Facilitating in an Agile Environment

By Sheila Roberts

I attended the Agile Business Consortium conference and reflecting on it has made me think about how to ensure agile projects and programmes are most effective. The aspect of people came up at the conference. Whenever people are involved there is complexity and alignment is needed. In many areas there are recommendations that a facilitated workshop or meeting is held. Indeed, one of the responsibilities of the Agile Programme Manager, Project Manager or Scrum Master is to facilitate the Daily meetings – scrums, stand ups or other term used in your organisation.

I have reflected on the Facilitation approach that I use, Process Iceberg, which has proven to be very useful over many years. It has an easy 5 layer system to improve the effectiveness of meetings, workshops or other interactions. You start by ensuring clarity of the objective. An easy way to do this is to ask: why do you need the meeting? If I can’t answer why, I need to reconsider whether the meeting is needed. With this answered I can then consider the processes and tools to use during the meeting. Each item on the agenda should be assessed to identify what the output should be and how to achieve this.

Now I can attend, and the next three layers of the iceberg are to the fore, communication, personal preferences and emotions. As the facilitator I need to ensure they are optimised to gain the most from the meeting. If I allow emotions to become heightened it could obscure the objective and mean that the meeting does not deliver the output required. If I do not use the right communication tools I lose people. A meeting dominated by power points will not facilitate creative solutions being generated.

Another fantastic thing about the Process Iceberg approach is that it has so many tools and techniques to choose from that you will always be able to find something to use, straight from the book, or to adapt to your own style. There are some which are universal and work, no matter what the situation. Feedback is central and can be used by everyone all the time to improve understanding.

In an Agile world we need to have a common understanding of the work and what needs to be delivered from each time-boxed event, whether it is clarifying the objective or a retrospective. 

The Agile Manifesto has the highest priority being the delivery of customer value thorough working solutions, using customer collaboration through individuals and interactions which respond to change. 

Facilitation supports the manifesto as an approach to collaboration of individuals enabling interactions, responding to change which delivers customer value with a working solution. If you would like to support your Agile team with excellent facilitation during this why not study Facilitation Foundation (and Practitioner) course available from CUPE International. You will undertake facilitation and learn many skills, tools and techniques during the course which you can start to use immediately. Contact the CUPE Team on Team@cupeinternational.com or 01202 555711 to find out more. www.cupeinternational.com