Playbook for Team Facilitators

When you first read a book about the agile journey, you attend a course or someone mentioned the ideas to you it all sounds easy and simple. Starting is definitely an easy task – just do it.

And then the hard task starts. It is pretty clear your team needs some stuff. Some of these things might be already in your office, others might be missing. In my research on Google either my search or my results had been pretty sad. This is why I write this little kickstart guide. The content is based on my experience and learning with many agile teams in enterprise organizations. It’s purpose is to share some practices that worked for me over time. And yes I’m sorry it is going to be a steep stair you need to walk up.

What is a team facilitator?

Let’s just quickly explain why I’m not talking about the typical role names as they are written in the SCRUM Guide or any other official publication. In fact this is pretty easy. If you look at the role description of a SCRUM Master the logic is that you are responsible for the method and how your team works. Your role is build on the method and you are the master of this method within your team.

Ok now what happens if you are using KANBAN and not SCRUM as a method? Are you going to be all of a sudden a KANBAN Master? What if you are an exerpeinced SCRUM Master using a variation of agile, lean and other practices? Are you going to be an Agility Master? And is Agililty Master only linked to software development or IT? What if you are doing lean/agile coaching within an production environment or even finance?

In my personal opinion you are a coach for a team. And even more looking at the responsibilities and accountabilities you need to facilitate the team to perform best. Said this I, and some other folks in the agile community, think that Team Facilitator is a pretty well role name describing what you actually do. Within a SCRUM based project you might call your project role SCRUM Master, sometimes you are an agile coach or even just a facilitator. In the end it doesn’t matter to much and still is one of the best terms. It focus on what counts most – the team.

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Starting your first team

Starting a new team is kind of the first challenge. Everything is new, from the method to the role and all of a sudden the people have new emotions too. And yes this assumes someone else allows you to do try this agile method.

This playbook gives you some anchor points to be used in an early state of your journey. It is based on my experience with many team facilitators (aka Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches, Agility Masters, …) and reviewed with their feedback.

In general I can say, it doesn’t matter from which professional field you start your journey as a facilitator. The challenges are fairly similar and you can identify at least your major topics.

Structure of this guide

To ease your road trip there are two elements in this guide.

  1. A road book for the first 6 month in 2 parts
  2. Some practices to avoid diving to deep in the beginning

Your first 3 month with a new team

Overview

The 3 month road book covers typically 6 sprints of 2 weeks.This is a common cadence for the learning of the agile methods. In an scaled environment (e.g. LESS; SAFe, …) you also will find an program iteration of about 5-6 sprints as a common cadence for scale.

Objective for your team

As a team we want to learn the method and get a good routine to understand the pro and cons of it within our environment.

Key results for the team

  • Each member of the team learned about the new terms, language, roles and procedures. He/she confirms with a confidence level from >=3 out of 5 this learning
  • We have all our relevant artifacts in place and reviewed them with our experienced agile coach.
  • We have a specific & ranked list of optimizations that we like to achieve within the methods and team organization in the next 3 month. At least 80% of these items can be resolved within the team.

Objectives for you as a team facilitator

As a team facilitator you like to get a certain level of security with applying the method. Your goal is to gain the first competencies to moderate, guide and develop your team. Your focus with that is on you individual learning of the new role.

Key results

You will be able to measure your success based on your capability to increase your competencies for facilitation. By the end of this first 3 month you are confident with:

  • Being the moderator for an agile awareness workshop with your team or an extended team group.
  • You have demonstrated the needed confidence to train someone with agile methodology knowledge the basics of the method used within your team.
  • You can explain to a team member the purpose of each of the artifacts within your method and get a positive understanding as feedback.

Structure of the first 3 month

It is recommended to start with a simple SCRUM method out of the book. The overall structure of your first 3 month is based on 2 weeks sprints.

Why SCRUM and 2 weeks?

The SCRUM method is well documented and described in many books, training and websites. Therefore you will get a lot of material to start with for you and your team. Using the method by the book also helps to first get experience with its essential elements before adopting to your individual needs.

The 2 week sprints length has proved to be easy for the team to plan. 10 working days is realistic and you can oversee the impact. One the other side you and your team have plenty of opportunities to learn and practice the various artifacts.

You might need to be a bit careful with pushing to hard regarding your achievements being published or getting fully done as this might be very complex in your environment. If there are people skeptical about this you will get some checkpoints to verify and adapt your required elements during the first 3 month.

Overview of the possible objectives

1. Sprint

Objective teamObjective facilitator
Learn the method and understand the description by the book.Experience how your team members treat each other.
Identify one specific change that is within your team power to change in the next sprint.Identify ways how you track your activities as a team facilitator.
Have your board available

2. Sprint

Objective teamObjective facilitator

Learn why some topics are out of your team reach for a change.
Oversee how the team interacts with the tools, methods and artefacts
Identify whom you need within your team to perform a better delivery focused resultGive feedback to the team about their performance and what is stopping them
Improve your judgements and estimatesDefine reference stories for your estimations

3. Sprint

Objective teamObjective facilitator
Optimize workflow/development and identify a suitable measurement for improvementExperiment with variations of the retrospective
Develop a learning plan for rockies within your team to use the
optimization
Track value generation and waste of tasks to optimize your work and show opportunities of the team

4. Sprint

Objective teamObjective facilitator
Practice knowledge transfer to gain more security in doing your job right and in high qualityProvide support for learning and knowledge exchange within a guild
Engage to other teams to learn from each other’s experienceEnsure the board fits to the needs of the team – especially for the next PI
Understand how detailed your planning shall be to have everybody empowered to get the work done

5. Sprint

Objective teamObjective facilitator
Prepare your next PI plan based on your improved experienceAlign estimation values and “enablers” with other teams
Describe your needs in knowledge, tools and methodsStart your preparation for the PI workshop
Describe all of your required “enablers” as epics and ranked with your Value ManagerIntroduce WSJF way of ranking to the team as a model to balance business and team needs

6. Sprint

Objective teamObjective facilitator
Have a successful system demo with a great presentation of your work resultHave all dependencies of your team understood and documented
Have your team planning board prepared and availableAlign with other facilitators about the documentation formats

Achievements after the 3 month

The following additional artifacts for your delivery will support you and your team:

  • Definition of ready
  • Definition of done
  • Reference stories for estimations
  • Poker estimation experience
  • A list of possible optimizations for your development flow
  • A competency and learning overview for your team
  • A ranked list of enablers for your team
  • A prepared team backlog of features for your next program iteration
  • An overview of dependencies of your team
  • A documentation of the agile way of working within your team and program
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