Are you the master of your facilitation domain?

Scrum Master Facilitation

The role of a Scrum Master has great responsibilities on a Scrum Team. Not only do they support the Team and coach the Agile principles, and strive for relentless improvement, they are also the master facilitator of Team events. Those events include: Sprint Planning, Backlog Refinement, Daily Stand-up, Sprint Review & Demo, and Sprint Retrospective.

What' is a facilitator?

fa·cil·i·ta·tor.   /fəˈsiləˌtādər/
noun

  • a person that makes an action or process easy/easier

A facilitator plans, guides and manages a Team's Scrum event to meet its [Sprint] goals. To facilitate effectively, you must be objective and focus on the Sprint process. That process is the ways that groups work together to perform tasks, make decisions and solve problems/removed impediments.

Key traits of a facilitator

  • Active listener
  • Asks questions
  • Is patient
  • Keeps the goal(s) insight

Additionally, there's more to facilitating Scrum events.

  • That the Sprint is used as a time-box during which a usable solution(s) (software or non-software) is 'done' within that time increment (generally two weeks)
  • That the Sprint Planning is used as an event for the team to discuss, plan and agree on a forecast for the Product Backlog items they are confident they can complete in order to support the goals and strategy of the Product Owner
  • That the Daily Stand-up is used for daily planning/inspection of the team's progress toward the sprint goal (Daily Stand-up is not a status update)
  • That the Sprint Review & Demo is used to review progress and demonstrate the working solution of the backlog
  • That the Sprint Retrospective is used as an event during which the team inspects and adapts their processes and  practices to improve the team's progress

Facilitations does not always come easy to everyone, it's something that can be continuously adapted and improved. For newer Scrum Masters, here's a few practical and useful tips for facilitating Scrum events including remote events, preparing for these events, tools and cadence.

 

 

Sprint Planning

Cadence

Beginning of each Sprint

Who

Product owner, Scrum Master, and Delivery Team members

Purpose

  • Capacity: How much work can we bring into the upcoming sprint?
  • Story review: quick review of prioritized stories for consideration in the sprint with the Product Owner. Priority changes?
  • Pull stories (if they meet the definition of ready) in based on priority and capacity
  • Story estimate review (if not done in Refinement):
    • Breakdown/decompose user stories further into smaller stories (if applicable)
    • Story sizes are revisited and confirmed
    • Breakdown/decompose Stories into tasks (time permitting)

Output

Sprint backlog, sprint goal

Remote Challenges

  • Loss of spontaneous face-to-face communication
  • Maintaining alignment in requirements discussions across remote team members
  • Keeping all remote team members engaged
  • Cadence of meetings due to time zone differences
  • No interaction with physical scrum board

Remote Process / Tools

  • Utilize video conference / screen sharing tool for visuals
  • Display Product Backlog / Sprint Board from Agile tools during screen sharing
  • Chat (Slack, Teams) for 1:1 interaction among team members between Daily Stand-ups

Preparing for Facilitating Sprint Planning

Reminders ahead of time:

  • Product Owner and Team members to refine stories prior to planning
  • Product Owner to prioritize stories prior to Sprint Planning meeting

Highlight agenda in Sprint Planning calendar invite:

  • Product Owner assigns Sprit goal(s)
  • Determine capacity
  • Pull in work based off prioritized Backlog
  • Confidence vote of committed work (total Story points)

Preparation:

  • Create Sprint Planning report/deck
  • Report/deck to include: review of Story points, Team capacity review, Sprint goal, metrics board
  • Assign Team Members to stories

Sprint Planning Tips

1 - The Sprint Goal

  • The Product Owner suggests an outcome-based sprint goal, defining the value to deliver to stakeholders

2 - What Can Be Done This Sprint

  • Prior to sprint planning, the team (led by the Product Owner) should have completed product backlog refinement to prioritize and prepare backlog items for this upcoming sprint
  • Now the Team Members (all roles and skill sets responsible for delivery) determine how many items can be delivered in this sprint.
  • Adjust the sprint goal, if needed

3 - How to Get the Work Done

  • Some teams like to identify detailed low-level tasks for every backlog item, and ask team members to self-assign to all those tasks
  • Others are comfortable with less detail and more fluid task assignments
  • At a minimum, each team member should know what they will do for the first few days of the sprint

4 - Conclusion

  • Refine the outcome-based sprint goal, if needed
  • Use a voting system:
    • Fist of five vote (1 through 5) for all team member to indicate their confidence in the sprint goal and sprint plan
    • Thumb vote (up or down) for all team members to indicate their confidence in the sprint goal and sprint plan

Backlog Refinement

Cadence

Weekly (or more if needed), should account for ~10% of the Teams capacity each Sprint

Who

  • Scrum Team (PO, SM, and Delivery Team) and Customer (Optional)

Purpose

  • Review stories (in priority order) and assign/refine Acceptance Criteria (AC)
  • Split stories that are too large, combine related small stories, remove unneeded stories and add missing stories
  • Create detailed tasks required to complete the story
  • Assign a story point to each story

Output

  • Team agreement on what is expected for each story
  • The next 1-3 sprints have stories that meet the Definition of Ready (DoR)
  • Less time spent in Sprint Planning meetings

Remote Challenges

  • Planning poker estimation process can be more challenging in remote environment
  • Keeping all remote team members engaged
  • Difficult to do high-level design discussions without access to physical whiteboard
  • Challenging for team members to keep track of Epic / Feature / Story updates

Remote Process / Tools

  • Make all updates to Epics / Features / Stories directly in work tracking tool while displayed over screen sharing tool
  • Online Planning Poker Tool (planningpoker.com, planitpoker.com, etc.)
  • Instant Messaging (Slack, Teams)

Preparing for Facilitating Backlog Refinement

Reminders ahead of time:

  • PO and Team members to create stories prior to Backlog Refinement
  • PO to prioritize stories

Highlight agenda in Sprint Planning calendar invite:

  • Review Stories in “Ready to Work”
  • Team to discuss prioritized stories in Backlog
  • Point Stories
  • Team to independently review, write Stories
  • Description of Story and Acceptance Criteria

Preparation:

  • A few days prior e-mail Team to write Stories
  • Assign Team Members to stories
  • Review Board
  • Share screen and facilitate Story review

Daily Stand-up

Cadence

Daily (15 Minutes)

Who

  • Scrum Team (PO, SM, and Delivery Team Members) Participates
  • Others can come and observe but not participate

Purpose

  • Communicate progress made and plan for the day
  • Raise impediments
  • Update the Scrum Board
  • Common Formats: Three questions, Walk the board, Round Robin, etc.

Output

  • Team’s plan for the next 24 hours
  • List of impediments for the Scrum Master

What to watch out for

  • Daily Scrum/Stand-ups that last more than 15 minutes
  • Topics better handled after Stand-up

Remote Challenges

  • Keeping all remote team members engaged
  • Loss of spontaneous face-to-face communications
  • No interaction with physical scrum board
  • Cadence of meetings due to time zone differences

Remote Process / Tools

  • Utilize video conference / screen sharing tool for visuals
  • Icebreaker / Game utilities (Quiz Breaker, Prelude ) to promote team building and improve team dynamics
  • Chat capability (Slack, Teams) for 1:1 interactions among team members

Preparing for Facilitating Daily Stand-up

Reminders ahead of time:

  • Team to update cards on board
  • Team to update comments on work in progress
  • PO to accept Stories in “Ready to Accept”
    • Move to done

Highlight agenda in Sprint Planning calendar invite:

  • What I worked on previously
  • What I’m planning on working on
  • Any impediments/blockers or help needed from the Team
  • Meet after topics (if applicable)

Preparation:

  • Review Board
  • Share screen and facilitate Daily Stand-up
    • Open Stories as each Team member is talking about Story (use filter)
      • Remind Team to update comments or move Stories on their own

Sprint Review & Demo

Cadence

End of each Sprint

Who

  • Scrum Team (PO, SM, and Delivery Team Members)
  • Stakeholders, End Users, Management, etc

Purpose

  • Demonstrate the Team’s accomplishments from the Sprint
  • Receive feedback for the PO to incorporate into the backlog

Do

  • Practice- it’s not a Broadway show, but prepare
  • Tell a story about what was done and why
  • Establish regular demo cadence

Avoid

  • Demoing incomplete User Stories
  • Demoing stories that do not work

Remote Challenges

  • Large audiences are difficult to engage over the phone
  • Coordination becomes harder with a large number of people
  • Easier to become “anonymous” and hide in the crowd
  • Big voices can dominate the session

Remote Process / Tools

  • Video Conference Tools
  • Customer Feedback Tools: SurveyMonkey, MailChimp

Preparing for Facilitating Sprint Review & Demo

Reminders ahead of time:

  • Team to update cards on board
  • Team to update comments on work in progress
  • PO to accept Stories in “Ready to Accept”
    • Move to done

Highlight agenda in Sprint Planning calendar invite:

  • Sprint Overview
    • Sprint Goals, points committed, review metrics (capacity/velocity/WIP)
  • Demo completed work

Preparation:

  • Review & share tool/board
  • Update Sprint Planning deck
    • Update Metrics (points committed, point completed, work in progress)

Sprint Review Tips

1. Make it a “test drive” of the product/solution, not just a demo

2. Foster direct collaboration between stakeholders and Team Members

3. Invite the right stakeholders

4. Review the product/solution vision and key value drivers

5. Ask stakeholders to rate the meeting effectiveness

Sprint Retrospective

Cadence

Last meeting of the Sprint

Who

  • Only the Scrum Team (SM and Delivery Team Members, PO as necessary)

Purpose

  • The Team reflects on success, improvements, and changes that will improve how they deliver work

Output

  • Team decides that can be done to improve delivery
  • Improvements are added to the backlog as stories

Do

  • Change up the Retro format regularly to drive experimentation, innovation and participation

Remote Challenges

  • Team members don’t feel invested in the retro
  • Harder to engage team members over the phone
  • Tendency to just go through the motions
  • Easier to be “anonymous” over the phone

Remote Process / Tools

  • Existing client video conferencing tool
  • Video Conference Tools
  • Online Retro tools: Ideaboardz, Retrium, Mural, FunRetro, Miro

Preparing for Facilitating Retrospective

Reminders ahead of time:

  • N/A

Highlight agenda in Sprint Planning calendar invite:

  • Sprint Retrospective
    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What can we do better next time?
      • 1-3 actionable items

Preparation:

  • Create Retrospective in virtual tool (eg: Mural, IdeaBoardz)
  • Share screen

Sprint Review Tips

1. Set the stage

2. Gather data

3. Generate insights

4. Decide what to do

5. Action Items

  • Many improvements require more time to implement, so define clear action items and an owner for each one. Capture these as backlog items for the upcoming sprint for visibility and and accountability for follow-through

6. Close on a positive note

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.