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Feb 2, 2022

Agile Team Facilitation (ICP – ATF)

Facilitation is the ability of an Agile coach to host events that are meaningful, constructive, and capable of leading to actionable results, based on sufficiently high degrees of consensus. In the words of SAFe Agilist and Trainer, Boris de Jong, “That’s an art form, or at least a craft. If you get a group of people in a room, knowing what to do with those people to bring them to a result they’re satisfied with -- navigating all the ebbs and the current that occurs when you’re with them -- that’s a craft.”

What Is the ATF Training?

The ATF Training, or the Agile Team Facilitation Training, is one of two trainings that exist within the IC Agile portfolio. IC Agile is a US-based organization that is currently trying to set international standards for Agile coaches, and the ATF Training is one of the means through which they intend to accomplish this goal. A common misconception about the ATF Training is that it is exclusively an entry-level training, which is not the case. Rather, the ATF Training is perfect for both entry-level and more advanced participants alike, simply because it focuses on a central topic which is key to Agile coaches of all expertise levels: facilitation.

The ATF Training: Perfect for Novices and Professionals Alike

The ATF Training would be a cut-and-dry entry level training if it dealt exclusively with the basics of Agile Team Facilitation -- the general ability to host events. But when it comes to this unique training, that is simply not the case. Many individuals seem to believe that if you have been an Agile coach for quite some time, then you’re a master at hosting events, and that you don’t need further guidance. However, this is far from being the reality of the situation.

Whether the ATF Training is introduced as an entry-level training or a training for Agile coaching professionals will depend exclusively on who the participants of the training are at that given moment in time. In relation to the past ATF Trainings he has taught, Boris de Jong goes as far as to say, “I have had versions where we went quite advanced, with participants who are already very skilled at hosting events. In those cases, it was a lesson of sharing best practices with your fellow Agile coaches, and creating complicated scenarios to help guide the learning experience. But I have also had versions of the ATF Training where participants were new to the concept of hosting events, which is when we focused more on the core competencies required to gain and practice this integral skill.”

To ensure that a participant is well-suited for the ATF Training, and to make sure that they find themselves in a group of professionals who are close to their experience level, we will be in touch with all participants prior to the training.

Deep-Dive Into Important Topics

It’s important to remember that even for seasoned Agile coaches with a lot of facilitation experience under their belts, there’s still a new mindset to be acquired regarding a number of relevant topics. One of these topics which the ATF Training dives into is neutrality. The discussion of neutrality is often a novel one for Agile coaches -- even for those with years upon years of hands-on experience.

“Look at it this way,” explains Boris de Jong. “If you’re an Agile coach, and someone asks you, ‘Should we approach this situation in an Agile manner?’ Your instinctive response is going to be, ‘Yes, of course, because the Agile approach is the best approach.’ But in reality, such a response is merely your opinion. As a facilitator, your most important task is to not have an opinion, because it should be up to the group you guide to bring about their own insights. That will always breed the most psychological ownership: if the group arrives at their own conclusion, without being impacted by the opinion of the Agile coach.”

This, in it of itself, is an Agile notion: to think for yourself. And even the most experienced Agile coaches can run into issues with neutrality when the topic makes its way into the discussion. Some coaches may even find that the reason they’ve been struggling within their Agile environment is because they have been handing their team solutions, rather than letting the team come to those solutions on their own. “So, as you may be able to see, the training indeed tackles some seemingly entry-level topics. But once you truly do a deep-dive into the content, you quickly see that the ATF Training is extremely relevant to Agile coaches of all experience levels,” remarks Boris.

It was really practical for me as an Agile Coach and Scrum Master to experience what kind of things you have to deal with by facilitating a team. The practical part of the training was the most valuable.

The Agile Coach’s Facilitation Toolbox

New tools are introduced to the Agile coach during the course of the ATF Training. The purpose of these tools is to help participants better understand the root of the issues with which they are confronted, when to abandon a plan, when to create a new plan, how to approach conflict, and so much more. All in all, Agile coaches come out of this training with a solid toolbox and thorough understanding of what it means to be a facilitator of an Agile team.

Before the ATF Training: Additional Information

The ATF Training is offered to individuals who already have some Agile experience, whether it be a lot or just a little. Experienced coaches can test their assumptions against the experience of their fellow Agile coaches, which will ensure that they truly reep the benefits of this lesson focused on review and revision. Participants should not expect to go into this training and listen to a lecture for several days. They should expect to enter this training with the goal of comparing notes, hosting energizers, organizing a sense-making workshop, and so much more. During the ATF Training, Agile coaches of all experience levels will have the opportunity to put their own facilitation skills to the test in an environment of their peers. It’s a skills training, rather than a knowledge training, so there is a heavy emphasis on putting theory to practice. “You should go into this training expecting to get active and involved -- it’s what makes the whole experience all the richer,” explains Boris.

If you’re ready to register for the ATF Training to gain some in-depth insights on what it takes to be a top-notch facilitator, be sure to check the class availability down below. Be sure to take advantage of this hands-on, do-it-yourself training today.

Written by Gladwell Academy, but most of our content is created by trainers and partnering experts!