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Scrum Master's Super Power of Observation in Virtual Teams

“A Scrum Master or Agile coach is not only supposed to facilitate Agile meetings, but observe and share inputs to improve the maturity of the teams.” How can a Scrum Master be able to keep doing the job that is required if we are being stripped away from face-to-face human interaction? This was the major concern, Savita Pahuja had once Covid-19 hit and everyone was asked to work from home.

It is widely known that one of the key elements as a servant leader to a team is to work hard on improving communication skills, not only to get the message across, but to read the room efficiently. This is why going full home office so sudden triggered worrisome thoughts on performance. The great news is that agilists embrace change. In the Agile mindset, change is always good. It provides an opportunity to learn new ways to approach a problem and most importantly, it gives people perspective.

So, to face the problem of how to observe via video calls or audio calls only, here are three great observation tools you can use to still perform as a Scrum Master or Agile coach.

  1. Reflective Coaching Questions

These are questions you can use to check your team member’s comprehension level regarding the topic that is being discussed. The trick is to use open-ended questions instead of yes or no questions. Here are some examples:

  • Would you explain what is your understanding of the backlog item?

  • Based on what we have discussed, what challenges do you anticipate?

  • At what point did you notice…?

  • Describe what happened when…?

  • Tell me more about...

  1. Observations on context

Meeting people where they are will absolutely improve your communication skills. If you ask, the question, “how are you doing?” be prepared for the possibility of a useful conversation. With this in mind, our speaker Mark Kilby shared in this meetup a useful tool that will give any Scrum Master or Agile coach a better understanding of what it truly means to know where people are coming from. This tool is called, the Change Curve, it reflects what happens when change occurs and how could that affect someone or a team’s performance.

The type of change can be:

Changes “we” choose

  • New Process

  • News team member

  • New team

  • New Technology

  • New Market

Change imposed

  • Urgent Request

  • Urgent Change in direction

  • Technology failure

  • Misunderstanding

  • Process failure

  • Stakeholder unavailable

  • Customer unavailable

  • New leadership

  • pandemic

Once you’ve identified where change is coming from, the next step in that curve is dealing with “Challenges Assumption” to avoid the Point of Chaos. Before sharing with you the following stages of this “change curve”, it’s important to highlight that people go through them in different times, so it’s always important to check where your team members are.

  1. Resistance/ unlearning/ Disruption

  2. Transforming Ideas

  3. Integrating new learning

  4. New Status Quo

  5. Observation vs Careful Observation

In a zoom call, overthinking people’s body language renders no good outcomes. We must remember most people don’t have a dedicated workspace at home, so there are a number of things that can be causing people’s expressions, lack of attention, or voice tone. This is why choosing careful observation via means of taking notes, paying full attention and suspend thinking too much can lead you to read your virtual room in a more efficient way.

There are of course a number of important aspects of this meetup that we are missing in this blog post. If you want to witness the entire conversation, don’t hesitate to watch the full video of “Scrum Master's Super Power of Observation in Virtual Teams” with Mark Kilby and Savita Pahuja

Key topics:

  • Reflective coaching questions

  • Observations on context

  • Observation vs Careful Observation

  • Q&A



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