5 Reasons A Scrum Master Should Use Fist of Five Voting

You – the scrum master – have asked your team if there are any impediments, but you are not getting much feedback. You sense there must be a better way to gauge the mood of the team, but you are not sure how. Give Fist of Five voting a try.

Unknown | Fist | Flickr.com

Unknown | Fist | Flickr.com

Fist of Five voting is a facilitation technique that scrum masters use to measure the level of confidence in a value statement – at a point in time. Scrum teams use their fingers to vote which makes our scale is 1 to 5.

  • Five Fingers: “Yes! I’m 100% aligned with the value statement.”
  • Four Fingers: “I strongly support the value statement.”
  • Three Fingers: “I want to discuss the value statement before giving my support.”
  • Two Fingers: “I oppose the value statement.”
  • One Finger: “NO! Absolutely not! The value statement is insane.”

For example, during a Daily Scrum meeting, the scrum master could ask the team: “How confident are you that we are on track to meet the sprint goal?”

With the scale in mind, the scrum team thinks about the question and comes up with an answer. When the team is ready, they show the number of fingers that represents their response.

The 1’s and 2’s would then be asked to talk about why their confidence is low. “What is stopping you from voting higher?” is a key question for these scrum team members to answer. After their initial discussion, the scrum team can vote again and see if they are more aligned than before.

Fist of Five voting has five clear benefits to scrum teams that use it:

  1. Low ceremony: Fist of Five is very simple to do. All you need is a question and a fist. After that it is up to the team to discuss their scores and work towards alignment.
  2. Encourages participation: People who are not involved are not committed to the scrum team. Fist of Five gets all of the team members involved in the conversation. The 1’s and 2’s get a non-confrontational opportunity to express their concerns, allowing the team to learn as a whole.
  3. Easier “No”:  No is an incredibly hard word to say. Especially when you have to say it to your teammates. Fist of Five allows scrum team members the chance to disagree with the team or the question being asked without being disagreeable. Openness is achieve and truthful conversations occur.
  4. Creates alignment:  An aligned team is a powerful one. The goal of the vote is get the team to collaborate and converge on an agreed up on number.  Taking the time to address the 1’s and 2’s gets everyone “on the bus” and creates a bonded team that can be successful.
  5. Leads to action:  The alignment process tends to draw out the reasons that scrum team members are not confident. Perhaps the automated build isn’t so automated. Or maybe there is a major flaw in the architecture that makes the sprint goal difficult. Knowing these impediments gives the team a clear list of action items to work on.

Fist of Five is a technique that can be used any time you sense that the team lacks confidence. The status of the current sprint, the likelihood of achieving the sprint goal, or even the state of the backlog are all great areas to try it out.

Hopefully, you’ll find that numbers are really secondary to the rich conversations that your scrum team engages in and the actions they ultimately take.

Question: Which techniques do you use to measure the confidence of your team? Have you found more success with one technique over another? You can leave a comment by clicking here.