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Safe Place in Retro

Last post 04:57 pm July 17, 2020 by Daniel Wilhite
7 replies
01:55 pm July 16, 2020

Hi All,

I am having a very hard time with one of my Dev teams. It seems as if our retro's are not a safe place to expose issues that are happening in isolation, apart from our stand ups there seems to have technical discussions that happen with me(scrum master) not having visibility of it which is fine as they are pretty efficient and self organizing and only bring items up that require my attention. I just need some idea's on how i can bring these clashing of swords to light to help the team all around, they hardly say much in retro its now become more like a longer stand up where everyone talks about what went well and what they achieved but never about they bad or how hard it was for them to get there.

As a scrum master i feel that i am failing my team by not assisting or resolving these issues or conflicts that they seem to be having.

Some idea's or thoughts and guidance would be greatly and highly appreciated. 

04:23 pm July 16, 2020

As a scrum master i feel that i am failing my team by not assisting or resolving these issues or conflicts that they seem to be having.

@Rushavia Pillay, I think the self-awareness you have is good. Should a Scrum Master be resolving issues and conflicts for the team? How do you think that would affect their ability to self-organize?

It seems as if our retro's are not a safe place to expose issues that are happening in isolation,

As far as being in a safe place is concerned, I can strongly relate to it. Therefore, have you been able to find out why? Just saying the retro is a safe place, doesn't really make it safe.

04:48 pm July 16, 2020

It seems as if our retro's are not a safe place to expose issues that are happening in isolation

What transparency is available over these issues throughout the Sprint? What about their immediate effects? Do they impact a burn chart or other visualization of team progress towards the Sprint Goal, for example? What do the team think about this evidence when they see it?

05:47 pm July 16, 2020

Have you tried playing any team-building games with them? One of my OD consultants recently facilitated a COVID-19 trivia game that focused on the fun part of quarantine (think "Tiger King," "most ordered Amazon item" etc.) and it helped a thirty person team feel reenergized. If the team does not want to talk about a business process improvement, do something else. Don't force change on people. That is leadership's job.

You are there to train, mentor and facilitate. And if you have the right specialized skills, coach.

01:13 pm July 17, 2020

@Steve Matthew i hear you, and your right i feel that as much as they have their issues they should be able to talk about it and resolve within their own space. My issue is that  its happening outside of retro and rather in these pow wow sessions that is directly affecting the teams perfomance, surely they should be confidant enough to either bring to me or discuss in retro.

01:17 pm July 17, 2020

Ian Mitchell Right now there is no visibility /transparency. It is affecting their burndown as well as their velocity as well but because of nothing being brought up how do i now fix issues that i am not even aware of? I was thinking of doing a survey well of anonymity to ask a few questions i.e 

Do you feel that your team trusts and values your thoughts/opinions?

Is it a safe place to share your thoughts?

Do you trust your team?

Just to see if i am able to gather some info without them feeling they have to call out any of their team members

01:19 pm July 17, 2020

@Mark Adams That is a great idea, due to our current Covid situation it is a bit hard not having that human interaction and i think that is also where my team is feeling it too.


How do i mentor and train if i can't help them resolve conflicts that are blocking them from reaching their sprint goal?

04:57 pm July 17, 2020

One of the hard things that every Scrum Master must be ready to do is to force some hard discussions.  Instead of waiting on the team to bring up problems, you can start the conversation with "I have noticed that our burn down charts are not looking great.  Anyone know of a reason that might be occuring?".  Or if you know that there is friction between 2 or more team members, confront them.  "Have the 3 of you worked out your differences that were impacting your abilities to concentrate on your work during the last 2 Sprints?".  Letting them know that their difficulties are visible to people outside of their circle and that the effect is felt by others lets them know that others care about the situations. Sometimes in order for people to feel that the Retro is a safe place, you have to prove to them that it is.  Draw them out and then make sure that there are no repercussions from outside parties after the discussions occur. 

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