Acting as a team lead I feel the engagement in our sprint planning session is low.

Some people are very comfortable to talk and share ideas/knowledge in order to help the team to define tasks for our stories, but some people (usually more then half of the team) simply left the meeting without even speak out once.

The team have about 10 members and they are working under the Disciplined Agile Delivery guide.

  • 1
    What are you expecting them to do? What have you tried? Why hasn't that worked? How are you measuring "engagement?" – Todd A. Jacobs Sep 11 at 23:53
  • Have you talked with them about why they don't speak out during meetings? Maybe they just have nothing to add, or don't enjoy sitting in on large meetings. – Erik Sep 12 at 5:17
up vote 3 down vote accepted

It could be many things and it's unlikely that the 5+ out of 10 have the same reason for not speaking. With such a small team you can get to know their personalities and how they behave outside the meeting. This will help guide you to a solution.

  • Lack of Motivation / Team Spirit - There could be a lack of team spirit or maybe your team isn't motivated.

If the lack of motivation is macro (the team is affected all the time, not just during this meeting), it will also be the hardest to solve. Causes can be wide ranging, but consider adding side projects, reward systems and acknowledgements.

If the lack of motivation is micro (only related to this meeting) you may need to 'shock the system' by scrapping your meeting. Don't just reschedule the same recurring meeting in Outlook. Cancel it. Create a new one. Change the day, call it something else and change how you run it. Oh, and keep it short.

  • Intimidation/Inadequacy - If you have team members that are loud/aggressive/opinionated (not even in a negative way) others may not speak up.

Create a process where everybody gets a turn. Go Round-Robin or Alphabetical or simply call out names.

You can also pre-meet with a smaller group before meeting with the full group. You can then "contribute on their behalf" by referencing back to the smaller group meeting. "I talked with Bob earlier and...".

  • Shyness - If outside of this meeting these team members do not talk casually with the group they may simply be shy.

Before the meeting, give a specific task to a specific member. This will give them something specific to contribute and make them the 'expert' for answering questions. This works good when you already know the answer because you can guide them as they answer questions. For example:

"We need some options for logging exceptions. Take 30-min and look into X, Y and Z and see if you think they'd work. See how much they cost and if we can log errors to a central location.".

Then, during the meeting you can ask them direct questions:

"Do any of those allow central logging? Are any of them expensive?"

  • If identified the lack of motivation happens only in this meeting I can try the "shock the system" approach, but since its a planning meeting I feel that I can't keep it short (usually 2-3h long). In the past we had two sessions of planing to avoid a long meeting with no success. – brunohdaniel Sep 11 at 22:25
  • If you're going to call people out during the meeting, make sure to ask them if they want that first. I have someone on my team who I've called out before and they shared during our last team meeting that they really didn't enjoy that. – Erik Sep 12 at 5:14

Simply start by an ice-breaker (one site proposing a few : https://www.icebreakers.ws/good-icebreakers-by-name ), people will start to interact with each others, so you will understand who is shy, and who is just uninterested. One ice breaker that you can repeat each time and that I really like and that motivate with just one sentence is : "ok for this meeting what super power are you bringing" (requesting to change it each meeting). Good luck, and just publish feed back if you tryed the idea.

Ten is a large group. Have you thought about spending part of the meeting working in smaller groups? For example, you could divide the team into pairs and hand out tickets to do initial planning, then combine into 2 groups of 5 to review&revise the initial plans.

Techniques that pull input from each team member silently might also help. For example, if you started the meeting by handing out tickets and packs of sticky notes, and had each person silently do the task breakdown on stickies in a short timebox. Then go round the room & have each person present the initial plan for that ticket, explaining their reasoning as they put the stickies up on the board, and updating as the group discusses.

Pay attention also to interpersonal and personality issues. Among the many possible issues are:

  • differences in culture around interrupting. Are the talkers comfortable interrupting each other as part of the normal flow of conversation? If so, maybe check in with some of the non-talkers as to what their expectations are. Or, try one meeting that uses a "talking stick" or other mechanism to avoid interruptions.
  • differences in expertise/skill level. Are the non-talkers all more junior developers? If so, they may not see what the point is for them to contribute, if the talkers seem to have everything covered. If so, check in with your team's values about knowledge sharing, mentoring, questions, and learning by doing. Be sure to point out that it's often questions from people who are less knowledgeable about the topic that move the conversation to expose unexamined assumptions and discover new complications.\

Good luck! (And welcome to pm.stackexchange!)

  • Culture is definitely a factor to consider. This team has members from 4 different countries. – brunohdaniel Sep 13 at 16:30

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