How to Be a Great Agile Team Facilitator

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
May 3, 2022
Updated on
May 23, 2022
Table of Content

As a facilitator, it is your job to ensure that everyone in the room participates productively. You also have to guide people with diverse work styles and personalities toward a similar goal. 

If you want to become better at this job, some skills can help you become an excellent facilitator and make the process that much easier. Preparation is key to the success of your event, and we'll walk you through it, step by step.

Keep reading to find information that will turn you into a trustworthy meeting leader.

What Is a Meeting Facilitator?

A meeting facilitator's job is to keep the group's discussion on track during a get-together or conference call by setting the tone of the meeting and keeping the agenda on track with their leadership. Having a meeting facilitator ensures that everyone has an opportunity to speak up and promotes a welcoming atmosphere for all attendees.

Facilitating a productive and successful meeting is a facilitator's goal. They don't have to be experts in the subject matter, but they should be able to keep attendees engaged, lead conversations and discussions, and detect and address problems while conducting a productive meeting.

What Characterizes an Agile Team Facilitator

Facilitating meetings is only one aspect of being an Agile team facilitator. A skilled facilitator demonstrates self-awareness, self-control, and bias management while exhibiting openness and excitement. When an ATF is present, the team can better participate, collaborate, and get involved.

As an Agile team facilitator, you must be able to read the team's context and the surrounding environment. When working with a new group, you should notice two distinct indications.

The team's ability to self-organize and self-improve is the first consideration. Take note of the current working methods, the level of discourse, and interpersonal relationships to find areas for improvement. Additionally, take note of the methods used by teams to overcome obstacles, reach decisions, and provide everyone an opportunity to be heard.

Secondly, they learn more about the art of facilitation by participating in various team activities, exploring more advanced facilitation principles, leading more extensive or more varied groups, and helping people work through complex or contentious topics. Try introducing new ideas or methods to the team and seeing how they react to see if it works. 

People who are excellent at Agile team facilitation display:

  • Quality leadership
  • Ability to set up structured and adaptable processes
  • Bring people together
  • An acute awareness of their surroundings
  • A powerful and deliberate presence
  • A talent for making meetings/workshops enjoyable for everyone involved
  • Empathy with attendees, helping them overcome obstacles.
  • An innate talent for keeping pace with all conversations among the delegates

You can better understand your job as an ATF if you enroll in an Agile facilitation certification.

Agile Team Facilitator: Roles And Responsibilities

Here's a quick rundown of the facilitator's responsibilities:

Create a Welcoming Atmosphere 

To create a safe environment, the facilitator must consider several factors. These can vary, depending on the team's composition.

Allow Participants To Be Heard

A good facilitator doesn't force people to talk, but rather gives them enough space to want to do it all by themselves. This usually means putting people at ease, even in a highly charged environment. Teammates should be allowed to speak when they feel like it.

Ensure the Clarity of All Presented Ideas

It's not uncommon for Agile team members to speak technically while explaining concepts. As a result, they fail to elaborate on their ideas so that the rest of the team can grasp them quickly. The facilitator's job is to make sure that everyone in the meeting understands and becomes a part of the conversation. They must ask probing questions to elicit a broader range of viewpoints from the group. To some extent, the Agile team facilitator is in charge of putting pressure on attendees to get them to ideate and respond. 

Maintain A Neutral Opinion 

As a facilitator, it is not your job to make the team's decisions for them. Instead, facilitate the generation of new ideas and weigh the benefits and downsides of various viewpoints presented. 

Neutrality is the goal of the position. The facilitator must grasp this concept even if it's not always straightforward. Moreover, the facilitator should not take sides in the decision-making process. The setting is no longer secure if the facilitator supports either side.

Establish Oneself As an Expert

For the most part, it's not an official position or duty. Facilitation, though, isn't as simple as it appears. Anyone interested in serving as a facilitator should seek specialized training. A variety of organizations hold training sessions to provide the necessary knowledge.

Why Is It Important to Have an Agile Team Facilitator

An Agile facilitator can help resolve issues that influence productivity and increase the team's ability to function as a unit. An Agile team facilitator's position can significantly impact the entire organization because they can work with numerous groups at once.

Here are some other reasons why you need an Agile team facilitator:

Resolve Any Disagreements

The role of a facilitator is to recognize that disagreement among group members is typical and does not have to be suppressed as long as it is communicated nicely. It's essential to prepare for and handle conflict head-on.

Build Acceptance

An ATF with an inquisitive mind can encourage acceptance of the comments and suggestions of the group members.

Empathize with the Participants

An Agile team facilitator considers the team members' feelings during the meetings.

Lead the Meetings

A competent ATF can maintain the meeting and keep it on track toward its stated goal.

Steps to Becoming the Best Agile Team Facilitator

A good facilitator's job is to make sure that everyone feels like they have a say in how the meeting moves forward while also ensuring everyone has an opportunity to contribute. However, a facilitator only offers suggestions and uses available resources to assist the group in moving forward.

Make a Plan

Your group's best option may be an open, well-facilitated discussion. However, big groups may require a planned approach to generate ideas, engage everyone, create ideas, and cover a wide range of topics.

You can plan a brainstorming session: Give participants time to think about what they want to say and consider creating smaller "break-out" groups to encourage participation.

Set an Agenda

An agenda keeps participants focused on retrieving outcomes and allows the event to flow. Consider this when planning:

Materials and Data 

What do attendees need to know? When and how will you provide this data?

Room or Online Bookings

Which setup encourages participation? It would help if you had different rooms or a virtual meeting room.

Technology 

In the event of a WiFi outage, is your presentation stored offline, or do you need to provide virtual whiteboards?

Control the Event

Now that the agenda and discussion process are set, consider how you'll direct and control the meeting. These hints will help:

  • Set ground rules like appreciating everyone's input, only allowing one person to speak at a time, and refrain from insulting remarks.
  • Go over the goals and agenda. Make sure that everyone understands their job and the group's goals.
  • Allow every participant to introduce themselves or use suitable icebreakers to start the meeting on a positive note.
  • You may need to intercede as the activities and energy levels progress. Maintain focus and interest. 
  • Stay attentive, listen intently, and stay interested and engaged. This sets a fantastic example for others. If not, how do you get them? How can you improve participation?
  • Checkpoints and summaries: Stay in charge of the agenda and summarize frequently.

Record and Act

A facilitator's duties also include capturing outputs, bringing them together, discussing them, and ensuring that they are implemented.

The secret to effective event recording is clarity on what will be captured, how, and by whom. Please make sure everyone's obligations are crystal clear, whether it's yours or others'.

Reflect and Ameliorate

After a meeting, evaluate your performance and plan for improvement. You might ask the group or a trusted colleague for comments.

Agile Facilitator vs. Scrum Master

While the function of the Agile team facilitator sounds a lot like that of a Scrum Master, there are a few significant differences. Agile facilitators work with several teams, whereas Scrum Masters only work with one team.

The Scrum Master serves as a critical member and facilitator in a Scrum Team. They spend every day in the office and know what's going on with the team.

The Agile Coach, unlike the Scrum Master, is not a member of a specific Scrum team. They are a self-employed coach who works with various groups, including the company's upper management.

The Agile Coach's growth and concentration can be broken down into many tiers. A Program and a Team Coach guide individual team members, whereas Enterprise Coaches assist organizations in making the transition to an Agile way of working. 

The Agile Coach Bootcamp focuses on coaching teams and programs.

Final Thoughts: Is It Beneficial for Your Team to Have a Facilitator?

Facilitators are excellent at managing team dynamics to create a supportive and collaborative environment. As a facilitator, whether you're leading a single meeting or a series of meetings, it's your job to keep conversations on track, encourage everyone to contribute their thoughts, and ensure that everyone is on board with the conclusions. You'll gain confidence and become a better facilitator if you broaden your skill set beyond what you're used to doing.

About the author

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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