What is agile team facilitation?
Facilitation, as we know the general meaning of the term, is to facilitate something. In essence, make an action or process easier. In agile, facilitation is pretty much the same thing. However, agile facilitation is a specialization of its own.
In this blog, we shall understand more about facilitation and the team facilitator in agile. We will look at what they do and their roles and responsibilities in detail.
A lot of the work in agile projects happens in groups. Sprint planning, daily scrum meetings, scrum of scrums, etc. are all group activities. In these, teams prioritize stories, plan the work they'd be doing, check for possible risks and share progress among other things. However, getting your team to collaborate as a self-organized unit is quite challenging. This is where the team facilitator comes in.
Who is a team facilitator in agile?
A team facilitator in agile is the person who is given the role of conducting meetings. The person doesn't take part in the discussion very actively. But, their primary work is to create conditions such that group processes take place with ease. They ensure that the original objective of having the meeting is met.
A number of training organizations conduct specialized team facilitator courses. In these, the trainees learn the necessary skills for the agile team facilitator. The courses give a lot of importance to the roles and responsibilities that the team facilitator in agile needs to have. Below, we shall briefly understand what these roles and responsibilities are.
Roles and responsibilities
This is a brief overview of what the facilitator is expected to do:
- Bring about a conducive environment where all are comfortable
The facilitator will need to take into account a number of things to create a safe environment. These could differ from team to team based on the composition of the given team.
- Make sure people are encouraged to speak what's on their mind and that the team hears them
The facilitator should not force people to speak. However, they must make sure that the environment is such that the individual is at comfort. Through this, the team members will be able to speak when they have something to say without forcing them.
- Clarify the ideas people put forth
A lot of people in agile teams may explain things in a very technical way. Due to this, they would neglect elaborating on the ideas they have in mind so that everyone in the team can understand them. The facilitator is the one who should make sure that every insight is clear to all in the meeting.
Apart from this, they also need to ask questions so that the team sees other perspectives. In a way, the team facilitator in agile is responsible for challenging teams to think harder. Only by seeing different points of view will the team be able to better their ideas. But, the answers are not to be given by the facilitator.
- The facilitator must not make decisions
The role of the facilitator isn't to make decisions for the team. Instead, their role is to make it easier for the team to generate ideas. They assist them in weighing the ideas and understanding the pros and cons. With this ammo, the team can then make the decision themselves. The facilitator isn't the one who should be making the decisions for the team.
Along with this, the facilitator also shouldn't take any side in the decision. The role is a neutral role. Although this isn't always easy, it is important for the facilitator to understand it. If the facilitator takes either one or the other side, then the environment is no longer safe for all to speak.
- Attain professional status
This isn't exactly a role or responsibility. But as you might have figured, facilitation isn't an easy task in practice. Due to this, those who want to be the facilitator are encouraged to get professional training. Hence, a number of organizations conduct courses to instill the necessary skills.
Tips for team facilitation
These are some basic tips recommended for facilitating agile teams:
- Narrow down the agenda of the meeting to only those items which are most important. The facilitator needs to always have the purpose in mind.
- Try not to have a senior leader run the meeting. This way, teams can come up with their own ideas instead of expecting to be told what to do.
- Think about how things might go wrong and offer suggestions to fix them.
- Share the goals and agenda of the meeting in advance with all the attendees.
- Identify when things are not worth discussing too long. These can be tabled at the start itself if not worth it.