Managing Process Facilitators

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Summary:
The term "Process Facilitator" refers to the people in your organization whose primary responsibility lies in improving the effectiveness of the work that the teams are doing. This responsibility is mainly around the process the teams are using, but also encompasses less tangible aspects of work such as team development, organizational culture change, administrative and technical tools, and working with other Process Facilitators both inside and outside of your organization. Since the role of the Process Facilitator is so broad, it can be difficult to understand and effectively support Process Facilitators who report to you. This article helps you with this challenging task.

The term "Process Facilitator" refers to the people in your organization whose primary responsibility lies in improving the effectiveness of the work that the teams are doing. This responsibility is mainly around the process the teams are using, but also encompasses less tangible aspects of work such as team development, organizational culture change, administrative and technical tools, and working with other Process Facilitators both inside and outside of your organization. Since the role of the Process Facilitator is so broad, it can be difficult to understand and effectively support Process Facilitators who report to you. This article helps you with this challenging task.

Hiring or Finding a Process Facilitator
At some point, you will need to find your first Process Facilitator. Like filling other positions, you will likely start this search within your organization. Your search should itself manifest some of the qualities and values that are important in agile methods such as self-organization, truthfulness, and management support.

The qualities you are looking for in a Process Facilitator are simple: truthfulness, assertiveness, gentleness, and a firm belief in the Agile Axioms: We are Creators, Reality is Perceived, Change is Natural. Of course, past experience with agile methods also helps! Be cautious: enthusiasm and willingness are not enough. Copious experience is less important than attitudes and relationships because Agile Work is a values-based approach.

Most managers start to find a Process Facilitator in one of two ways: either by looking to people who are project managers (the nearest comparable role) {sidebar id=1} or by looking to people who have, frankly, been pestering you about doing this "agile" thing for quite some time now! Unfortunately, the Project Manager will likely have some trouble changing his or her non-agile habits, and the agile evangelist may have too high a personal stake to be truthful about the success or failure of the agile approach. Nevertheless, many organizations start like this and can still be successful.

It is unusual for organizations to take a more systematic approach to finding a Process Facilitator. However, a systematic approach can help you to avoid some common problems with Process Facilitators. A more systematic third method that has worked well takes the following steps:

    1. Introduce Agile to your organization. Provide introductory training or learning materials to people who are in your organization. Make sure everyone is aware of the basic agile concepts.
    2. Ask for volunteers. Look for Process Facilitators in your organization who would be interested in facilitating a pilot agile effort and team. Make sure you are clear that this is neither a management position nor a promotion nor a permanent change. Hopefully you can find at least three people interested in doing this.  If you have many people who volunteer, then you need to find a way to reduce this number early on. Start by asking the group of volunteers to trim itself down. Make sure to be clear on the number of volunteers that you need. This early support of self-organization will serve you well later on.
    3. Give the volunteers some experience. Run a pilot through enough iterations so that each candidate Process Facilitator is given a chance to facilitate at least two iterations.
    4. Have participants assess the volunteers. Have everyone on the team and the candidates themselves provide feedback on each candidate's capacity and potential as a Process Facilitator.  Some candidates may excuse themselves after a taste of the work.
    5. Select a Process Facilitator. Using this feedback from the participants and your own judgment make a selection. Let everyone in your organization know the full set of reasons for your choice. You should not need

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