of these are true:
    • The story should be blocked due to the risk.
    • Action items are needed to address the risk before it is committed into a sprint.
    • Tasks are needed to address the risk during the sprint, in which case note them somewhere in the story.
  3. Continue to the next set.

Details: “Projects are a Risky Business.”

Complete the Sprint Plan

  1. With the story still open:
    1. Ask for a volunteer to take the lead on completing the story and record their name.
      Note: Digital trackers will have a field to add a name. Add it as the “Leader” in the Startup FuSca Tracker, or to the paper story card (preferably in a consistent place for all stories).
    2. Ask the volunteer if they need help, and if so ask for as many other volunteers as required.
      Note: The Leader can track the names, or add them to the “Notes” or similar section in the tracker. A digital tracker may only allow one name per story.
    3. Allow discussion among the team about the story language and volunteers, but give the lead volunteer final say on whether the story is clear.
    4. If someone is missing, allow the team to “volunteer” that person for stories.
  2. Return to “Groom a Story” and repeat the steps down to here for each unblocked story, working from the top down, until everyone has enough work to cover 80% of their time (less if they have non-project duties).
    Note: To increase predictability, do not allow people to take more stories than they are 100% certain they can complete within the sprint. They can start additional ones after completing those.
  3. If a member was out, on their first day back, ask them to check their stories and make changes if desired, including trading with another member.
    Details: “Speak Up for Missing Persons.”

Conduct a Daily Standup

At the team’s chosen Daily Standup time (except on Sprint Ceremony days), facilitated by the Facilitator or any team member present:

  1. Start the meeting on time even if some people are missing.
  2. Have each person answer only:
    1. “What sprint tasks did you work on since the last sprint meeting?”
    2. “What sprint tasks do you intend to work on before the next meeting?”
    3. “Do you have any blockers?”
  3. If people stray from the three questions, interrupt to keep the meeting focused.
  4. After everyone has reported, ask if further discussions are needed and who needs to be involved.
  5. Let everyone else go as soon as they are no longer needed, though they can stay if they wish.

Max. Daily Standup Time: 15 minutes.

Details: “Answer Three Questions.”

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