Teamwork is great… until it isn’t. When teamwork gets complicated, what can we do?
Facilitation is a technique —or rather, a set of techniques that seek to improve communication and collaboration between the members of a team. These group dynamics have different goals, from conducting a productive meeting to creating a space to solve problems.
For two years now, Belén Piñeyro has been an agile team facilitator at intive, since teams needed someone external to the group to facilitate retrospectives. With time, teams learned that this kind of actions create value, and began to require for them to be implemented.
Agile Team Facilitators at intive
One of Belén tasks is to facilitate teams’ retrospectives. Sometimes it’s just a one-time thing and sometimes she follows-up, as with the intiver school. It’s then that new needs are discovered and new spaces are created to address them.
It’s essential to get to know the team you’re working with, says Belén. “Some teams hate retrospectives but then they notice that not having them creates problems. Thinking about the way we do things isn’t enough, we also have to reflect on how we did them in order to learn and get better at it. In this case, we agreed on doing a 45-minute retrospective every two sprints and on following a quick keep-fix-try method (or similar). After a few months, we compared the results with the situation of the team prior to doing the retrospectives, and the team itself noticed the added value.”
Vanesa Savino comes from the agile field and is the Project Manager of this team. She says she also had to adapt to the different needs of each team: “Some people aren’t interested in playful activities or in telling their story to someone external to the group, because they’re shy or for other reasons. They prefer to talk with someone who belongs to the team and be quick about it when it comes to getting conclusions.”
It’s really challenging to follow up a team of more than 30 people divided into two cells and 5 technological groups for back-end, front-end, testing, automation and UX. Each cell carries out internally-facilitated retrospectives when they finish a sprint. Belén comes in to facilitate the integration retrospective every three sprints. “The purpose of such instances is to enable conversations that maybe weren’t possible before. They allow the team to have complete visibility, to integrate, to solve pain points and also to get to know other members.
Nico Álvarez, one of the Team Leads who was coached by Belén, said that one of the greatest benefits of having agile facilitators is that meetings have a clear purpose, and they “don’t spend 20 minutes explaining what the meeting is about”. This also works in favor of the client: if you have a defined internal process, you can replicate it to keep a much more effective interaction with them.
Workshops in intive
As an agile facilitator, Belén also gives workshops to improve communication. “We’re defined by the conversations we have (and don’t have)”, she claims. In those workshops, she uses roleplaying techniques and allows time for feedback between actors and observers. Emiliano Mansilla, QA developer and member of the intiver school, has participated in them and shares his experience: “We carried out a brief workshop on effective communication in which we had to imagine a situation (some kind of conflict), act it out and then give each other feedback. And it was quite revealing, because we got to discover (and understand) each other’s personality.”
These workshops have proven to be useful to overcome obstacles, prevent potential issues and improve teamwork. Members of different teams participate in the workshops, which Emiliano found quite positive because you get to interact with people you normally wouldn’t. “Everyone has their own perspective over a situation, and each one of us made contributions that the others maybe couldn’t observe. Facilitation was great to work on interpersonal relations”.
At intive we also conduct workshops on how to keep more productive meetings, from a communication point of view. In these workshops, people mention they feel something is lacking in terms of communication. “We can have the best tools and resources in the world to plan meetings and carry them out, but if we lack the right skills to communicate in an effective way, we’ll keep on clashing with the same obstacles”, Belén says. That’s why this year’s focus is to work to have more effective meetings and maintain the right kind of conversation to promote engagement and get results. “We constantly collaborate with other people and sell software made by individuals, how could we not care about communication? If we cannot articulate a request nor show what the reasoning behind our decisions and actions is, we’re lost.”
“As agile enthusiasts, it’s important to be flexible enough to adapt to change, to go with it and to accept the fact that we have to deal with uncertainty. What we consider effective today probably won’t be acceptable tomorrow, so we must work hard to keep on improving and try to perform a little better at work than yesterday”, Belén concludes. This guarantees that teamwork will continue to be great, and that intive teams will stand out.
Special thanks to Belén Piñeyro, Vanesa Savino, Emiliano Mansilla and Nicolás Alvarez for their testimonials.