Facilitation is key for Scrum Masters!

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Facilitation is THE skill for Scrum Masters.  I feel strongly about that statement.  I have been a Scrum Master for more than 5 years. I have seen first-hand the need for folks to communicate more effectively, especially in Agile organizations!  A key responsibility of the Scrum Master is to neutrally facilitate collaborative sessions and conversations.  My passion for improving facilitation skills is a driving force behind the latest Collaborative Leadership Team’s offering – Facilitation for Agile and Scrum Practitioners.  

Secret Confessions of a Product Owner: Stretch Goals vs. Consistency

An Open Letter to the Development Team...

An Open Letter to the Development Team...

Secret Confessions of a New Product Owner

Stretch Goals vs. Consistency

Many people will argue that being a Product Owner (PO) is the toughest role on a Scrum Team.  Since that is the role I am currently in, I will wholeheartedly agree. :)

During a recent Sprint Planning event, the Development Team (Dev Team) committed to doing a Product Backlog Item (PBI), but labeled it as a “Stretch Goal”.  My “scrum Spidey-sense” immediately went into overdrive.  The resulting conversation went like this:

  • PO:  “What does it mean that you are committing to a “Stretch Goal”.  Isn’t that just work that you commit to doing?”
  • Dev Team: “Well we really want to get that work done for our Customer, but we are not sure if we will have time to get to that?  Things will have to go perfect with our other PBIs in order for us to get to this work.” 
  • PO:  “When is the last time things have gone perfect with all of our PBIs during a Sprint?"

Awkward silence…

Everybody is working with positive intent.  We are a team focused on making our Customer happy in every interaction.  As the Product Owner, I am accountable for setting Customer, Stakeholder, and Organization expectations.  This consumes at least 50% of my time per sprint when I am doing it properly.  Here is how I shared that with the Dev Team:

  • PO:  “First off, thank you for wanting to do more to our Customer.  That attitude is why we are a great team.  Our Customers will benefit from that attitude.  Here is what is most important to me as a Product Owner:  Consistency. 
  • PO:  “Consistency will enable me to focus expectations for everyone involved in our Product.  And because they have seen how good we are at delivering on our commitments, they know they can count on us making good on our commitments.” 
  • PO:  “Consistency will allow us to PLAN FEARLESSLY.  I would prefer that you focus on the PBIs we commit to and not waste any time or energy on the “Stretch Goal” items. 
  • PO:  “Finally, I want our mindset to focus on what we can do and celebrate every success along the way.  I want to avoid us ever saying something like “Wow, we did a lot of great work, but we didn’t get to the stretch goal”.  Do you see how that could deflate the Development Team? 
  • PO:  “I would much rather you come to me on day 7-8 of the Sprint and let me know that the team is likely to have a day of capacity they didn’t anticipate.  I will LOVE that conversation.  You mean, I get to ask the team to focus on something else because everything else you committed to is done?
  • This is a watershed moment for any Scrum Team.  We have finally found our TRUE VELOCITY!

Dev Teams:  Make sure you understand what the Product Owner wants you to produce.  Make sure you understand what they will accept as “done”.   

Want to be a better Software Engineer, Architect, or Developer in an Agile organization? Make sure to check out the upcoming Certified Scrum Developer® training on Feb 19-21 to help you become the be Development Team member possible.  Here are the learning objectives and the certification requirements.  

Use the promotion code CLT_Friend to get $200 off any available ticket! Even Early Bird tickets!

Product Owners:  Remind the team that consistency is what you are after.   Consistency will allow the PO to make the best possible decisions to support the Customer which, in turn, supports the organization.

Questions or Comments?  Feel free to start a conversation in the “comments” section or email me at Tom@CoLeadTeam.com

Want to experiment more with Consistency?  Check out this video from @ChristianAntoine about Perfection vs. Consistency

Are you ready to accelerate your Agile and Scrum journey in 2018? CoLeadTeam has the foundational and advanced programs to support your career and organizational goals. We are one of the only organizations that can offer both Scrum at Scale® and Advanced Certified ScrumMaster®.


  • Feb 22-23: Certified-Scrum Master® (CSM) Register Guaranteed to Run in Minneapolis
  • Feb 19-20: Certified Scrum Developer® (CSD) Register Guaranteed to Run in Minneapolis


  • April 11-13: Certified LeSS Practitioner: Principles to Practice with co-Founder, Craig Larman (LeSS) Register
  • April 19-20 Certified Agile Leader (CAL1) with Michael Sahota Register: Guaranteed to Run in Minneapolis

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About the Authors:

Christian Antoine, CST, CSP, CLP, S@SP, PMI-ACP®  Certified Scrum Trainer and Agile Transformation Coach with the Collaborative Leadership Team.  Working with Agile since 2008, Christian has 20+ years of diversified experience in the medical device, finance, healthcare, securities, international law, and agricultural industries.  Christian consults, trains, and coaches teams and companies on Agile at all levels of the organization. He enjoys helping others see there is a different way to approach work, at a sustainable pace, and get outcomes to delight customers. Prior to Collaborative Leadership Team, Christian worked for Medtronic, Hollstadt & Associates, and Computer Science Corporation (CSC).  A graduate of St. John’s University, Christian resides in Golden Valley, MN with his wife Megan, and children, Madeline, Ellen and Eli.

Tom Auld is the Product Owner, COO, and Agile Coach and Trainer for the Collaborative Leadership Team (CoLeadTeam). CoLeadTeam is the premier Agile Consultancy providing certified and customized training classes, enterprise coaching, and individual mentoring that will set up your organization to reap the benefits of Agile and Scrum. Connect with Tom on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @CoLeadTeam & @tcauld.

I’m a Certified ScrumMaster®! What’s Next?

Congratulations!  You are a Certified ScrumMaster®!  CoLeadTeam’s Dee Rhoda reflects on what happened after she passed the online quiz and downloaded the Certified ScrumMaster® badge. 

After about a year in the role of Scrum Master, you will have had a multitude of new experiences.  Because of opportunities to put the basic knowledge from the CSM® into practice, you may have even more questions than answers about what you should be doing.  I know that was the case for me.  When I took on my first Scrum Master role, I was fresh out of CSM® training.  I had all the basic knowledge and like most new CSMs, I focused on the Scrum Framework and making sure that the team was adhering to it.  And, that is a great start!  

What I began to notice from the team as we were closing in on the later part of our first year together, was a need for deeper coaching and facilitation from me as their Scrum Master.  The team members were past the forming stage of team development (Tuckman Model) and well into the storming phase. This is where I needed to step up my game as Scrum Master and work in a focused manner on the conflict and competition that was starting to surface.  People were beginning to feel more confident and courageous in expressing their opinions and that was great!  But, without advanced skills and techniques in facilitation to help guide the team through conversations and collaboration, the team floundered on decisions and had trouble agreeing on goals. 

As a team matures, an effective Scrum Master maintains a strong, yet neutral coaching stance.  Because the team was working towards the Norming phase of Tuckman’s team development model, I needed to coach these diverse individuals into becoming a team -  not simply existing as a group of individuals. A cohesive Scrum team recognizes more completely their individual uniqueness and how those individual talents, skills and interests could come together and focus on common goals. 

When I stepped into the role of Scrum Master, I was prepared with foundational Scrum knowledge to serve the Development Team, Product Owner and Organization.  I realized that if I was going to continue to better serve them and help them improve, I needed to continue to improve my own skills.  Sound familiar – continuous improvement?

Advanced Scrum Master skills are what I needed to improve: coaching, facilitating, team-building. I also recognized that I needed to get additional education on how to “scale” Scrum in the larger organization that I was serving.  In team level Scrum, the Scrum Master is focused on Scrum for a single product Development Team, Product Owner and how that fits into the larger Organization. When applying Scrum@Scaleâ the role of Scrum Master is still focused on helping the teams with discovering ways to continuously improve, impediment removal, and increasing communication across teams.  The difference is that as Scrum is scaled in larger organizations, there can be up to 125 teams of 5 team members!  It is critical in these environments for leadership to form an Executive Action Team (EAT). The EAT is critical to Scrum’s success in a scaled environment.

So, the question for Scrum Masters out there is “What’s next for you”? Do you want to build up your skills, knowledge and toolbox to better serve your team as a coach and facilitator?  If so, I strongly encourage you to take the next step and sign up for the Advanced-Certified Scrum Master® Class! If you want to better your education regarding scaling Scrum I highly recommend Scrum@Scale®.

CoLeadTeam is one of the only organizations that can offer both Scrum at Scale® and Advanced Certified ScrumMaster®

  • Jan 22-23: Scrum@Scale® (early bird pricing available only through 1/8/18) Register
  • Jan 25-26: Advanced Certified-Scrum Master® Register