Great facilitation makes it easier for everyone to participate, collaborate, and find shared understanding to reach their desired objective. To enable effective facilitation there's one technique I often pull out of my toolkit to start with when asked to facilitate: a well-thought-out facilitator guide. I've used a facilitator guide to prepare for Sprint Retrospectives, Sprint Reviews, story mapping sessions, refinement, teaching Scrum, Scrum Master Communities of Practice, Vision statement creation, meet-ups, and more.
In my experience effective facilitation takes shape well before your first stakeholder or team member arrives in the meeting room or connects to your Zoom call. It starts at least a week before the event. Creating a facilitator guide doesn't take a tremendous amount of effort. I usually spend between 30 minutes and upward of two hours of preparation depending on the session objective, the number of participants, the group dynamics, and the time needed for collaboration.
While every facilitator guide I create differs based on the session I need to facilitate, these are some of the common elements of the facilitator guide:
- The Desired Outcome
- Pre-work before the session starts
- The main steps of the session include the topic, timings, materials needed, facilitator (if co-facilitating), and critical notes. If I'm using any Liberating Structure I will also document the invitation I'll be using to stimulate critical thinking.
I usually capture my facilitator guide in a spreadsheet or Google Docs to capture the details.
Let's use an example: the Sprint Review's Facilitator Guide.
Start with the Desired Outcome
The first step in creating a facilitator guide is to think about the desired outcomes you're after. The Sprint Review has a clear objective and focus, which will be the first thing I document in the guide. Here's an example:
The outcome of the Sprint Review is to foster collaboration between Scrum Team and stakeholders in order to share progress made towards the Product Goal, share the Sprint Goal and outcomes of the Sprint, ensure the entire Scrum Team gains valuable feedback on the product Increment, and reviews and gathers feedback on the Product Backlog with regards to what the team is planning to work on next Sprint and beyond. Discussion may also focuses on providing updates on budget and release forecasts.
The next piece I typically document is who's required for the session. For the Sprint Review, the Product Owner typically has a good idea of who the stakeholders are. Typically the Sprint Review would include the entire Scrum Team and relevant stakeholders who hold a vested interest in the product.
Pre Work Checklist
At least 1 week prior
☐ Book a conference room large enough for 24 people video conferencing and screen sharing
☐ Create Zoom video conference
☐ Send Gmail Calendar invitation to stakeholders and team members with location and Zoom information
☐ Quick huddle with team the day before to discuss who is sharing the increment, what was done, not done
☐ Finalize agenda
☐ Finalize Product Backlog order, updated Release Forecasts, and Product Roadmap
☐ Gather any product metrics that will be helpful
☐ Ensure we have flips, markers, stickies, and equipment needed for sharing (laptops, mobile, tablets)
☐ Latest done Increment deployed to Production
☐ Order coffee station, snacks, and pastries to be delivered by facilities
I'll next document the agenda, and typically share it in advance and capture it on a flip chart, whiteboard, or virtual board such as Mural.
Sample Sprint Review Agenda
- Review Agenda and Expectations
- Discuss Product Goal progress, share the latest analytics
- Share Sprint Goal and what was learned
- Gain and capture feedback on the latest product Increment
- Discuss at a high level any challenges we are encountering in the context of the product
- Collaborate on what to do next Sprint and beyond
- Share budget, answer questions on release forecasts
- Share analytics
- Convene meeting with action items
Facilitator Guide Details
This is where I spend the most time. I'll start off by brainstorming the different steps of the event. I'll then think through the sequence of steps and timings, keeping the Sprint Review's timebox in mind. Then I will add notes and capture any key materials needed, such as flip charts markers, and post-it notes. If various people will co-facilitate, I will note that as well. Often the Product Owner and Developers share the facilitation of a Sprint Review. Even if this was the team's first Sprint Review, as a Scrum Master I would help the team understand the outcomes we are after and the various steps.
The Sprint Review is way more than a demo!
Anyone Can Facilitate a Scrum Event
Before I wrap up let me bust a myth: the Scrum Master doesn't have to facilitate any of the Scrum events. In fact, it is preferred that Developers facilitate their own Daily Scrum, and I often see Product Owners effectively facilitate the Sprint Review. If you are a Scrum Master, even if you're not facilitating you can still help your team be more effective by helping them create a facilitator guide.
Inspect and Adapt
The first time I run a meeting I know that the timings won't be perfect and that I will have to make adjustments as the meeting progresses. When I am running my event I take notes on the timings, what is working and what is not, and make adjustments for next time.
Professional Scrum Facilitation Skills™
While the facilitator guide is a good way to plan and prepare for a meeting, that doesn't mean you won't encounter lots of challenges once the meeting kicks off. The Professional Scrum Facilitation Skills™ is an interactive course designed to help Scrum teams and individuals develop proficiency in facilitation skills, learn when and how to select effective techniques for various circumstances, and enable better problem-solving, more effective Scrum events, and greater team alignment, all leading to better outcomes.
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