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Last updated on | Agile Retrospectives General

Retrospective Agile Facilitator

by Luís Gonçalves
Retrospective Agile Facilitator

Hi guys, last time I provided a good exercise to close the retrospective.

Today I am going to talk about the Retrospective Agile Facilitator responsibilities.

Retrospective Agile Facilitator Responsibilities

Create the right environment where everyone is comfortable to speak

As I explained before several things must be taken into consideration to create a safe environment. Of course, all these topics should be taken care by the facilitator. I believe he is the ultimate responsible for creating this environment where everyone is comfortable to speak.

Encouraging people to speak up, and make sure that everyone is heard

Another responsibility of the facilitator relies on the fact that he must encourage everyone to talk and ensure that everyone is heard.The facilitator should not force anyone to speak if they do not want to. This is a pre-requirement for a successful Agile Retrospective. However, he should make sure that everyone is heard and everyone has an opportunity to speak.

As you know most of the teams have both outspoken and shy people. It´s not uncommon to see shy people being turned down by the outspoken voices. In these cases, the facilitator has a key role to guarantee that everyone has an opportunity to speak and provide input.

Clarify Insights

We are in a software development industry and as we all know most of us have the very technical knowledge and mindset and because of that we do not have the right touch to elaborate on our ideas 🙂 This is not a bad thing, it´s just a fact. We are good with numbers and algorithms but most of the times not that good with communication.

Because of the previous fact, the Facilitator should clarify all insights that people point out. He should be responsible for making sure that every single insight is understood by everyone in the room. This is the only way that people can understand and analyse the data that will be generated within the Agile Retrospective.

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Challenging Insights with a lot of questions

The responsibility of the facilitator does not end with the insights and clarification. The facilitator also needs to take a role of a coach and ask many questions. He must help the team to see different angles and different options. It´s his responsibility to challenge team members with their insights.

Only then the team can see different points of views and generate several ideas on the topic.

It´s important to underline that it´s not his responsibility to give the answers, this is where the coaching role is important. He is there to ask questions and help teams to generate as many insights as possible, not sticking to the first insight that pops up.

Think positive

I think one of the prime characteristics of a good Agile Retrospectives facilitator is the positiveness. This is specially crucial when the facilitator works with a young team. That does not mean that the facilitator will not allow the team to talk about hard topics, but he should aim to keep the environment as constructive and positive as possible.

It´s critical to pay attention to this! Sometimes teams face many problems, and if the coach is not aware of how positivity is important, the Agile Retrospective can become a complaint session, dragging everyone to become very poisoning and impact the future team´s performance.

No decision maker

When companies make the transition from Waterfall to Agile, some of them assign typical project managers to take the role of a Scrum Master. Typically project managers have the responsibility to take a lot of decisions. As you know this is not true with Scrum Masters (which is usually the typical facilitator of Agile Retrospectives).

The facilitator should understand that his role is not taking decisions, his role is to help the team to generate a lot of insights. Helping them to measure the pros and cons of different actions and guide them to take a final decision. In some teams, the facilitator is part of the development team working as a developer or a tester.

In these cases, the facilitator should make clear to the team when he is voting/discussing as a team member or facilitator. This is extremely important so that people understand what kind of role the facilitator has at that point.

Develop himself as Professional Facilitator

Many people think that facilitation is something very simple and easy. To be honest, I have been doing facilitation for several years, and I still feel that I have so much to learn. If you want to become a really good Agile Retrospectives facilitator, invest in a Professional Facilitator program.

There are several places where you can get information about the topic, but one you can start with is the International Association of Facilitators (http://www.iaf-world.org/site/) There you will find a lot of interesting material to start your Facilitator career.

Does not take sides in the discussion

A good Agile Retrospective facilitator should not take any sides. Like it was explained before, in case the facilitator is part of the team as a developer, tester or any other role, the facilitator should be explicit and communicate to the team when he is talking with the “hat” of a team member.

Some times being neutral is quite difficult, but it´s very important. If the facilitator takes sides, team members might feel attacked and stop contributing to the whole event, breaking the productivity of the Agile Retrospective.

Can choose different exercises for different situations

One and half years ago when I and Ben Linders published the book “Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives” one of the main reasons why we wrote the book was to provide people with ideas for Agile Retrospectives exercises. Each Agile Retrospective is a different event, all of them are unique, and they should tackle different the most appropriate problem.

A good facilitator should be able to identify what issues are troubling the most of the team during the current sprint and find out what exercises can be used to make sure the team will gain a lot of insights from the Agile Retrospective.

If you need help to find exercises I am currently building a database with a lot of different exercises for you (Agile Retrospectives Ideas).  There are only a few exercises so far, but we have scheduled more than 40 exercises until the end of the year.

Can summarise everything that happened during the Agile Retrospective

The closing part of an Agile Retrospective is critical. Many times Agile Retrospectives facilitators do not pay enough attention to this part. It is imperative to support the team to summarise what was agreed to be tackled during the next iteration.

It´s the ideal time to remind what follow-up actions should be taken, by whom and by when. Helping the team to define their action points is a critical aspect for the success of the change initiatives. And of course, it´s vital to follow up on the selected topics during the sprint to make sure the team is working on them.

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Luís Gonçalves

About Luís Gonçalves

http://luis-goncalves.com/

Luis is not simply a consultant, he helps people and businesses grow. He expects to deliver 10 times more value than what you’d actually pay for. As an Agile retrospective expert, customer happiness and client success are his biggest drivers!

Comments

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  1. Hi Luis,
    I always read your posts with great interest. Either I find confirmation or I take some good ideas to improve.
    Thanks a lot
    Regards
    Uwe

    1. Big thanks Uwe 🙂

      Awesome to know that you find them interesting… Is there any specific topic that I should explore more in order to help you with something?

      Cheers,
      Luis

  2. Hi,

    Very interesting post. Sometimes is very important to read/listen persons with new ideas or prospectives.
    After i read your post, i will read the others post´s.

    thanks
    Ricardo Fernandes

  3. Great article Luis,

    I’ve been following some of your posts from Australia, I am another portuguese outside Portugal.

    Congratulate on your new career path. It’s great to see other fellow portuguese succeding overseas.

    Keep the good work!
    Daniel Matos