Agile’s Scrum Master facilitator techniques ensure that business communities get quick and responsive results. Constant feedback helps teams prioritize and make adjustments. A Scrum Masters facilitates against impediments and for product owners’ requirements to support development team efforts. Scrum Master experience and discipline prove that every structured meeting should embrace ‘agile’ practices.

Professional facilitation lends essential skills to the Scrum Master role because an agile environment demands frequent meetings. Much of what Scrum Masters have learned applies to your meetings as well.  Basic Scrum Master facilitator techniques include:

Scrum master facilitator

Leveraging Agile Scrum Master Facilitator Techniques

  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Bringing people together who should listen to each other but don’t
  • Consensus building where everyone wins, NOT voting where there are winners and losers
  • Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed, including preparing and post-processing results
  • Helping the Development Team to continually improve their methods
  • Mediating conflicts that arise during product development
  • Providing visuals (eg., agendas and other information radiators) that provide focus and enable measurement of progress
  • Providing a variety of activities to stimulate breakthrough, employee engagement, and product innovation 
  • Removing impediments to the Scrum Team’s progress
  • Structured collaborative tools—too many to list here but many of them also used in waterfall and traditional phase gate approaches 
  • Timeboxing and constantly pushing the Pareto Principle to get the most out of the least

Clear benefits derive from an agile approach supporting Scrum Master facilitator techniques including:

  • Documented and shared knowledge about product and process decisions
  • Early identification of high-benefit opportunities
  • Encouraging flexibility and adjustments around unexpected developments (that always develop in projects)
  • Frequent re-assessment to identify appropriate acceleration or course corrections
  • In-depth exploration of more evidence and factors than normally considered by unstructured, intuitive methods

A Scrum Master Facilitator Generates Focus

Keeping participants conscious to “be here now” burns a lot of fuel. Additionally, keeping multiple concepts in mind, at the same time, is virtually impossible. Highly intelligent individuals can rarely think about more than four concepts at once, and thinking about only two at once is optimal, therefore . . . Focus. The hardest part of any session is getting a group of people to focus on the same thing at the same time with the common meaning and intent. Be sure to keep the energy flowing and take a break(s) if necessary.

  1. Conduct frequent breakout sessions to keep the energy flowing.
  2. Consider ergonomic stretches and breathing exercises to keep participants vibrant.
  3. If necessary, use timeboxing rather than burning out participants. A subsequent meeting can pick up where you leave off, with fresh energy.
  4. Schedule the most important stuff the early in your meeting and, when possible, schedule the meeting for the first part of the day.
  5. We believe that two ten-minute breaks are superior to the traditional fifteen to twenty-minute breaks traditionally offered. We do project counting timers, however, and do not allow breaks to become eleven-minute (or longer). Do NOT penalize people who are on time by waiting for people who are not.

Demand Evidence (Think Deeply)

Challenge the intuitive, short-term thinking for support that takes a long-term view and deeper insight into implications and consequences. What are the deeper associations? Because the cost of omissions, that is ‘missing stuff’, is exorbitantly high (especially with information technologies). We need to more fully value and appreciate some of the longer exercises that may be required to bring discussions to a higher level.  By challenging and demanding evidence, the facilitator removes the myopic view from participants and forces them to be integrative with their thinking. But understand, causal diagrams take longer than ideation sessions.

Get Graphic

Visual imagery also stimulates making it easier to analyze. Images (ie, iconic) and sketches (ie, illustrative) are more efficient for capturing complex relationships than narrative (ie, written) terms. If you work in a multi-national organization, graphical displays mitigate some of the challenges associated with translations and transliterations. Mapping stimulates—the power of patterns remains unchallenged and continues to be supported by most scientific research across a broad spectrum of disciplines. Mapping, such as logical models and process flow diagrams, make it easier to identify omissions and more fully explain the complex relationships that exist among the components being discussed.

Write That Down

In addition to providing visual stimulation, if it is not written down it will be forgotten. In other words, if it is not written down, it did not happen. Do not waste everyone’s time, please write it down. It is easier to delete later than to recall what was said, “back then.”

Zen of the Experience (use all the senses):

When physical/ spatial, visual, and sound (and optimally even taste and smell) harmonize, we create more vivid associations that improve our memory recall. Who cannot recall the smell, standing at the seashore, of an “ocean breeze”.  To amplify your meeting’s ‘Zen’, use analogies. Educators have known for centuries that learning is amplified when explained via analogy or metaphor. For nearly thirty years now, we have been promoting the use of analogy or metaphor as a way to explain the agenda and how the pieces fit together.

Combining the Scrum Master facilitator practices make it easier for your participants to act on knowledge accessed and developed during your meetings and workshops. For additional activities to support your sessions, search for some of the many tools we provide that support collaborative sorting, experience prototyping, idea generation, and other simulations that build consensus and higher quality deliverables, FAST.

Experience and evidence for the preceding derives partially from Cara Turner, who discusses proof about the relationship of agile methods and neuroscience at her blog site, facilitatingagility.com. Cara, along with numerous authors and scientists she cites in support, refer to key practices proven to improve both decision quality and project quality.

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Finally, MG RUSH professional facilitation curriculum focuses on providing methodology. Each student thoroughly practices methodology and tools before class concludes. Some call this immersion. We call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Become Part of the Solution While You Improve Your Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology Skills

Take a class or forward this to someone who should. MG RUSH Professional Facilitation Training provides an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, 40 CDUs from IIBA, and 3.2 CEUs. As a member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), our Professional Facilitation Training aligns with IAF Certification Principles and fully prepares alumni for their Certified Professional Facilitator designation.

Furthermore, our Professional Facilitation curriculum immerses students in the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. Because nobody is smarter than everybody, attend an MG RUSH Professional Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology workshop offered around the world, see MG RUSH for a current schedule.

Go to the Facilitation Training Store to access our in-house resources. You will discover numerous annotated agendas, break timers, and templates. Finally, take a few seconds to buy us a cup of coffee and please SHARE.

In conclusion, we dare you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Monthly Facilitation blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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