Facilitation is the art of being a neutral third party having no substantive decision-making authority and helping a group increase its effectiveness and decision-making process. In the game of Scrum, Facilitation is explicitly required in the events of Sprint Planning, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective, but you can use it for all 5 scrum events including Product Backlog and Product Refinement.
Diagram from Gamestorming book
Set the Stage and Collect Ideas
Close With a Few Decisions
- Visible Area
a. Visible agenda
b. Ground rules
c. Actions, Decisions and & Impediments board
d. Parking lot
- Material for writing and participating for all attendees
- Handouts or visual aids that may be required
- Set a time box
Virtual Meeting Preparation
- Use Great Equipment – Invest in some good quality equipment like good headset, microphone, good camera etc.
- Plan to arrive early and test run your Equipment.
- Icebreaker Question. – Study shows if people spoke once they will likely feel comfortable speaking again, so try to give them time to get to know each other. Also make sure everyone gets a chance to speak.
- Define Rules/ Etiquette
- Use Elmo (“Enough! Let’s Move On”).
- Use backchannel – You can easily manage any technical challenges using backup channels for resolving communication gaps without interrupting the speaker. for example, with zoom chat functionality you could also use slack as a backup.
- Time Boxed
- Use Parking lots – Any off-topic questions can easily be discussed if they can be placed in virtual parking lot. Now days you have unlimited free access tools that can give your user platform to type in the questions.
- keep presentation to minimum. Study shows that on average adults can hold their focus on one specific thing without struggling for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Before the meeting starts, it’s good to have everyone on the same page in terms of what behaviors are encouraged and those that are potential obstacles to a valuable meeting. It’s best to come to the meeting with “suggested” ground rules and ask the team if they are willing to “opt-in” to those rules. Also ask if there are any rules they would like to add. Some suggested ground rules are:
- No use of electronic devices (unless presenting or taking notes)
- No interrupting
- No side conversations
- Be respectful and courteous
- Start and end meetings on time
List of Techniques
1. Dot Voting
A technique that allows participants to vote their preferences among a set of items by placing a colored dot on items that they believe are higher priority than other items. Items with more dots are higher priority than items with fewer dots. This technique is frequently used during the Sprint Retrospective activity. We also have a blog written by Kriti On this majority-based group decision technique, Dot Voting – Democratic Facilitation Tool – by Kriti Jaising
2. Fist of five voting
A consensus-based group decision technique Fist of five voting is best used when a group needs to choose one option and also gauge a degree of consensus
- 0 fingers (a fist): No way, terrible choice, I will not go along with it. A way to block consensus.
- 1 finger: I have serious reservations with this idea, but I vote to move forward, but I’d prefer to resolve the concerns before supporting it.
- 2 fingers: I have some concerns, but I’ll go along and try it.
- 3 fingers: I will support the idea.
- 4 fingers: I like this idea, sounds good.
- 5 fingers: Absolutely, best idea ever! I’ll champion it.
3. Roman voting
A consensus-based group decision technique Roman voting is best used when a group needs to choose one option. This voting is effectively used in our training classes to quickly arrive at consensus. It is easy fast, and it is fun.
Here is what I call a “simple” Roman Voting technique.
- Everyone votes at the same time. Thumbs up signifies a “yes” (or agreement) while thumbs down signifies a “no” (or disagreement).
- Count the number of thumbs up and thumbs down. Depending on the decision-making rule (consensus or majority rules), the proposal either passes or fails.
The SailBoat exercise helps teams define a vision of where they want to go. SailBoat is especially great tool to help teams identify risks during their path and allows them to identify what slows them down and what helps them to achieve their objectives.
During our class Retrospective activity, we approximately give students 10 minutes to write post-it on Miro where we have picture of a sailboat. The anchor on the SailBoat is everything that is slowing them down on their journey. The clouds and the wind represent everything that is helping them to reach their goal. In the end we spend time discussing and continue to practice what was written in the clouds and working together to choose the most important issue that is slowing the team down. At this point if we do not find agreement, we can always use dot-voting to tackle most important topics/issues for the class.
References and Recommendations:
The Skilled Facilitator – Roger Schwarz
Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps: Simplifying the jargon
The internet and social media are full of Agile, Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps jargon, including incorrect and misunderstood concepts. This could be problematic for a learner seeking knowledge. Without a course with Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org, or DevOps Institute, this knowledge is difficult to achieve.