Agile Coach’s Powerful Questions

Posted By on 2 Août 2011 | 4 comments


Last June, I had the great opportunity to attend Lyssa Adkins’ and Micheal Spayd’s Coaching Agile Teams course in Montreal, Canada. They truly have a unique and lean approach to sharing their knowledge and experiences. One of the skills we worked on is the ability to ask Powerful Questions (PQs)

Powerful questions…

  • Are truly open
  • Are not asked with a “correct” answer in mind
  • Invite introspection
  • Reveal additional solutions
  • Almost always lead to greater creativity and insight
  • Send people into a realm of discovery

Source: Coaching Agile Teams. Co-Active Coaching Whitworth, et al.

Powerful questions might look something like this:

  • Is there another way?
  • How can you do that better?
  • Can you explain that to me?
  • What will this get you?
  • What is it we’re not seeing?
  • What is your responsibility?

As a ScrumMaster or Agile Coach, powerful questions have served us well. We simply listen, ask a question, and once again let ourselves be amazed by the answer. But as ScrumMaster or Agile Coach, we do have an unhidden agenda – that is, insuring that teams and the organization adhere to Agile values and principles and rethink possible solutions within the rules of, let’s say, Scrum. With that in mind, I sometimes allow myself to deepen my questions, all the while avoiding the notorious “leading questions” – implying that I already have an answer.

So instead of stopping at default, abstract level powerful question, I might ask a more concrete question and hopefully, keeping it powerful. I figured it’d be fun and maybe even useful to share some of these questions that reflect real life situations in an Agile/Scrum environment. I’ve divided it in 3 categories: Team, Product Owner and Organizational questions.

PQs for the Team

  •  What steps will you take to maintain good communication with your colleagues / Product Owner?
  • How should the Product Owner hold you accountable for the sprint’s performance?
  • What Agile engineering practice will add the most value to this Sprint?
  • What action item from our retrospective do you feel you have the most influence over?

PQs for the Product Owner

  • What would your Minimal Viable Product look like?
  • How do you plan to maximize ROI for this Sprint/Release/Project?
  • How can you help in the delivery of the Sprint?

PQs for the Organization

  • What will be your reaction when the team fails / succeeds?
  • What can the team hold you accountable for in order to have a successful release?
  • How can you help the Product Owner?

Do you feel these questions are any less powerful than the more abstract ones?

Do they seem leading in any way?

What powerful questions would you or have you asked?

 

I’ll continue testing these out over the next few weeks…Stay tuned!

Cheers!

Eric

 

 

4 Comments

  1. To PO: If the project was canceled next sprint, would you be able/happy with the features already done?
    And I found it very interesting: « What can the team hold you accountable for in order to have a successful release? »
    Hugs

  2. Good one!

  3. Great article Eric!I’m a big fan of powerful questions. My favourite is « What would it take…? » In fact, I wrote about it recently. Good timing! http://goo.gl/BsjS0

  4. Thanks Todd!

    So many questions. So little time.

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