Inevitably Agile

somethings are just inevitable …

Facilitation – some tips  

I am currently reading a book called Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management: Secrets of Great Managment (Pragmatic Programmers) by Johanna Rothman and Esther Derby. It is an AWESOME book.

Each chapter is a new story with many lessons to be learnt, and there are many tips along the way. This is partially the reason its taking me SO long to finish the book. There is so much to learn! I think I should re-read the book every couple of months as I am sure I will get a new message every time.

For now I have decided to blog about an area I find very interesting and crucial to my new job title of ScrumMaster – and that is Facilitation.

The book summarizes it beautifully and gives some tips as follows:


What does Facilitation actually mean?

Providing a process and structure to help a group think and solve problems together.

You are responsible for the process NOT the outcome


1. Make sure the meeting has a goal

Help the group identify the steps needed to reach the goal, and how to accomplish each step.


2. Generate and integrate goals

  • Brainstorm. Write down all ideas (no discussing until done) , build on others ides, nothing is too wild or too silly. Set a time limit, allow time at end for questions to clarify, prioritize list of ideas in order of usefulness.
  • Silent brainstorming. Each person jots down ideas (10). Form pairs and discuss – identify best ideas. Put up on board. Set time limit.
  • Affinity grouping. Group ideas from above together – name these groups

3. Evaluate options

Write down and post key ideas of each option. Review and allow time for clarifying questions. Evaluate each on its own before comparing options. 3 columns: pros, cons, interesting. Move on to next option.

4. Test agreement

  • Vote with thumb – up (I agree with choice made), down (I don’t agree with choice made), sideways (I agree with groups choice – straddling the fence)
  • When mixed discuss votes – ask questions for more info – this is not a soap box to advocate etc.
  • Vote by consensus –not majority rule. Set a time limit with fallback ruling.

5. Help everyone participate

  • Check progress and discuss
  • Allow those struggling to speak
  • Rephrase with words
  • Comment on what you see

6. Close off the meeting

  • Near the end of the meeting
  • Summarize important points
  • Review action items


Remember: Don’t facilitate AND participate – if you want to contribute then consider getting an outsider to facilitate the meeting.


Some nice tips that I will try and remember the next time I’m facilitating a meeting, I am especially bad at the ‘not participating’ part 😦


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