The Agile mindset demands frequent, if not constant, 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 tremendous value to successful Sprints. So, who facilitates Scrum events and when? The following activities and events 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 Scrum Development Team, the SPO should encourage more direct communications among members, rather than isolating or protecting either group.

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

Core Scrum Facilitation Skills

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

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

Scrum Facilitation Events 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 events for each Sprint. They include:

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

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. Occasionally, an outside Scrum Master facilitates the Sprint Retrospective so that the participating Scrum Master may contribute as a participant.

Suggested Scrum Event Durations per Sprint (maximum)

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

Sprint Duration/

Event Type

Four Weeks

Three Weeks

Two Weeks

One Week

Sprint Planning Eight Hours Six Hours Four Hours Two Hours
Sprint Review Four Hours Three Hours Two Hours One Hour
Sprint Retrospective 3.0 Hours 2.25 Hours 1.5 Hours 0.75 Hours

Product Backlog Refinement (typically 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)

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 event 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 our Scrum facilitation agendas and comments about the facilitation skills required to lead them effectively.

Scrum Facilitation and Agenda for Sprint Planning

Overview for Sprint Planning

The entire Scrum Team takes on Sprint Planning to determine WHAT can get done over the next Sprint and HOW they will do it (high-level).  The first two tables below first cover inputs and potential tools and then some brief comments about each step and servant leadership (facilitating).

Timing for Sprint Planning

Strictly time-boxed to eight hours duration for a four-week sprint and sized down according to the length of shorter sprints.

Purpose of Sprint Planning

The purpose is to identify WHAT will get done over the next Sprint and approximation about HOW (high-level tasking) it will be completed.

Primary Inputs for Sprint Planning

Some of the information that should be brought in or visually displayed include:

  • Ordered Product Backlog
  • Sprint Retrospective Action
  • Metrics, especially Velocity
  • Capacity
  • Potentially Shippable Product Increments (PSPI)
  • Draft of Sprint goal from prior Sprint Review

Deliverables of Sprint Planning

The Sprint Goal and the Sprint Backlog. Updated Product Backlog with Kaizen.  Optionally, updated Product Vision and Scope.

Method for Sprint Planning

Sprint Planning Agenda Inputs Required Facilitation Tool Options
Introduction
  • Use the standard MG RUSH seven-activity introduction.
  • See additional comments in the next table that follows
Potential Sprint Goal
  • Release Scope
  • Release Vision prioritized (potentially shippable product increment)
Product Backlog Sizing
  • Prioritized Product Backlog
  • Kaizen highlighted (Sprint Retrospective action items)
Sprint Capacity Planning
  • Prior Sprint metrics on velocity
  • Interrupt buffer (capacity constraints)
Sprint Story Selection
  • Sized Product Backlog (from Sizing above)
  • Capacity (from Capacity above)
  • Potential Sprint Goal (from Goal above)
  • Dependencies
Sprint Backlog Tasking
  • Sprint Backlog (sized and selected above)
  • Kaizen highlighted
  • User story outlines
  • Acceptance criteria
  • INVEST, Gherkin, etc.
  • Story Life-Cycle (Plan > Acquire > Operate > Control)
Final Sprint Goal
  • Sprint Backlog (from Story above)
  • Sprint Goal and Release Vision (from Goal above)
  • Story Definitions of DONE
    (from Story above)
Review and Wrap
  • All output from above
  • Parking Lot
  • Standard MG RUSH four-activity conclusion including:
      • Parking Lot Management
      • Plus/ Delta

 

Comments on Sprint Planning

Sprint Planning Agenda Comments About Scrum Master Servant Leadership
Introduction
  • Use the standard MG RUSH seven-activity introduction.
  • Additionally, during Administrivia, review the existing and ordered Product Backlog
  • Requires verification or alignment with Sprint Goal or Vision, technical road map, and release plan — as available
Potential Sprint Goal
  • Begins with Sprint Goal or Vision if not already covered.
  • Scope covers the next Sprint only
Product Backlog Sizing
  • Frequently considered using prior velocity and Fibonacci scoring scale (i.e., Planning Poker or Affinity Sizing)
  • Must also consider prior Sprint Retrospective action item(s) (Kaizen).
Sprint Capacity Planning
  • Considers capacity constraints due to PTO, etc. 
Sprint Story Selection
  • Demands clarity and consensually agreed upon documentation.
  • Results in updated Sprint Backlog
Sprint Backlog 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
  • May be helpful to consider the RASI tool
Final Sprint Goal
  • Finalized, understood, and supported
  • Align with WHAT will get done to confirm acceptance by Development Team
Review and Wrap
  • Use standard MG RUSH four-activity conclusion
  • Confirm the Sprint Backlog, Open Issues, Stakeholder Communications, and any Meeting Assessment issues

 

Scrum Facilitation and Agenda for Sprint Review

Overview for Sprint Review

The Sprint Review serves to provide an for Sprint Planning

and adaptation check for the Sprint, includes the Scrum Team and Stakeholders.  Because Stakeholders attend, consider a dry-run rehearsal before the formal session begins.

Timing for Sprint Review

Strictly time-boxed to four hours duration for a four-week sprint and sized down according to the. length of shorter sprints.

Purpose of Sprint Review

The purpose is to inspect and adapt the product built over the prior Sprint.

Primary Inputs for Sprint Review

Some of the information that should be brought in or visually displayed include:

  • Potentially Shippable Product Increments (PSPI)
  • Ordered Sprint Product Backlog
  • Metrics such as Velocity and Burn Down chart
  • Sprint Goal

Deliverable of Sprint Review

An updated Product Backlog (and optionally updated Product Scope and Vision).

Method for Sprint Review

Sprint Review Agenda Inputs Required Facilitation Tool Options
Introduction
  • Meeting purpose, scope, deliverables, and simple agenda
  • Ground rules and optional ice breaker if team building
  • Milestones (Significant point in development such as percentage complete, releases, epic, etc.)
  • Icebreaker
  • Use the standard MG RUSH seven-activity introduction.
  • See additional remarks in the “Comments” table below
Vision Reflection
(Results)
  • Product Vision (scope, objectives, deliverables)
  • Prioritized Product Backlog
  • Technical road map
  • Release Plan
  • Potentially shippable product increment — PSPI (just built)
  • Metrics — (commit vs. delivered)
  • Velocity
Story Reflection – DEMONSTRATION
(for EACH Story)
  • Potentially shippable product increment — PSPI (just built)
  • Kaizen highlighted (increment)

“DONE”
(Facts)

  • Completed stories
  • Demonstrable and related artifacts

Acceptance

(Implications)

  • Completed Story
  • Demonstration

Revision
(Recommendations)

  • Revealed Story
  • Completed Demonstration
  • All Stories completed
What’s Next
  • Method to reverse walking up the ladder, back to Product Vision
  • Product Backlog
  • Previous ordering (prioritization)
  • Milestones
  • All Product Vision material
Review and Wrap
  • All output from above
  • Parking Lot
  • Standard MG RUSH four-activity conclusion including:
      • Parking Lot Management
      • Plus/ Delta

 

Comments on Sprint Review

Sprint Review Agenda Comments About Scrum Master Servant Leadership
Introduction
  • Use the standard MG RUSH seven-activity introduction
  • Additionally, during Administrivia, review the existing and ordered Product Backlog
  • Requires verification or alignment with Sprint Goal or Vision, technical road map, and release plan — as available
Vision Reflection
(Results)
  • Typically presented by the Product Owner and facilitated by the Scrum Master.
  • Review from top to bottom the project vision, technical road map, release plan and then summarize the Sprint Goal/ Vision and the Potentially Shippable Product Increments.
Story Reflection – DEMONSTRATION
(for EACH Story)
  • Optimally, the Development Team demonstrates (eg, works the mouse and the screens) the PSPI (Potentially Shippable Product Increments) and the Product Owner provides a voice over.
  • The Scrum Master facilitates discussion about the demonstration among Stakeholders and the Scrum Team.

Acceptance
or Revisions

  • Clearly document acceptance and capture refinements. 
  • Clear documentation of the rationale to support anything rejected.
  • Potentially update the Product Backlog to general satisfaction, including voice of the Product Owner and Development Team (especially their reasons).
What’s Next
(Preview of Next Sprint)
  • Here the Product Owner 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.
  • The Scrum Master facilitates discussion about the demonstration among Stakeholders and the Scrum Team.
  • Results in updated Sprint Backlog for the Development Team to consider in during its next Sprint Planning session.
Review and Wrap
  • Use standard MG RUSH four-activity conclusion
  • Confirm the Sprint Product Backlog, Open Issues, Stakeholder Communications, and any Meeting Assessment issues

 

Product Owner Tools

Some of the tools that a Product Owner might consider include:

Scrum Facilitation and Agenda for Sprint Retrospective

Overview of Sprint Retrospective

Here the Scrum Team inspects and adapts to impediments.

Arguably the most important meeting of all, intended to ensure continuous improvement, experts recommend three hours of preparation for a ninety-minute Sprint Retrospective.

Planning Sprint Retrospective activities helps the team get better
while preventing boredom.  Thoroughly prepared activities lead to strong results.

Timing of Sprint Retrospective

Strictly time-boxed to three hours duration for a four-week sprint and sized down according to the. length of shorter sprints.

Purpose for Sprint Retrospective

The purpose is to inspect and adapt the team based on its efforts and results over the prior Sprint.

Primary Inputs for Sprint Retrospective

Some of the information that should be brought in or visually displayed include:

  • Last Sprint Retrospective Action
  • Metrics
  • Definition of DONE
  • Process standards and practices
  • Impediments

Deliverable of Sprint Retrospective

An improvement plan with an identified focus on one thing to do better over the next Sprint (Kaizen).

Method for Sprint Retrospective

Sprint Retrospective Agenda Inputs Required Facilitation Tool Options
Introduction
  • Meeting purpose, scope, deliverables, and simple agenda
  • Ground rules and optional ice breaker if team building
  • Product Scope and Vision
  • Results from Sprint Review
  • Use the standard MG RUSH seven-activity introduction.
  • See additional comments below
Facts (Learnings)

aka “WHAT”

  • Sprint Backlog
  • Sprint Review meeting notes (results)
  • Impediment List (especially the last selected Sprint Retrospective impediment)
  • Product Backlog
  • Burn Down chart and metrics
  • Other standards, practices, etc.
Insight

 

aka “SO WHAT”

  • Facts (impediments) from above
  • Kaizen highlighted (prior Sprint Retrospectives)
  • Sprint Goal
Kaizen (Improvements)


aka “NOW WHAT”

  • Insights from above
  • Product Backlog
Review and Wrap
  • All output from above
  • Parking Lot
  • Standard MG RUSH four-activity conclusion including:
      • Parking Lot Management
      • Plus/ Delta

Comments on Sprint Retrospective

Sprint Retrospective Agenda Comments About Scrum Master Servant Leadership
Introduction
Facts (Observations)

aka “WHAT”

  • Strive to prevent boredom with varying and creative means to capture WHAT impediments were observed.
  • Might require an outside Scrum Master if the Sprint Team’s Scrum Master needs to make substantive content contributions or participate in content discussions.
Insight


aka “SO WHAT”

  • Provide detailed questions, that speak to specific tools, communication challenges, office furniture, or any other impediments.
  • Inspect the impediments for their implications and reasons to care or severity.
Kaizen (Improvements)


aka “NOW WHAT”

  • Help the team embrace some adaptive ideas based on the implications above.
  • Isolate and focus on “one thing to do better” over the next Sprint.
Review and Wrap
  • Use the standard MG RUSH four-activity conclusion.
  • Confirm the Sprint Product Backlog, Open Issues, Stakeholder Communications, and any Meeting Assessment Issues.

 

Additionally

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.

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

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 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 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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