Facilitation Myths

Facilitation in Scrum is pivotal in ensuring effective interactions and collaboration, which is vital to succeeding with Scrum. Certain misconceptions have emerged about facilitation in the Scrum context.

One common misconception is that only the Scrum Master is responsible for facilitating. While the Scrum Master often leads in facilitating Scrum events, any Scrum Team member might step into a facilitating role when the situation demands.

Another prevalent myth is that facilitation is about controlling or directing the Scrum Team. Facilitation’s true essence is to guide and enable rather than to dictate or control. It’s about supporting the team in their decision-making processes, ensuring everyone’s voice is heard, and helping navigate towards decision-making.

Being a facilitator does not mean having all the answers. Seasoned facilitators know that their strength lies not in knowing all the answers but in asking the right questions and fostering an environment where the team can find solutions collectively.

While it’s clear that facilitation can help navigate conflicts, it’s a misconception that it’s only valid during turbulent times. Even without overt conflict, facilitation can enhance communication, collaboration, and team effectiveness. Conversely, the idea that if a team is self-managing, they don’t need facilitation is misleading. Despite their autonomy, such teams can still greatly benefit from facilitation to streamline discussions and decisions.

There is a belief that facilitation is intuitive and doesn’t require specific training. While some people might have a natural inclination for facilitation, true mastery involves refining skills over time, often with formal training and hands-on experience. Learning specific facilitation practices and techniques can help, but practices alone will not guarantee a successful outcome.

A facilitator can also be a participant in the discussion they are facilitating. This dual role can be challenging and requires a careful balance. When a facilitator takes on the role of a participant, they must be highly self-aware and ensure that their personal opinions or biases don’t overshadow or influence the overall direction of the discussion. The primary responsibility of a facilitator is to guide the group to reach decisions collaboratively, ensuring that every voice is heard and the process is smooth. Introducing their viewpoint could risk this neutrality.

However, there are situations where the facilitator’s expertise or insights can be valuable to the discussion, so they may choose to participate. In such cases, the facilitator might momentarily step out of their neutral role to share their perspective. Once complete, they should clarify that they are returning to their primary facilitation role. The key is transparency. When a facilitator wishes to contribute as a participant, it’s important to communicate this shift to the group, ensuring everyone is clear on when the facilitator is speaking as a neutral guide versus offering their viewpoint.

The Sprint Retrospective is one such place where this may be necessary. The Sprint Retrospective requires the participation of the entire Scrum Team, including the Scrum Master. Another option is to invite an external facilitator to assist so the team’s Scrum Master can participate fully.