- One pencil box
- One colored Sharpie
- One packet of index cards
- Two working whiteboard markers
- Three packets of post-it notes
- Three sheets of stickers
- Three black Sharpies
But wait…there’s more! This starter kit will enable ScrumMasters to expertly facilitate Sprint Planning, Sprint Review and Retrospective meetings with ease and confidence. Once your Product Owner sees this simple box they will want one of their very own to guide Backlog Refinement meetings, build Story Maps, play Innovation Games and lead product discovery sessions with users and customers. Engagement and follow through will skyrocket as nebulous ideas will finally be captured and made tangible allowing for more participatory decision-making by Team members and other meeting participants.
I was inspired to write this post after running into some obstacles to being effective with a client. As I was facilitating a Retrospective, I went to the whiteboard to write out the agenda and not a single whiteboard marker had any ink whatsoever! Later in the day, I was rummaging around the supply cabinet for a different conversation and the only thing I could find were some cheap, yellow post-it notes (the kind that barely stay attached to the wall). Talk about frustrating!!!
These two facts – bad whiteboard markers and cheap post-its – were strong clues that no one was actually facilitating participatory meetings. How do I know this? Because professional facilitators and trainers always keep a ton of high quality tools and resources (Sharpies, index cards, stickers, different colored post-its, etc.) on hand to engage people in group decision-making. The lack of these tools is a sure sign that while meetings might be run well and efficient, they are not facilitated to engage all of the participants.
However, having a cabinet full of facilitation and training materials is just one part of a three part solution. If the materials stay in the cabinet, they are of no value to anyone. The second key is to get the tools in the hands of the ScrumMasters, Product Owners and Team members and that is where the pencil box comes in. If you want to encourage a new behavior, you have to make it easy to adopt and, in the case of facilitation, that means packaging all the essential tools in an easy-to-carry box. The last step is to ensure that meeting leaders have strong facilitation skills. For this, I suggest digging into Jean Tabakka’s excellent Collaboration Explained or Sam Kaner’s very practical Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making.
So if you are a ScrumMaster or Product Owner today and do not have a facilitation starter kit, spend the $13.99, make a kit today and start carrying it around with you. The more you have it on hand, the more opportunities you will see how the kit will add value.
[ed. Just to be 100% clear, this is not an advertisement. I’m not selling these boxes. It is just a bit of a riff on infomercials.]