Team Agility Master: Iteration 0 Facilitation

In most projects, before the first iteration of a release can be started, it is advisable to do some “pre-work”: Analysis to set up stories in the iteration, environment and tool configurations. This is called “Iteration 0” and may take up to 1.5 times the length of the other iterations.

Successful planning requires someone, usually the Team Agility Master, to facilitate.

Why to do this practice

Iteration 0 meetings are a conversation between stakeholders and the team before the first iteration of a release. These parties have different perspectives and agendas. The do not think in the same ways. They bring their own sets of feelings, fears, and needs. And, especially early on, they do not understand the process.

The job of the facilitator is to help these people successfully talk with each other about the current status of the project and agree on next steps. The facilitator is responsible for helping to realize the goals and objectives of the meeting owner or sponsor.

Facilitation is a skill. Facilitation is activity of helping a team of people to improve their effectiveness, addressing impediments and conflicts, creating a safe environment to identify and address issues as a group, and assisting with decision making processes.

The facilitator’s job is to do things like:

  • Drawing out ideas and opinions
  • Writing and communicating on behalf of the team
  • Acting as an occasional referee
  • Helping the team to keep to its process and helping them to revise it when needed
  • Helping to achieve consensus

Who does this practice

Here are roles involved in this practice:

  • Team Agility Master, who is the facilitator of the Iteration 0 meeting
  • Product Owner, who is the usual sponsor for the Iteration 0 meeting
  • Stakeholders as necessary (such as Product Manager, Business Owners, Subject Matter Experts)
  • Team Leads who act on behalf of the team

What to do

Inputs

Inputs to Iteration 0 facilitation planning include:

  • The product vision and release plan
  • The goals and objectives for the release
  • Concerns and impediments

Approach

  1. Understand the goals and objectives of the sponsor.
  2. Be familiar with the approaches and objectives of Iteration 0 and Iteration 0 Checklist in Checklists.
  3. Handle the logistics for room and materials. Schedule participants.
  4. Identify possible problems. Develop a good facilitation plan and review the facilitation tools that will be used.
  5. Gather and make visible in handouts or charts the data needed for the meeting (described in Inputs for the meeting).
  6. Keep the meeting running and focused. Manage the clock.
  7. Capture notes and insights and distribute to members after the meeting.

Outputs

The primary output of Iteration 0 facilitation planning is the facilitation plan including:

  • Agenda
  • Approaches to handling potential problems
  • Charts to be made
  • Meeting logistics

When to do this practice

Planning for facilitation should be done at least a few days before the iteration 0 meeting.

Facilitation is done during the meeting itself.

Where to do this practice

Facilitation is done in the meeting space

Outcomes

Here are some of the compelling reasons for this practice:

  • Effective communication between all parties
  • Good relationship with stakeholders
  • Clear understanding of the next steps
  • Establishing baseline expectations for future improvement

Successful facilitation will help the team meet the goals of Iteration 0 such as:

  • The team is prepared with skills and tools to begin work on the iterations
  • Stakeholders and team have communicated effectively about the objectives of the release and what is expected
  • The team builds a sense of ownership for their processes
  • Impediments to progress that are outside of the team’s control are naturally escalated to management and others who can do something about them

When facilitated well, the team will be able to answer these questions:

  • How do we know we are done planning?
  • What documents do we have?
  • What do we know?
  • How do we know we are ready for the first iteration?