Does your team have Effective Participators?

Do you have individuals on your team who avoid picking up user stories that they perceive to be “too difficult” or “too big,”? Alternatively, you may have team members that avoid stories for which they may have little or no domain/technical knowledge? And, we have all been in a retrospective or planning session in which one or two people have taken the lead and made their voices heard, while others sit back and take little or no part in the proceedings. If this sounds familiar, then your team may not be participating effectively.

In circumstances in which team members are not getting involved in discussions or where they are avoiding certain types of work, the ScrumMaster (or meeting facilitator) should ensure that these issues are addressed. However, it is also the responsibility of the members of the team to ensure that they are all effective participators.

Members of a team should be participating throughout the development life cycle. Some of the criteria for being an effective participator are listed below  (as defined by Focus Education Ltd.): –

  • Recognise when they need to talk to someone about a concern
  • Suggest a way forward following a dispute
  • Be happy to have a go at something that is new to them
  • Know how to make an idea even better
  • Be prepared to listen to points made by others
  • Persuade others to accept a proposal, even though others may not agree with the suggestion
  • Know that their ideas can help other people
  • When making suggestions, break down ideas into small steps
  • Prepared to discuss and debate issues until a sensible compromise is reached
  • Act as an advocate for views and beliefs that may differ from their own

Those of you who have read my previous post, ‘Self-Managers in Self-Organising Teams‘, are aware of the twist here. The above are assessment criteria used by teachers at my daughter’s school to assess effective participation skills of 5-to-11 year-olds.

The purpose of teaching these skills is to empower the pupils’ learning. Other skills that they look to achieve include, resourceful thinkers, reflective learners, independent enquirers, and team workers.

These are also behaviours that you would expect from members of a Scrum Team/software development team. If 5-to11 year-olds are able to develop these skills, then every member of a Scrum Team should also be able to display them and effectively participate throughout the software delivery life cycle.

Are the members of your team effective participators? If not, what will you do to get them participating?

A version of this post was originally published as an article on the Scrum Alliance website on 20th April 2016. Read the original article at

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