At an open space event the other day a group of people were pondering the topic “Getting people to be engaged during meetings.” Inevitably the conversation turned to retrospectives. People described how some teams complained about being forced to have retrospectives and how others went without complaint but didn’t really participate. Some of the frustrations were that introverts never want to participate and have fun conversations with their teammates.
In short, some scrum masters were describing ways that they have been trying to pull their teams into a place of participating but weren’t being successful. Teams were feeling forced to do something they didn’t want to do and scrum masters were frustrated because no one wanted to play this very important game with them.
As I stepped back from the conversation I began to realize that what was missing was the understanding that there is an art to being able to facilitate an effective retrospective that starts long before the meeting. The scrum masters role in the retrospectives isn’t simply to facilitate while people to talk about what went well, what didn’t go well, and what will we do to improve in the next sprint. It is about creating new awareness. It isn’t about pulling people into the conversation. It’s about creating space for them to learn and grow and innovate in order to become higher performing.
This is the glass door I ran into on my first morning in a new office. Five minutes after I arrived. And I had to laugh at myself! “Way to go brainiac. Good thing no one was watching that one.” Then I giggled.
Messing up, making mistakes, looking stupid in front of others – these are things that often cause people to put up walls around themselves as a means of self preservation. No one wants other people to look at them and roll their eyes. No one wants to be “that person.” Unfortunately, the need to self preserve hinders a team’s ability to be transparent, take risks, and share ideas openly.
As a scrum master or coach we need to be aware of the human nature that says, “protect yourself,” and help develop a culture of safety so team members can learn to trust one another and bring out the best in one another. Part of the scrum master’s role is to help the team have the best communications possible. Safe discussions in a team happen when everyone’s ideas are valued and respected. Great ideas come forth when no single idea has to be the winner. Instead of allowing people to fight for their position like there is a trophy at stake, teach them how each person can contribute to the ideas of the others and build the best solution for the problem at hand so everyone can win.