Facilitator is a stance that a scrum master takes as a service to their team, so that the scrum team can work more effectively, collaborate and achieve synergy. With a facilitator hat on, the scrum master acts as a neutral party who doesn’t take sides or advocate their own agenda.
Teams often have diverse knowledge, skills and experience that lead to many useful ideas, but not all ideas will be expressed and evaluated naturally. During a facilitated session the scrum master is driving towards fair, open, inclusive discussions, and decision making; ensuring there is space for all options to be shared and considered.
A facilitated session isn’t just a framework for solving a problem or achieving an outcome but also an opportunity to strengthen the scrum team’s ability to collaborate and work together.
Some general principles of good facilitation:
- Everyone participates
- Give people time to reflect
- Respect each other’s opinions
- Draw each other out by asking questions and paraphrasing
- Everyone is present and paying attention
- Create space for diverse opinions
- An agreement should represent a broad coalition of perspectives
A good sprint planning session starts by setting the agenda ahead of time and all prework has been completed, such as the product owner being prepared with their priorities for the next sprint (and product backlog items that have been refined and are considered ready).
Points that the scrum team need to form consensus on in sprint planning:
- How much work can be done in the sprint
- Which backlog items to select
- The sprint goal
- The detailed plan of how the sprint goal will be achieved
The scrum master helps the team evolve an effective agenda over time, cutting out low-value activities and enhancing the event where needed. On the day, the scrum master helps the team to stay focused on what they need to cover and reminds them when they are going off-topic.
The daily scrum is usually facilitated by the development team themselves unless they invite the scrum master to assist. The level of support is often a function of the maturity of the team: a brand-new team will require active facilitation whereas an experienced team may not even require the scrum master to be present.
Points that the development team need to form consensus on in the daily scrum:
- How is the team progressing towards the sprint goal
- What is the plan for the next 24 hours
- What help is required
Getting the most out of a sprint review will require stakeholders to attend. Sending an agenda ahead of time with participation information is helpful. This might include describing the sprint goal and listing the selected product backlog items. Ahead of time it might be useful for the scrum master to work with the development team to help them rehearse any demonstrations.
During the review the scrum master will facilitate the process of gathering feedback from the attendees.
Points that the scrum team and stakeholders need to form consensus on in the sprint review:
- What feedback should we note from the latest increment?
- What external factors have changed in the marketplace?
- What changes should be made to the product backlog?
One of the responsibilities of a scrum master is to act as a mirror and to reveal to the scrum team any challenges that they may or may not be aware of. The scrum master should design a retrospective format to help the scrum team understand how they are currently performing and then come to a consensus on what action to take. Sometimes the scrum master will design retrospectives around a specific topic or theme in response to a situation the team has faced. Otherwise the scrum master may keep the format open and allow the team to focus in on an issue that they discover during the event.
During the sprint retrospective the scrum master may act as contributor as well as facilitator.
Points that the scrum team need to form consensus on in the sprint retrospective:
- What changes should be made to:
- the definition of done
- how the team collaborates