Meeting Facilitation: An Underestimated Scrum Masters’ Task

Practices to Get More Out of Your Meetings

If you look at role descriptions for Scrum Masters, you will always find the task “meeting facilitation”.
The Scrum Guide states: “The Scrum Master serves the Scrum Team in several ways, including: […] Ensuring that all Scrum events take place and are positive, productive, and kept within the timebox.”
And also: “The Scrum Master serves the Product Owner in several ways, including: […] Facilitating stakeholder collaboration as requested or needed.”

But what does it mean? What should you as a Scrum Master do before and during a meeting to fulfill these requirements?
Everyone seems to have their own answers to these questions. For example, I have often heard: “As a Scrum Master, you have to take the meeting minutes!” “You have to set up and send out the meeting request!”
Is that really the case? First and foremost, you must have a clear idea of your role and your purpose. This is the basis to support the Scrum Team in the best possible way.

About which meetings are we talking?

As mentioned in the Scrum Guide, it is about the Scrum Events, i.e., Daily Scrum, Planning, Review, and Retrospective. But also meetings concerning the collaboration with stakeholders. However, with the Scrum Events, it cannot be read out that the Scrum Master has to be the facilitator. He/she “only” has to make sure that the meetings take place, are positive, productive, and that the time is kept. For example, after a coaching phase, the Daily Scrum can do very well without the Scrum Masters’ facilitation.

Meeting Facilitation

You, as a Scrum Master, offer meeting facilitation as a service. It is your responsibility to create a useful framework and encouraging the participants’ discussion.

To achieve this, the Scrum Master does the following:

  • Select and offer a format (method) that fits the desired outcomes.
  • Ensure that the goal and deliverables are clear to all participants.
  • Opening / closing the meeting
  • Short check-in/check-out activity at the beginning and end to ensure positive energy.
  • Ensure there is a parking lot (e.g., flip chart) for open questions and topics to be put on hold and that the attendees use it.
  • Support the discussions and use methods to ensure everyone is heard.
  • Be attentive and, if necessary, adjust the format as the meeting progresses to achieve the goal and deliverables.
  • Timeboxing.

Before the meeting and during the meeting

Before the meeting, clarify the goal, desired outcomes/deliverables, time frame, participants. Ensure that the meeting is necessary. Can the results be achieved in another way?
Also, clarify who will do the inviting.

If the meeting owner isn’t able to state the goal of the meeting, coach accordingly. The purpose should be SMART: Specific, measurable, attractive, realistic, and timed.

Deliverables/outcomes can be the following:

  • Something is learned (e.g., writing user stories in an appropriate workshop),
  • Something is developed (e.g., Definition of Done, Sprint Backlog).
  • Something is committed to (e.g., sprint goal, adoption of action, values).

Once the above points are clear, you can think about a format that best serves the purpose. Choose different practices to use (e.g., brainstorming with sticky notes, prioritization, working in pairs, etc.).

Start the meeting with a warm welcome and a short check-in activity. That will keep everyone focused and the mood positive. Then explain goals, process, deliverables. Clarify if meeting minutes are necessary and who will take them.
During the meeting, do the timeboxing, support the discussion flow, and ensure that the attendees record their results and ideas.

In the end, briefly summarize the meeting:

  • Was the goal achieved?
  • What are the outcomes?
  • What are the next steps?

End the meeting with a check-out activity to close it with positive energy.

For check-in / check-out activities, I can recommend the Retromat. The Retromat is a helpful repository for retrospectives, but the methods are also useful for other meetings. You can find check-in activities in the “Setting the Stage” and check-out activities in the “Close the Retrospective” area.

If you follow these points, your meeting facilitation will be a success.

I write on Self Improvement 🌱, Productivity 🎯, and Agile Product Development 🏄. My goal is to provide Inspiration.💡

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