Agile Coach Toolkit #3: Asking Powerful Questions

As an Agile Coach, you frequently encounter situations which demand quick thinking to get things moving in the right direction. Over time I have found few techniques which come out handy and always keep these in my playbook in case need arise. This is the third part in the series of tools that I have found useful in my role as Agile Coach – Asking Powerful Questions.

Purpose – As a Scrum Master, you will deal with different personas in the Scrum Team with clear goal to build a high performing team. Dealing with human psychology is complex at best (though I feel that it is chaotic at times). At times you are pulled into situations where there are conflicts among the team members and you may need to coach them to ensure it is constructive and doesn’t go down into war zone.

Description – Coaching is a guided discussion meant to sort out conversations, set goals or learn new behaviors. Start your coaching conversation by welcoming the participant and asking the person what he/ she would like to get out of the discussion. This will help set the objectives for the discussion and serve as a guardrail for channeling the conversation. This stage should not take more than 10% of the time.

Let the participant open up and talk about his/ her concerns. To get the person open up more, you may need to ask open ended question like –

“Tell me more about it?” or “What else?”

In order to gauge if the person has tried solving the issue by himself/ herself, you may ask below question –

“What have you tried and how has that worked out?”

Sometimes I find it helpful to ask below question to understand the person’s emotional state by asking –

“How does that make you feel?”

In addition to helping the person express his/ her feelings, it also provides us with good insight into how emotional aspects play into the issue. One of the useful follow up questions I find helpful is –

“If you were to give a suggestion to friend who in this scenario, what would it be?”

This helps the person to take a step back and analyze the problem from third party perspective. Sometimes, even a short question like below also help explore few options

“What is possible?” 

Unless that person has not come up with options and you want to give any suggestion, first ask the person –

“May I offer you a suggestion?”

Then add your thoughts by stating –

“Have you explored … <option>?”

After the conversation has run its course, you would like to wrap up by asking the participant to summarize the take aways and next steps to ensure there will be a fruitful follow up. This should ideally be no more than 10% of the entire conversation.

Have you used this technique in coaching your team? If yes, please share your story.

References – Lyssa Adkins

Professional Scrum Product Owner

15 things a Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) actually does

15 things a Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) actually does


The Product Owners – Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos

  1. The Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) is an Entrepreneur – a value Maximizer & Optimizer
  2. The PSPO sets a solid vision to help the Scrum Team keep laser sharped focus and direction that helps with incremental progress at the end of each sprint
  3. 1 Product == 1 Product Backlog == 1 Product Owner. Having one PSPO for the product helps with the clarity & focus, ensures quick decision making, and single person accountability for the success of the product.
  4. To validate the idea the PSPO frequently releases the increment of software to market to gain real customer insights
  5. The PSPO has the final say on the order of the Product Backlog. The PSPO orders the PBIs in the product backlog by keeping the Value of the PBI, the dependencies between PBIs and the dependencies on the other products in mind.
  6. The PSPO ensures that most valuable functionality is generated all times by the Development Team.
  7. The PSPO accounts for the Return on Investment and Total Cost of Ownership before a feature is built.
  8. The PSPO ensures that all work done by the Development Team originate from the single Product Backlog – a single source of truth.
  9. To determine the value of the product being delivered the PSPO might use metrics like time to market (cycle time / lead time), percentage of the functionality in the released product used by the customers & the overall customer satisfaction
  10. The PSPO is accountable for Interacting and engaging with the Stakeholders.
  11. The PSPO comes to the Sprint planning with a clear business objective in mind and works with the Development Team to craft a sprint goal based upon the forecast
  12. During the actual Sprint the PSPO is accountable for the Product Backlog Refinement, but may delegate the work to the Development Team.
  13. The PSPO  is the only one who can abnormally terminate the Sprint in case the Sprint goal becomes obsolete.
  14. The PSPO Is just one person and not a committee
  15. The PSPO builds trust by closely working with Development Teams. He is not hesitant to delegate the work of writing user stories / Product Backlog items to the Development Team.

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