Empowerment Retro


Mike Caspar — GitHub Profile Pic
Mike Caspar’s GitHub Profile Pic, 2020


The following article was originally published in 2015 by my friend, colleague, and mentor, Mike Caspar.

As he’s retired and has decommissioned his personal blog, I have re-published it (with minor edits) with his permission.

So, for posterity’s sake, you can read Mike’s article in multiple forms:

  • HTML: (below)
  • PNG: a screenshot of the article at Mike’s blog (captured 2020-10-06).

Creative Commons License

The content below is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0). The content may be shared in any medium or format and adapted for any purpose, even commercially with attribution to Mike Caspar, 2015.

1st published: Saturday, November 28, 2015

Mike’s Original Article

This week I had the pleasure if sitting in to observe a Scrum Master training class put on by Mishkin Berteig and David Sabine in Toronto. I was there primarily to provide some input on a specific topic for David. During the first day, I was asked if I’d be willing to come up with a talk for the second day on a topic that kept coming up during conversations… Fears around empowerment of self-organizing teams.

I remembered, there is no better way to share ideas than to let them come from the audience themselves. I decided… rather than a talk, let’s get the class (all aspiring Scrum Masters) to provide the learning for themselves. I spent that evening and the following morning on the train coming up with a session for this discussion. I call it the Empowerment Retro.

There are some people who might make arguments about teams being self-empowered vs. empowered. I acknowledge and accept that as an interesting topic, but I’ll stay focused on the assumption that organizations empower for now to facilitate this discussion. Several people took pictures and mentioned that for them it would be a game changer. I am happy with initial results. Next time, I will experiment with a better way of explaining what I am looking for as an improvement.

In general, a ScrumMaster will inevitably find themselves in a conversation about Empowerment. As many of the people in the class were soon going to find themselves in the Scrum Master role, I felt it was a good idea to give them some knowledge and ability to handle this discussion when it comes up. They also had the benefit of more than 30 other smart minds in the class they could learn from.

Here we go… the “Empowerment Retro”.

The amount of empowerment will be different based in every company and culture. There are two commonalities in discussions about Empowerment (and some of the fears associated with the topic).


The team(s) receiving a Level of Empowerment from the Organization.


The team(s) provide certain things to the Organization as a result of this empowerment.

It is a symbiotic relationship (one that benefits both parties)

I gave a short story showing an example of each from previous real-life situations from coaching engagements. I discussed the idea that a healthy environment likely has some embodiment of both sides of the TO / FROM equation. The class was asked to think of something that needs to be there in the TO as well as something that needs to be there in the FROM for a healthy approach to team based work.

Each person brought up and put their stickies on the chart. Then, a person from the class volunteered to facilitate a discussion about the results.

It was awesome to see a full set of ideas for both sides of the discussion. For me, it was very exciting to see a future Scrum Master practice facilitation in front of the class (something they would be doing often in their new role). The resulting chart gave some interesting ideas for the attendees. Here are some insights that were shared with me privately during a future break…

  • (after taking a picture of the flipchart) “This for me is the money shot to show my boss. Although these were very different people from different companies and cultures, they had very similar ideas about a large number of topics (a way to create common understanding between each other) and it was quick and easy to do. It will help me prove to my boss that different people collaborating together can create great ideas and insight” — (paraphrased)

  • “I never realized that empowerment is not just one way or that we should maybe talk about this openly once in a while.” — (paraphrased)

  • “I’m glad I have some ideas of where first steps can come from for this discussion to move forward in my company” — (paraphrased)

This is a photo of the flipchart from the class
Photo of Flipchart Result

If you don’t relate to each item in this picture, that’s fine. The idea is for your team or company to come up with their own.

Please feel free to share your results here when you try this retrospective technique. I would be curious to hear back reports of success or failure with the tool.

Mike’s original article was published at mike-caspar.blogspot.com/2015/11/empowerment-retro.html

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