The Agile mindset demands frequent interaction among its project stakeholders. Perhaps more so with Scrum, than other frameworks. From Daily Scrum meetings to Sprint Retrospective meetings held every one to four weeks, having a formal facilitator or being a facilitative participant adds tremendously to successful Sprints. So, more importantly, who facilitates Scrum facilitation and when? The following activities and ceremonies highlight Agile’s Scrum dependence on facilitation.

Scrum Facilitation Moments

Unlike waterfall mindsets, Scrum Development Teams stick together—theoretically forever. As they move from project to project, each containing multiple Sprints, new stakeholders appear. While the Scrum Product Owner (SPO) remains largely responsible for the relationship between the stakeholders and the developers, the SPO should encourage more direct communications among members, rather than isolating or protecting either group.

Interviewing and asking questions drives the prioritization of project features, so the Scrum Product Owner remains vigilant about developing optimal questions, sequencing them, and listening for responses. Some of the input contained within a Product Backlog derives from interviews, rather than formal Scrum facilitation meetings or ceremonies.

Core Scrum Facilitation Skills

Facilitative skills serve the Scrum Product Owner quite well. Among them consider the core skills that include:

Likewise, the Scrum team (includes the Scrum Product Owner, Scrum Master®, and Development Team), operates more effectively when embracing core Scrum facilitation skills. Arguably, we all remain more effective embracing a facilitative approach, even in our private lives.

Scrum Facilitation Ceremonies and Activities

Scrum Facilitation

Scrum Facilitation

In addition to frequent one-on-one sessions, Daily Scrums, and ongoing Development Work, the Scrum framework requires three, formal Scrum facilitation ceremonies (events) for each Sprint. They include:

  1. Sprint Planning
  2. Development Work (frequently referred to as Product Backlog Refinement and technically an activity, not an event—could be more than one session)
  3. Sprint Review
  4. Retrospective

As coach and generally serving as a neutral party, the Scrum Master remains best suited for facilitating the first three sessions, but only if needed for the Development Work. Optimally, an outside Scrum Master facilitates the Retrospective so that the participating Scrum Master may contribute as a participant.

 Suggested Scrum Facilitation Durations per Sprint (maximum)

With a four-week Sprint, the table below shows the maximum allocated time for each Scrum facilitation ceremony or activity:

Sprint Duration/

Meeting Type

Four Weeks Three Weeks Two Weeks One Week
Sprint Planning Eight Hours Six Hours Four Hours Two Hours
Product Backlog Refinement (could be more
than one session)
Ten percent of the Sprint duration. (e.g., 4wk Sprint = 16hr Refinement) Ten percent of the Sprint duration. (e.g., 3wk Sprint = 12hr Refinement) Ten percent of the Sprint duration. (e.g., 2wk Sprint = 8hr Refinement) Ten percent of the Sprint duration. (e.g., 1wk Sprint = 4hr Refinement)
Sprint Review Four Hours Three Hours Two Hours One Hour
Retrospective 3.0 Hours 2.25 Hours 1.5 Hours 0.75 Hours

One can quickly see that a Scrum Master should project up to eight hours of Scrum facilitation per week.  Allowing a standard ratio of 2:1 for thorough preparation, a Scrum Master could be directly involved in Scrum facilitation sixty percent of their time.

While many Scrum Certification programs explain the ceremony details, few provide extra training on the facilitation skills required. While many, if not most, of our blogs provide insight on the servant skills of facilitators, our face-to-face training yields greater insight. Next, you will find some potential Scrum facilitation agendas and comments about the facilitation skills required to lead them effectively.

Scrum Facilitation Agenda for Sprint Planning

The team embraces Sprint Planning to determine WHAT can get done over the next Sprint and HOW they will do it (high-level).

Sprint Planning Agenda

Comments About Scrum Master’s
Servant Leadership

Introduction Therefore use the standard MG RUSH seven-activity introduction. Additionally, during Administrivia, review the existing and ordered[1] Product Backlog. Requires verification or alignment with Sprint goal or vision, technical roadmap, and release plan – as available.
WHAT Can Get Done Begins with Sprint goal or vision if not already covered. Scope covers the next Sprint only.  Frequently considered using prior velocity and Fibonacci scoring scale (i.e., Planning Poker or Affinity Sizing). Considers capacity constraints due to PTO[2], etc. Must also consider prior Retrospective action items.
HOW It Will Get Done (Tasking) Ensures optimal level of resolution for discussions, knowing that much of the technical design occurs after the Sprint Planning session. No task can exceed one-day or eight hours labor effort.
Updated Product Backlog Demands clarity and consensually agreed upon documentation.
Assignments
(Commitments)
Frequently helpful to consider the MG RUSH RASI tool approach.
Sprint Goal Finalized, understood, and supported. Could be aligned with WHAT will get done to confirm importance.
Review and Wrap Standard MG RUSH four-activity conclusion. Confirm the Sprint Product Backlog, Open Issues, Stakeholder Communications, and any Assessment Issues.

 Scrum Facilitation Agenda for Product Backlog Refinement(s)

Refinement occurs as necessary and helps fortify product increments expected during the next Sprint.

Sprint Product Backlog Refinement Agenda

Comments About Scrum Master’s
Servant Leadership

Introduction Therefore, use the standard MG RUSH seven-activity introduction. Optionally, during Administrivia, review the existing and ordered Product Backlog. Requires verification or alignment with Sprint goal or vision.
Estimations Account for relative scoring or other estimation techniques for Product Backlog Issue complexity, time (ie, effort or ergs), and newness (ie, risk).
Existing Product Backlog Typically focuses on PSPI or the Potentially Shippable Product Increments. Optimally allows for Product Owner input, explanation, and rationale.
Updated Product Backlog Consensually agreed upon, both scale and sequence (ordering) of the Features. Confirms understanding around “DONE” and the method or terms of Acceptance Criteria.
Burn-up Chart Method for quickly testing direction for validity and sanity.
Review and Wrap Standard MG RUSH four-activity conclusion. Confirm the Sprint Product Backlog, Open Issues, Stakeholder Communications, and any Assessment Issues

 Scrum Facilitation Agenda for Sprint Review

The Sprint Review serves to provide an inspection and adaptation checkpoint for the Sprint. Because Stakeholders attend, consider practicing a dry-run before the formal session begins.

Sprint Review Agenda

Comments About Scrum Master’s
Servant Leadership

Introduction Therefore, use the standard MG RUSH seven-activity introduction. Defer any substantive content comments until next step.
Vision Typically presented by the Product Owner and facilitated by the Scrum Master. Review from top to bottom the project vision, technical roadmap, release plan and then summarize the Sprint Goal/ Vision and the Potentially Shippable Product Increments.
Demonstrations Optimally, the Development Team demonstrates the PSPI and the Product Owner provides a voice over while the Scrum Master facilitates discussion among Stakeholders and Scrum Team.
Stakeholder Feedback Clearly document acceptance and capture refinements. Be prepared to update the Product Backlog.
Preview of Next Sprint Here the Product Owner or the Scrum Master completes a review from the bottom to the top, a reverse walk up the ladder from the PSPI and current Velocity through Sprint Goal, Release Plan, Road Map, and Vision.
Review and Wrap Standard MG RUSH four-activity conclusion. Confirm the Sprint Product Backlog, Open Issues, Stakeholder Communications, and any Assessment Issues.

 Scrum Facilitation Agenda for Retrospective

Here the team inspects and adapts to impediments. Arguably the most important meeting of all intended to ensure continuous improvement. Planning Retrospective Activities helps the team get better while preventing boredom. Thorough preparation leads to strong results.

Each step involves potentially multiple team activities and tools such as:

  1. Post-it Note® Affinity Diagram
  2. Participant Prioritization (using various tools over the life-cycle of the project)
  3. Five Why’s or quick RCA (Root Cause Analysis)
  4. Action Conversion
  5. Remember the Future, etc.

Sprint Product Retrospective

Comments About Scrum Master’s
Servant Leadership

Introduction
(Set the Stage)
Therefore, use the standard MG RUSH seven-activity introduction.
Learnings
(WHAT)
Develop a shared understanding of WHAT transpired during the last Sprint. Ensure that all perspectives are heard. Potentially categorize issues that share common purpose. Be prepared to prioritize issues as well.
Insights
(SO WHAT)
For each WHAT identified above, as WHY and develop understanding around the implications. For each WHAT there could be more than one WHY. The WHYs are the causes while the WHATs are the symptoms. Actions covered in the next step must address the causes, not simply the symptoms.
Actions
(NOW WHAT)
For each WHY, develop actions that may be taken. There could be more than one. The team may be forced to select one, two, or a few so be prepared to have criteria that enables prioritization. The actions can also be taken into the next Sprint as Backlog Items.
Review and Wrap
(Close)
Standard MG RUSH four-activity conclusion. Confirm the Sprint Product Backlog, Open Issues (Parking Lot), Stakeholder Communications, and any meeting Assessment Issues.

 

Scrum Facilitation in Conclusion

Finally, please remember that the Voting Method of prioritization does not generate higher quality decisions, only a bigger number. Consider some the optional tools offered by MG RUSH as solid alternatives for both prioritizing and conducting many of the activities found during your Scrum Sprints.

[1] The Scrum Guide was modified in 2011. The Product Backlog became “ordered,” instead of “prioritized,” providing flexibility to the Product Owner to optimize value in his or her unique circumstances.

[2] PTO reflects Paid Time Off or other planned or surprise reasons for absences.


In conclusion, 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.

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

Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, 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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2 Comments

  1. Great article! I love the idea of using what, so what, now what for retrospectives. Often teams use this event for complaining without any analysis of the actual issues. This tool will help take some of the drama out.

    • Thanks for taking your valuable time to provide a comment Denise.

      Groups cannot focus on more than one thing at a time and yet each of the symptoms, causes, and cures implies a potential “one to many” arrangement. Some structure goes a long way to normalize those challenges.

      As consultants we used polysyllabic terms in the past; namely Evidence (symptom) yielding to Implications (causes) leading to Recommendations (cures or actions). We’ve learned that the grandparent friendly terms of WHAT > SO WHAT > NOW WHAT effectively explain the structure and make it easier for groups to follow and stay focused.

      More importantly, the facilitator can measure what is ‘Done’ and more importantly, what is NOT ‘Done’. And you know Denise, once you can measure it, you can manage it.

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