The Scrum Master as the Facilitator

by Andrea Roux
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Think about the best Scrum event you have been to. Why was it good? Why was it productive? Was the conversations, environment and overall climate well controlled? 

The role of a Scrum Master is one of many stances. A great Scrum Master is aware of these stances and knows when and how to apply them depending on situation and context. This for the purpose of helping the Scrum team understand and apply the Scrum framework better. One of the stances is the facilitator. The Scrum Master serves as a facilitator for both the Product Owner and the Development Team. In some cases even for the organisation in bigger workshops required by the Scrum team.

What is Facilitation?  

Facilitation is helping a group of people to achieve what they want to achieve. It includes all those skills which are required to make sure the event, meeting or workshop can be completed successfully. It’s ensuring to keep the conversation moving without adding your own view. You listen and not speak. Talk less and smile more.

So how is a facilitator different from chairing a meeting?

  • A facilitator is the guide that helps the people move through a process together
  • They do not have an opinion or interest in the outcome
  • They group the correct people together to draw opinions or topics and ensure to achieve the outcome.
  • A facilitator focuses on how the people work together and not what the people are discussing
  • They are neutral and never takes sides
  • They focus on how the meeting is structured and what needs to be achieved
  • As facilitator it is important that you ensure everyone participates during the session


There are 3 factors that contribute to a successful facilitation session. They are:

1.     Process

What is the process to follow for the session? What will be the best structure to use to ensure the people stick to the agenda, move forward and achieve their goal. Watch out to procrastinate on a topic.

What is the purpose of the session? Make it clear and known during the session. Prepare and plan for a structure that allows all people to participate equally.

Timekeeping is a big part of facilitation. Ensure the group stick to the topic, and carefully timebox each discussion as set out.

Lastly, prepare the logistics. Do you have the correct people in the room? Is the room to big or small? Is the room layout a fit for the session? Do you have enough stickies and sharpies for the session?

2.     Relationships

Once the session starts everyone should be comfortable to take part. The environment should be good, not be too noisy or too hot or cold. It’s always a good idea to ensure there is water to drink.

Ensure too involved everyone in the discussions. You need to get all the voices heard, especially the introverts sitting in the corner.

You don’t want to lose people’s attention. Manage the energy and take breaks when needed.

Control the climate constantly. Control any conflict. Constantly keep in mind the different types of personalities in the room. What works is using a safe word for when the discussions get heated and a timeout is required.

Constantly manage the trust and patience in the room.

3.     Results

As facilitator understands the goal of the meeting. What is the desired outcome of the session? Make sure decisions are supported by all to achieve the goal.

Seek for commitment and bring closure to each discussed item.

Ensure there are clear actions and that they have a plan. Split up actions into small pieces if they are too big. Use dot voting on these actions to know which to tackle first.

 

As the Scrum Master you facilitate each Scrum event, and therefore need to master this skill. Mastering these facilitation skills required time, practice and continuous introspection and improvement. But taking this into account, it is definitely worth the effort!