What’s REALLY Going On? An Observational Skills Workshop

Imagine you are asked to sit in on a team’s sprint review and retrospective. The team has been having difficulty forming and the Scrum Master has asked you to observe the team dynamics during these two sessions. Are you simply going to watch what’s going on or is there more you can do? Perhaps you are seeing interactions and team dynamics at play without truly realizing what you are observing. And when you do observe, are you injecting your own biases into those observations? Observation is a powerful tool, but one which we may not take advantage of to its true potential. After all, what exactly should we be observing, anyway?

By learning how to expand our observational skills in a non-biased and non-judgmental manner, we can gain a deeper understanding of team dynamics and interactions allowing us to offer more meaningful and impactful support, coaching, and empathy. Because there are many observational aspects that pass us by, the best way to become more observant is through deliberate practice. So, let’s practice together with a group exercise in a fun and safe setting!

In this highly interactive workshop, we’ll start by sharing tools and tips to make you a better observer. Then we’ll ask for a small group of volunteers (“builders”) to be observed performing a brief task. The remaining attendees will practice applying the observation techniques, and, after the builders finish, will share their observations in small groups. We’ll conclude with a full-group debrief and discussion of the key takeaways and opportunities to improve our effectiveness and observations.

If you’re looking for new ways to connect with your team, to enhance your agilist toolkit, or simply participate in an informative and interactive workshop, this session is for you!

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Outline/Structure of the Workshop/Game

(Note: the slides and video are from a longer version of this workshop, but the outline below reflects how this workshop has been tailored for a 45-minute session)

This session is highly interactive and will include a small amount of delivered content, followed by a small group exercise and discussion, and conclude with a large group debrief. The small group exercise is a modified version of an activity run by Esther Derby and Don Gray in their "Coaching Beyond the Team" course.


  • Introduce facilitators & learning objectives
  • Warm up prompt


  • Sets up the learning outcomes and small group portion of the workshop.
  • Highlight how learning and practicing observational skills is a tool in a coach or Scrum Master’s toolbox allowing us to offer more meaningful and impactful support, coaching, and empathy.
  • Highlight some potential observation areas (body language, tone of voice, use of pronouns, use of physical space, type of collaboration, decision-making process, mode of information sharing, etc.)
  • Review tips for effectively sharing observations with others (ex. factually stating in neutral language, withholding interpretation and judgement).


  • Ask for eight volunteers to serve as “builders” performing a simple and fun task in the front of the room (all building supplies will be provided). The building challenge will last 5-minutes.
  • Before the building starts, observers at each table group will discuss and agree on what each person will focus on observing. It is recommended that each observer pick just one area to observe and that observers in the same group don't all focus on the same thing. A worksheet with a list of potential observation areas will be provided.
  • During the building challenge, a large timer will be running to help keep track of remaining time. Observers will write notes in real-time as they observe the builders (Pens and post-its will be provided to observers).
  • After the building exercise, small groups will spend ~10 minutes sharing their observations with each other.


  • Facilitators will ask for several of the small groups to share their key takeaways, then open up to a larger debrief and full-group discussion.
  • What did you learn about being an observer?
  • What was it like focusing on only one observation area?
  • Was it difficult to keep your observations neutral and avoid interpretation?
  • What did you learn about how it feels to be observed?
  • How might improving your observation skills enable you to better help your team(s)?
  • What will you try to work on after the session to improve your observation skills?

Learning Outcome

  • Learn new tools and tips to enhance your observational skills
  • Practice observing different types of interactions
  • Build empathy for what it feels to be observed
  • Learn how to share observations in neutral, non-judgmental language

Target Audience

Scrum Masters, agile facilitators, team members, and anyone who wants to improve their observational skills!

Prerequisites for Attendees


schedule Submitted 1 week ago

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