During a recent collaborative session on the agile lifecycle, I was introduced to the SCIPAB concept from Mandel Communications. The SCIPAB approach wasn't created for agile use and can be implemented against multiple scenarios. During the session I attended, it was being directed at resolving conflicts being discussed during sprint retrospectives.
What is SCIPAB?
Mandel Communications refers to SCIBPAB as "the surefire, six-step method for starting any conversation or presentation." The goal is to communicate faster and better as a part of conversations that occur every day. Of course, SCIPAB is an acronym, which is broken-down into the following six sections:
Situation — Expresses the current state for the discussion.
Complication — Summarizes the critical issues, challenges, or opportunities.
Implication — Provides insight into the consequences that will be a result if the Complications are not addressed.
Position — Notes the presenter's opinion on the necessary changes which should be made.
Action — Defines the expectations of the target audience/listeners.
Benefit — Clearly concludes how the Position and Action sections will address the Complications.
Sprint Retrospective Example
In an agile world, my experience has shown that product owner availability/dedication have been a common challenge. Using this scenario as an example, I wondered how easily the SCIPAB method could make a difference in the discussions that followed in the concluding retrospective. First, let's look at a typical non-SCIPAB approach:
Situation Happened — The point where it was noticeable the product owner wasn't fully engaged with the team.
Shock Phase — The realization that our team wasn't getting the support we needed from the our liason into the business.
Do Nothing and Wait for Retro — Got to the point where we appreciated the little time we did receive.
Finally Talk About Situation In Retro — Wrote our notes, posted them on the board and talked (really griped) about the situation (most likely without product owner attending).
Mention Situation To Manager — Took a few minutes to let manager know about the situation, who said he would bring it up to product owner.
Hope For The Best — Pretty much hoping things would get better.
Unfortunately, the SSDFMH (not really suggesting anyone use this acronym) approach does not really yield the expected results. A clear and concise focus is missing ... among other things. Applying the SCIPAB approach would likely appear as shown below:
Situation — Product owner is not fully engaged as part of scrum team.
Complication — Answers to questions and demos of updates are delayed.
Implication — Less time available to process answers and make adjustments from demo.
Position — Product owner availability needs to increase.
Action — At a minimum, time should be reserved by product owner for use only by agile team.
Benefit — Team will have ability to stay on track with targets set during sprint planning.
By contrast, the SCIPAB method makes it clear that there is a situation that needs to be addressed. In fact, this very information could be easily used to escalate the issue to the product manager or other executive-level staff to help resolve the issue. The SCIPAB method removed any unneeded information and provided a clear view of the issues, risks, opinions and recommendations that are required to take action.
As noted in the introduction, the SCIPAB method was not actually designed for agile use, but it seems to have a strong fit. Of course, this is only one example of where the SCIPAB approach can provide value. Some other examples:
Consider the case where you or your team needs to make a recommendation for a product or solution. The six steps of SCIPAB contains the necessary elements for the audience to be put into a position to reach a decision.
Probably the most common use case for the SCIPAB method is for a presentation you are planning to make. Simply organizing your slides to follow the Situation, Complication, Implication, Position, Action and Benefit sections could make a noticeable difference in the reaction you will receive from your audience.
Keeping the six steps in mind when performing routine communication can result in a very positive impact in the conversational process. In doing so, the conversation should stay on topic, with only the important aspects being discussed, creating a clear and concise summary of what truly needs to be addressed.
As my team winds up our current sprint this week, I am going to ask them to bring SCIPAB into our retrospective meeting. My goal is to also put SCIPAB into place during my routine conversations as well. My expectation is that using the SCIPAB method over the SSDFMH (just kidding, please don't use this abbreviation) approach leads to communication that is both faster and better — yielding positive results.
Have a really great day!