Scrum Master Essentials – First Arrow In The Quiver – Facilitation Skills

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Jan 30, 2017

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10 mins

The driving force for penning my first blog is the steadfast increase in number of Scrum Masters in the software industry. In my observation, the solution to most problems is not conflict or confrontation. But it is consideration and communication.

Facilitation is communication, consideration, assistance, being a catalyst, encouragement, mediation and helping the team arrive at an agreement/conclusion. The most essential quality looked for in a Scrum master are his facilitation skills – the first arrow in the quiver. A facilitator, who engages in the activity of facilitation helps a group of people understand their common objectives and assists them in achieving those objectives.

Facilitation is bringing a group of adults together through learning and self-discovery. It can be done in many ways. But in my experience as a Scrum Master, I find the below set of steps applicable to any style of facilitation:

  1. Do your homework.
  2. Have a clear agenda and reiterate the agenda at the beginning of the meeting.
  3. Stimulate discussion by asking questions.
  4. Listen carefully and don’t get biased by one person’s opinions
  5. Capture the ideas and thoughts from the meeting.
  6. Summarize by reiterating the outcomes.
  7. Respect the time-box.

These steps are not hard and fast rules. Recognize that while they are applicable most of the time, there may be special circumstances in which some don’t apply.

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A good facilitator is one who has an unbiased perspective. An unbiased leader creates a neutral zone where alternative points of view can be shared and debated in a respectful manner. Sensing how people are feeling and understanding how to respond to a situation is a critical skill of facilitation. Building trust and respect requires an environment where people are responding to both: the topic under discussion and the opinions of others. Perceiving and responding to the group’s dynamics is an essential factor for effective facilitation. Active listening is the key which helps us understand the group dynamics better; focus on responding to a situation rather than reacting. Appreciate the time-box and stick to it.

“Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. “ – Lou Holtz.

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