Facilitation Practice Scenarios for Scrum Masters

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If you are a Scrum Master of an agile team, your prime purpose is to help the software development team remove obstacles that are impeding progress. The best practice approach in succeeding at this is to assume the role of a neutral facilitator. That is, the Scrum Master guides the team through a process for solving situations themselves rather than the Scrum Master proposing a solution. This article provides two workshop scenario exercises (an internal team conflict and a team conflict with the product owner) that help the Scrum Master practice the neutral facilitator role.

Internal Scrum Team Conflict Scenario

Exercise One

Situation
You are a Project Manager on a global agile project utilizing the scrum methodology. Your position title is Scrum Master. During a daily scrum meeting, team members voice an impasse in reaching a decision on an approach for a new system. The team has been working on this for a full sprint; the decision is now urgent. Since the focus of the daily scrum meeting is to state work status and impediments to progress (not resolve issues), you ask the team members to attend a separate meeting where you will facilitate the decision process to remove the impasse.
Challenge
The problem is to select one of four approaches that will allow banking customers to access the Internet via Automated Teller Machines (ATM). The Marketing Department has advised executives during a strategic session that their customer value analysis points to this new demand by banking customers. In addition, industry intelligence shows that US competitors are considering this service to increase their market share.
Choices
All approach choices meet requirements, but vary in user friendliness, initial cost, performance, business reputation (success rate), and maintenance cost. The choices are:
  • Purchase a new vendor package from Acme Software – highest project cost, least effort, fastest implementation
  • Join a partnership with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) – cost competitive
  • Internally develop application software – slightly higher cost than ISP partnership, requires more effort, but provides total internal control
  • Purchase a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) solution from Vapor Cloud Services – longest time for implementation, but lowest total cost of ownership (long term)
Workshop

As the Scrum Master, prepare for a two-hour meeting with the team members: determine the meeting objective and intent, who needs to attend (team plus needed experts), risk of holding the meeting [1], meeting room set-up (team members facing each other), and the agenda (first and last five things to do – see text boxes below).

First Five Things

  1. Introduce your role as the meeting facilitator (scrum master)
  2. State the objective (option selection) and intent (team decision)
  3. Introduce team members, ask for a timekeeper, scribe (if needed)
  4. Establish a Parking Lot (off-agenda issues), an Issue Log (needed expertise) and an agreement on any meeting rules (as needed)
  5. Review agenda and explain the processes you will use

 

Last Five Things

  1. Summarize results , action items and assign responsibilities
  2. Review Parking Lot, Issue Log and assign responsibilities
  3. Set expectations on documentation and any follow-up meetings
  4. Ask for meeting feedback (pace, process, content, time, focus)
  5. Thank team members and recognize their contributions

Use two processes for this meeting in the following sequence:

  • Ballot Ranking (multi-voting) – appropriate for honing-down a long list of options
  • After you encourage a dialogue among the team members on the choices, present the following process to narrow the list of five to a final three. Give the team members 10 votes each and ask them vote on their choice with one limitation – each member can only cast a maximum of four votes on any one choice. Note you can vary the number of votes as you choose. After all team members have cast their votes, declare the three choices with the most votes as input to the next process – Criteria / Weight Ranking.
  • Criteria / Weight Ranking (Figure 1) – appropriate for determining the top choice of a short list of options; note you can hold Part One and Two as separate meetings.
    • Part One – You ask the team members to identify criteria to judge the remaining three choices from the ballot voting process. With criteria identified, ask the team members to assign each criterion relative weights depending on their importance (e.g., 10, 20, 30 being the most important criterion). Note ensure that the criteria and their weights are the result of a consensus or at least a compromise among the team members; also, advise the team members that once they have reached a consensus or compromise, the criteria and their weights may not change.
    • Part Two – You ask the team members as a group to rank the choices based on each criterion – (e.g., 1, 2, 3 being the best). The team members then score each choice by multiplying the rank and its weight. After scoring, you add the separate choice scores for a total. You then declare the top choice based on the highest score.


    Figure 1. Criteria / Weight Ranking

    Using the above processes, execute your plan in a role-playing session with volunteers assuming one of the below roles. Ensure you initiate a dialogue on the choices with the role players during the session prior to executing the processes; keep in mind facilitation practices such as active listening, questioning, generating participation and, in particular, neutrality [2].

    Meeting Role Profiles (each team member assumes a role):

    • Team member one: supports the Acme Software due to user friendliness and advertised performance; is concerned with the effort involved if internally developed
    • Team member two: supports any solution that is based on SOA due to hardware/software independence and low predicted maintenance
    • Team member three: supports any ISP due to successful track records and low cost
    • Team member four: supports only internal development due to known business features listed on the backlog; disagrees that all market offerings meet all the requirements; however will support a majority decision
    • Scrum Product Owner: neutral on selection, but solution must include all the backlog items; is concerned with the impact to customers (who is managing business process changes and customer training?)

    Scrum Team Conflict with Product Owner Scenario

    Exercise Two

    Situation
    You are a Project Manager on a global agile project utilizing the scrum methodology. Your position title is Scrum Master. During a daily scrum meeting, the Scrum Product Owner and team members voice an impasse in ranking the backlog list for the next series sprints. The team has been working on this for a full sprint; the planning for the release is now urgent. Since the focus of the daily scrum meeting is to state work status and impediments to progress, you ask the team members to attend a separate meeting where you will facilitate the ranking process to remove the impasse.
    Challenge
    The problem is to rank the user stories on the backlog list for a series of sprints for the next release. The application under development will allow banking customers to access the Internet via Automated Teller Machines (ATM). The Marketing Department has advised executives during a strategic session that their customer value analysis points to this new demand by banking customers. In addition, industry intelligence shows that US competitors are considering this service to increase their market share.
    Backlog
    The Scrum Product Owner has ranked all user stories as top priority. The team has estimated the stories via story points and has advised the Product Owner that in order to maintain a consistent velocity of 110 stories per sprint they need to spread out the work in different sprints per business need; this will allow separate deliverable validations and process retrospectives.

    The current backlog with initial team estimates are:

    • User Story on search options – 40 story points
    • User Story on two factor authentication – 20 story points
    • User Story on print options – 13 story points
    • User Story on login to ISP options – 8 story points
    • User Story on download to flash drive – 100 story points

    Note you may wish to add user stories to the above list.

    Workshop

    As the Scrum Master, prepare for a two-hour meeting with the team members: determine the meeting objective and intent, who needs to attend (team plus needed experts), risk of holding the meeting [1], meeting room set-up (team members facing each other), and the agenda (first and last five things to do – see text boxes in exercise one).

    Use one process for the meeting:

    • Benefit / Effort Grid (Figure 2) – appropriate for cluster ranking work items where team members have effort and benefit estimates for each work item.
    • After you encourage a dialogue among the team members on the work items, provide a process to place each work item in one of four grid categories:

    Figure 2. Benefit / Benefit Grid

    • After categorizing all the work items, you rank clusters of the work items in the following grid order:
    1. Low Effort / High Benefit
    2. Low Effort / Low Benefit
    3. High Effort / High Benefit
    4. High Effort / Low Benefit

    Note you may expand the 2x2 grid to a 3x3 grid if the team members need a finer grade of categories (high, medium, low).

    Using the above process, execute your plan in a role-playing session with volunteers assuming one of the below roles. Ensure you initiate a dialogue on the choices with the role players during the session prior to executing the processes; keep in mind facilitation practices such as active listening, questioning, generating participation and, in particular, neutrality [2].


    Meeting Role Profiles (each team member assumes a role):

    • Team member one: concerned with team velocity, current sprint is behind schedule
    • Team member two: worried that no one has ever worked on an ATM application
    • Team member three: new member (replacement) of the team
    • Team member four: experienced team member; resistant to re-estimating user stories
    • Scrum Product Owner: troubled in ranking user stories, but solution must include all the backlog items; is concerned with the impact to customers (who is managing business process changes and customer training?)

    References

    1. Managing Risk when Facilitating Face-to-Face and Virtual Meetings, Monteleone, Mark, Sept. 2012 Global Flipchart, International Association of Facilitators
    2. The Twelve Shades of the Business Analyst (BA) Facilitator, Monteleone, Mark, www.modernanalyst.com

    Author: Mr. Monteleone holds a B.S. in physics and an M.S. in computing science from Texas A&M University. He is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP®) by the Project Management Institute (PMI®), a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®) by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®), a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) by the Scrum Alliance, and certified in BPMN by BPMessentials. He holds an Advanced Master’s Certificate in Project Management (GWCPM®) and a Business Analyst Certification (GWCBA®) from George Washington University School of Business. Mark is also a member of the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACE) International, and the International Association of Facilitators (IAF).

    Mark is the President of Monteleone Consulting, LLC and author of the book,
    The 20 Minute Business Analyst: a collection of short articles, humorous stories, and quick reference cards for the busy analyst; available on amazon.com and extended networks. He can be contacted via –
    www.baquickref.com.

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    COMMENTS

    TomT posted on Monday, February 23, 2015 10:41 AM
    Interesting article.

    The exercises look very comprehensive and very relevant. The one thing that struck me about it is that the references at the end of the article include "The Twelve Shades of the Business Analyst (BA) Facilitator" and the very first statement in the first exercise indicates that "you are a Project Manager..."

    Somehow, I find that amusing.

    I guess it goes back to the whole idea that PMs and BAs are often cast in the same roles or that the techniques employed by PMs and BAs are often very similar.

    I think the key for me is that it reinforces the idea that, as a BA, it is advantageous to me to be aware of the PM realm and what it involves. PMs and BAs need to be able to work together very closely, in many cases blurring the lines between the two functions.

    Good stuff!! Thanks!
    ttomasovic
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