Having an independent facilitator for your agile retrospectives


To have an effective and valuable agile retrospective, you need to have an independent facilitator. A good facilitator that support teams in doing analysis, reflection and deciding on the actions. An independent facilitator doesn’t not have an own agenda of improvements, but is focused on helping teams decide on those actions that are best for the team.

Why the Scrum master should’t automatically facilitate the retrospective

In some teams it’s always the Scrum master, as (s)he is the only person who has the skills and knows how to do it. For me, that’s a smell that the team is “not really agile”. Teams should be self organised; having more than one person who has the skills to facilitate the retrospective or having an outside person facilitating the retrospective when needed is a necessity for becoming agile.

Who is most suitable to facilitate the retrospectives depends on the team and the issues that they are dealing with. The person facilitating the retrospective shouldn’t be heavily involved in the issues that need to be solved . The main task of the facilitator is to focus on the process and the culture of the meeting. Making sure that people participate, speak up, listen, and come to a shared understanding.

When to have an independent facilitator

Some other situations when it’s good to have an independent facilitator for the retrospective are:

  • When there have been major problems in an iteration and team members are feeling unhappy how things are going.
  • When there are collaboration problems between the team and stakeholders external to the team (product owners, line managers, project managers, major customers, etc).

One advantage of having an experienced external facilitator is that they are able to “read” a team and the situation, and pick a retrospective technique that is appropriate. Again, if there are team members with this experience who can combine the team member and facilitation role, then you don’t need an independent facilitator. If not, then I strongly advice to have someone outside the team to facilitate the meeting.

Do you have an independent facilitator for your agile retrospective?

Originally published at Ben Linders.

Trainer / Coach / Adviser / Author / Speaker | http://BenLinders.com/game | http://BenLinders.com/exercises | editor @InfoQ | agile workshops | people matter!

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