Agile Software Development

9 Questions Scrum Masters and Product Owners Should Be Asking

Questions are like a magnifying glass. Point them the right way, and you will uncover something you did not know was there. In a post for Mountain Goat Software, Mike Cohn shares nine questions to illuminate every aspect of your agile work.

Question Everything

First are two questions about estimates:

  • “In the vaguest possible terms, would you estimate this work takes hours, days, weeks, months, or years?” This is a healthy, noncommittal way to get the loosest grasp on how big a job is.
  • “How confident are you in that estimate?” This question mostly gauges whether the team is in unison about their estimate. If there is not agreement, you should take that into consideration.

Next are three questions about team decisions, namely, they also can gauge whether there is disagreement. But be tactful and do not ask all of these questions back to back:

  • “What are three other options you considered before making this decision?”
  • “What’s the worst thing that could happen if we pursue this direction?”
  • “What has to go right for this to be the best decision?”

The following two questions are aimed at keeping meetings fast and small:

  • “Do we need everyone who is here now?” Some people are actually too noble when it comes to wanting to attend every meeting. Let the nonessential people skedaddle.
  • “Should anyone else be here?” You need a full deck to play the game. The meeting is crippled if key people are absent.

Here is a question to ask when you hear something juicy while just walking around:

  • “Does anyone else need to know about this?” When a spontaneous decision gets made, others may need to be informed sooner rather than later.

Finally, here is a question to ask during the daily standup when the team is feeling confident or unconfident about the burndown chart—and you are feeling the opposite of how they are:

  • “What do you know that I don’t?” This is the time to unify assumptions and perspectives.

You are now armed with enough questions to exasperate a minister. Use them well. You can view the original post here:

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