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The role of a Scrum Master is one of many stances and diversity. A great Scrum Master is aware of them and knows when and how to apply them, depending on situation and context. Everything with the purpose of helping people understand and apply the Scrum framework better.
“Someone who helps a group of people understand their common objectives and assists them to plan how to achieve these objectives; in doing so, the facilitator remains ‘neutral’ meaning he/she doesn’t take a particular position in the discussion.“
Key elements of this definition (and other available definitions) are:
Quite often, when we ask people to describe the Scrum Master as a facilitator, the only answer we get is that the Scrum Master facilitates the Scrum events. Sure, the Scrum Master is responsible for the Scrum process and should support the team in optimising their process.
The Scrum events are an important part of the Scrum process, and although the Scrum Master isn’t obligated to attend all the Scrum events personally, he should ensure:
The biggest misunderstanding is that facilitating the Scrum events is the only thing a Scrum Master should do as a facilitator. A great Scrum Master however understands that facilitation can be far more powerful…
As described in the definition of a facilitator, this is someone who helps a group of people understand and achieve their objectives by promoting collaboration, optimising the process and creating synergy within the team. Given this context, facilitation encompasses far more than only hosting the Scrum events.
In his book ‘Scrum Mastery’ Geoff Watts describes facilitation as the underpinning skill and behaviour of the Scrum Master. “At all times Scrum Masters are of service to the goals of the team, the product owner and the organisation. And, if those goals conflict, they think of the long-term implications and the messages any compromise will send.”
A Scrum Master should:
Lyssa Adkins offers a good description in her book ‘Coaching Agile Teams’:
“A Scrum Master should facilitate by creating a “container” for the team to fill up with their ideas and innovations. The container, often a set of agenda questions or some other lightweight (and flexible) structure, gives the team just enough of a frame to stay on their purpose and promotes and environment for richer interaction, a place where fantastic ideas can be heard. The coach creates the container; the team creates the content.”
So a Scrum Master should facilitate by setting the stage and providing clear boundaries in which the team can collaborate to discuss their ideas.
Other characteristics of a great facilitator are:
Every Scrum event has a specific purpose that answers the question “Why do we do this meeting, anyway?” A great facilitator should ensure the goal of every event is clear, a lightweight structure is offered and the team achieves the purpose of the event. The earlier described goals of the Scrum events are still relevant, but via great facilitation the Scrum Master succeeds in getting more value out of every event.
Characteristics of well-facilitated Scrum events are:
Summarised, great facilitation is about:
Mastering these facilitation skills requires time, practice and continuous introspection and improvement. But taking the possible results of great facilitation into account, it’s definitely worth the effort!
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