Somebody Stop Me

Meetings with remote participants can be hard. I can understand embracing the silence to allow for folks to participate through lag in the network, but sometimes that silence embraces back, hugging ever more aggressively with each passing second, seemingly squeezing the value of that very meeting as thoughts of its efficiency gain a quiet spotlight in the back of our minds.

So let's stop that.

Here's a tactic to use thoughtfully when making a decision: instead of asking for consensus on agreement, ask for an instance of disagreement. When I facilitate, I pick from the following two options.

  • "Anybody want to stop me?"

  • "Anybody violently disagree?"

When asking for consensus on agreement, you're requesting input from everybody.

When asking for an instance of disagreement, you're requesting input from anybody.

You'll have to pause for a bit anyway, but the expectation of that interaction is different, and now, as you actively read the room and make eye contact with everybody as Scrum Master, you're heavily facilitating movement: you're not starting from a place of inertia, but momentum!

This isn't always appropriate, which is why you should use this tactic thoughtfully. This doesn't feel like a 'servant leader' kind of move: you're less 'serving' and more 'leading'. For example, you likely don't want to pull this out in a Retrospective, the most vulnerable of gatherings - you want the time to allow for emotions and thoughts and counter-thoughts and the group moving through its process towards resolution and Kaizen. Yet I know I've often pulled this out in a Daily Scrum, the most concise of gatherings - you have way less time, so you don't need Robert's Rules of Order to just move a virtual sticky between columns when updating the task board when it should've been updated before the Stand-Up and you sense clear agreement on the appropriate location of that virtual sticky.