[Updated: June 2022]
There is no guidebook for Scrum Masters with step-by-step instructions of how to do it right, we often just have to wing it on the spot. That’s why having a set of Scrum Master tools in your toolbox and some easy go-to facilitation techniques are so important for your success in the role.
In this blog post, I would like to share some of the tools I have added into my imaginary toolbox as I gained more knowledge and experience as a Scrum Master. I hope they can help you get started or get better results working with your agile teams.
Squad Health Check Model by Spotify
Health check model is a great tool to make a quick self-assessment of the team state and find potential ways to improve. I have successfully used it in retrospectives and agile assessments. In addition, I have also adapted it to different team needs along the way by changing the areas and descriptions. You are presented with several areas to evaluate as perfect, needs work or terrible.
As you go through each area, each team member has a chance to put their vote. You collect the votes and calculate the average. Everyone gets a chance to vote and it helps you start a discussion around areas that are not doing so great.
Learn more about this tool here: https://labs.spotify.com/2014/09/16/squad-health-check-model/
Lean Coffee is the easiest way to start a community of practice, a working group or run a quick retrospective.
We have used it in different companies to bring people from different teams together and to start discussions around topics that matter. I also continue to use it in retrospectives and workshops to collect topics for discussion.
Everyone participates and gets a chance to contribute by suggesting topics and voting. It opens up a conversation around the most important topics and questions.
Learn more about this tool here: http://leancoffee.org/
I also have a great facilitation guide witrh a Miro template that you can use to facilitate a Lean Coffee retrospective.
Liberating structures are becoming more popular in the scrum.org community as they present you with great ways to facilitate discussions and workshops by involving all participants at once.
I have used them many times in my workshops and trainings to engage the audience. I also took some of the ideas and transformed them into retrospective techniques. The whole Professional Scrum Master II class is built on liberating structures.
There are 30 techniques in the liberating structures “portfolio”, and each one of them is unique. I encourage you to read through the website linked below and try some of them out.
Some of the liberating structures I have used in my workshops are 1-2-4-All, Wicked Questions, TRIZ, Min Specs.
The concept of these techniques is to give participants different ways to express their ideas and interact with each other by sharing their knowledge and getting direct feedback from others.
Learn more about this tool here: http://www.liberatingstructures.com/
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Fundamentals of Agile Course
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Learn more about this tool here: https://scrummastered.com/agile-coaching-certification/
Impact mapping is a great tool to use to build a strong foundation for a new product and clarify your vision for an existing product in development.
I have used it with a newly formed agile team to define our product vision, assumptions we were taking and constraints to keep in mind. It has helped the team to get the full picture of what the product was going to be.
Used right, this tool can help guide your Product Backlog as well.
Learn more about this tool here: https://www.impactmapping.org/
Escape: The Curse of the Temple
An actual board game in my toolbox! This is a great game that shows what makes a team, well, an actual team and not just a collection of individuals.
I have used this game in a couple of workshops as a team building and a learning activity. After a round of the game, which usually results in failure, I use a simple model from this article to debrief: https://www.viktorcessan.com/the-first-question-to-ask-when-building-teams-is-this-really-a-team/. Then we do a retrospective and planning for the next round of the game, which is usually much more successful.
Unfortunately, the game is out of print, but you can still find it on Amazon for a hefty price. Ask around – maybe some of your colleagues and friends have one lying around somewhere.
Some information about the game: http://escape-queen-games.com/index_en.html
Retrospective Poker is a great tool that can help you engage your team in a retrospective and help you run successful sessions.
And it is getting remote-friendly with downloadable facilitation guides and Miro templates.
Unofficial Scrum Checklist
Scrum Checklist is a great way to start working with a new team and evaluate where they are on their agile journey. It is an easy-to-use checklist assessment that can help you see what parts of Scrum are lacking.
I have been using it for quite some time with every team I work with. This is usually something I use for my personal tracking, rather than something I share with the team. It helps me to identify what I should focus on as a Scrum Master.
Learn more about this tool here: https://www.crisp.se/gratis-material-och-guider/scrum-checklist
Empathy Map is a great tool to use as a facilitation technique in conflict resolution. It is a very powerful tool that, if used correctly, can help people in deep conflict to understand each other’s point of view.
I have not used it in a real life conflict resolution yet, but I have seen it being used in exercises and was amazed at its results. I will be keeping it in my toolbox for next time I need to facilitate a conflict resolution session.
I will close this list here for now. These are the tools that I keep close and often use myself. I believe these tools can be helpful to any Scrum Master, new to the role or with years of practice.
Obviously, there are many more great tools out there, and I am sure you know a couple yourself.