How to Use Balance Scores to Improve Velocity in Scrum

There is a growing body of neuroscientific evidence that indicates that the human brain’s ability to think clearly is reduced when people have heightened anxiety. One person’s anxiety can quickly spread to other team members. This diminishes velocity.

So, how can we reduce anxiety on a 15-minute check-in call?  “My therapist” is definitely not the answer.

Balance Score

Over the last 2 years, we have found that sharing balance scores on a call only takes 5 seconds cumulatively for an entire team. We’ve also found that this simple one number check-in reduces anxiety for the person who shares, and for others on the team.

There are some lasting benefits as well. Other neuroscientific research indicates that when a person focuses attention on their emotional state, they are strengthening neural pathways that will improve the brains ability to rationally think with the pre-frontal cortex. We’ve learned that the brain responds like a muscle does – parts can be buffed up.

How to Do It

At the start of a project we hold a kickoff call where we introduce the balance score to the entire scrum team and the client. We cover the benefits, and explain the meaning of the score. The balance score is a number from 1 to 10 that represents a person’s balance at the exact point in time that they are checking in.

Balance is defined as “knowing and honoring your priorities in personal, professional, and spiritual life.” The number 1 represents that a person does not feel in balance, and a 10 represents that they feel quite balanced. We then ask that everyone continue to report their balance score during our daily scrum check-ins.


We have found that this simple addition to our regular check-ins has not only given us insight into each other, but also allows us to recognize balance (or inbalance) within ourselves. When we hear that someone has a low balance score, there is always someone who pipes up to ask how they can help. There is also always a cheer when we hear a 10. It has been a great way for the team to feel more connected.

Give it a try on your scrum team and let us know how it works in the comments below.

2017-03-31T06:19:57+00:00 Categories: Agile, Balance, Culture|

About the Author:

Henry Poole co-founded CivicActions in 2004 and was appointed CEO in 2014. Henry is responsible for advising clients undertaking innovation and transformation, participates in business development, and oversees the management team.

Henry has recently advised on the turnaround of a large scale, multi-vendor DOD Drupal project as well as the launch of a new platform for the San Francisco Human Services Agency. Prior to consulting for CivicActions government clients, he advised on the launch of numerous very successful campaigns including Defective by Design for the Free Software Foundation, and 170 Million Americans for American Public Media. 170 Million Americans was launched within 30 days of kickoff, included aligning stakeholders from dozens of public media companies, and resulted in a 53% membership conversion rate on the new website.

Henry has more than 30 years experience in information technology innovation, organizational transformation and strategic management. Henry founded one of the first Internet Agencies in 1993, led a French free and open source company to outsell Redhat retail in the US in 2001, and launched the first blog for a US congressman in 2003.

Henry serves on the boards of several technology companies as well as the Free Software Foundation.