A Facilitator as an (Event) Value Maximiser

So, what is facilitation?

Facilitation is the art of creating an environment for information exchange or creation. It’s the combination of preparatory work, in-event guidance and post event wrap-up that goes far beyond being the person who sends the calendar invites and initiates a workshop. Like many things in life, facilitation doesn’t escape the iceberg effect — 10% is visible effort and 90% is hidden. As all good facilitators will tell you, the success of a workshop is not determined solely before, during or after it, but rather the holistic execution of bringing everyone together and achieving the intended outcome. Facilitation is not something that just anyone can do — fundamentally, it’s a deeply human activity that has its own associated skillset that is honed through experience. Think of a facilitator like a gardener. They till the earth, prepare the environment ready for growth, and actively engage with it throughout its lifecycle. Does this gardener sound like a Scrum Master to you? Is the Scrum Master always the facilitator? Maybe, but it doesn’t have to be — it could be a Developer, Product Owner or anyone who frequently collaborates with teams.

Who is the facilitator?

By default, it’s common industry practice to think of Scrum Masters as the mandatory facilitator of Scrum events, otherwise, what would they do with their time? I’m being sarcastic of course, but have you ever considered who is the best person to facilitate discussions, meetings, and events in your team? It comes down to the fact that anyone can be a facilitator if they have the skills and nature to do so. These skills cover a few areas: emotional intelligence — reading the room and modelling the right culture; innovative design — scaffolding conversations and outcome generation through the right activity at the right time; and finally, creating accountability from within — making actions and solutions transparent. A facilitator missing any of these key skills is like a dog missing a leg. Could it hobble on and ‘get there’? Maybe, but if a Product Owner is the (product) value maximiser, then consider the facilitator to be the (event) value maximiser. Not everyone can, or should, step into the facilitator role.

What is the skillset of a facilitator?

For a facilitator to be successful they need to have a certain skillset (if you’ve ever seen the movie Taken, you’ll know that Liam Neeson would agree with me!). Earlier I mentioned three key areas for a facilitator to master, emotional intelligence, innovative design and creating accountability, but really they break into separate principles which I’ll discuss below (based heavily on Sean Blair’s work).

Top 5 facilitation Tips

1. Ensure the desired outcomes of the workshop are clear, both to you and the participants.



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Ryan is a Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) for Scrum.org. He is an active consultant for a large corporate organisation. He also holds Qualified Teacher Status.