featured image Agile facilitation – The toolbox for making everyday work fun

12/19/2019 by Axel Lütgering in Methods

Agile facilitation – The toolbox for making everyday work fun

Are you a scrum master, manager or employee in the middle of a transformation process? Do you want to avoid uncertainties in the distribution of roles and responsibilities, for instance? Then this blog series is just the thing for everyday work facilitators!

As we all know, it feels like “agile” has become nothing more than a buzzword, so much so that some have even become fed up and turned their back on it. But does that have to be the case? Doesn’t agile transformation offer so many desirable aspects of a humane and motivating working environment? Isn’t it worth investing a little effort to make the part of our lives where we spend so much of our time more satisfying and fun?

Agile change is also always associated with a changed understanding of the role of individual employees and managers. This changed understanding of roles and the changing corporate culture are based on values and principles, some of which are quite lofty.

Their actual application sometimes seems difficult and therefore, some wish for a return to the old rules. Rules, however, always consider the individual case, trivialize, and usually do not provide intrinsic motivation.

Principles instead of rules!

People often falsely believe that agile also means simple – but becoming and remaining agile is hard work, demands energy, and temporarily frays nerves. So it’s all the more expedient that a whole series of assistance and methods have emerged in this field, which make everyday work life a little easier and take into account the changed corporate culture. I would like to introduce these tools, categorized under the somewhat vague generic term ‘facilitation,’ in a few blog posts, especially those that I have already applied successfully and which, from my subjective point of view, have also helped my colleagues. In today’s post, I would like to shed more light on two methods and approaches that could create a little more transparency regarding the sometimes unclear roles of an agile manager and a team member: Delegation Poker by Jurgen Appelo, the inventor of Management 3.0, and the Role Model Canvas by Christian Botta, project management expert and facilitator – two approaches that can go hand in hand.

Delegation Poker

Jurgen Appelo has a knack for simple, effective methods that are fun, easy to use and yet (or for this very reason) deliver very good results. One of them is the Delegation Poker tool – a little reminiscent of the well-known Planning Poker. In a playful way, it allows different perspectives as well as potential or current conflict issues to be revealed and dealt with in more detail. On top of that, this method promotes transparency and supports the values of responsibility and self-organization. Above all, the latitude for action and degrees of freedom of each individual’s working environment become apparent for all colleagues. The method can be used with the entire team or played between individual employees and managers. A central feature of its application is that it is always played from the perspective of the decision-maker (i.e. usually the manager), whereby a number of gradations exist between the expressions “I decide” and “you decide,” which, however, do indeed have human implications.

Delegation Poker – Decision-maker’s perspective

  1. Tell: I decide, then I tell you about it.
  2. Sell: I decide, then I convince you.
  3. Consult: I decide, but first I ask you for advice which I consider in my decision.
  4. Agree: We decide together after we have discussed and reached a consensus.
  5. Advise: You decide, but I offer you my advice.
  6. Inquire: You decide and I will inquire afterwards what decision you made.
  7. Delegate: You decide and I don’t need to know what you decided.

Gameplay

So how do you actually play Delegation Poker? First, a Delegation Poker participant reads an example scenario and each participant chooses a card (face down!). Then the highest and lowest delegation levels chosen are explained and discussed. It’s a good idea to start with a series of innocuous stories before getting to potential conflicts. That ensures everyone is familiar with the method and feels pretty sure using it.

One possible example story might be:

You have multiple teams in your business unit. The teams express a desire to choose the team leader from their own ranks. How far would you delegate this decision?

Delegation Poker

Delegation Board

An entire delegation board can be created from the various results of the played out scenarios. This board is a great tool for classifying new individual cases and not having to discuss them again. It makes sense to hang up this Delegation Board so it can be seen by everyone. Not only can it be used as an everyday categorization tool, it is also a constant reminder to return to Delegation Poker in cases of any doubt.

The Delegation Poker cards are available in many languages and are also freely available for download. However, if you don’t have a printer for heavier paper, it would make sense to purchase the commercially available card decks, as they are simply more practical and durable when used frequently. More information about Delegation Poker can be found here.

Role Model Canvas

Often, conflicts of objectives and roles arise from an unclear understanding of one’s own role, among colleagues, stakeholders and executives, as well as personally. A great method that can be used to clarify one’s own role is to work with the Role Model Canvas, which can be done either individually for one’s self or to clarify responsibilities within the team.

Shining a light on the gray areas of responsibilities

In the agile business environment, there are now a number of canvases that are intended to structure specific tasks and questions and are a real help. I have already had very good experiences with the Role Model Canvas, because it brings an often blurry image into focus and can be used intuitively with the help of visualizations. In my opinion, this is also its decisive advantage in comparison to the related and widespread RACI matrix, which often leads to an Excel battle in sufficiently complex projects. I would recommend not filling out the canvas as a group, contrary to Christian Botta’s recommendation. Each person concerned should and must consider his or her own role, thus preventing bad compromises from being made. However, there are not reasons against discussing the results within the team and, if necessary, adapting them in group work.

Note: Unfortunately, the Role Model Canvas 2.0 by Christian Botta is not yet available in English.

Role Model Canvas 2.0

Implementation

First of all, I would like to say that the Role Model Canvas is not set in stone. If you have good and meaningful ways to customize the Role Model Canvas to suit your needs – you should! In the end, it’s just a tool that gives you an easy and visual approach to the issue.

But how should you proceed now and in what order do you approach the issue? From my point of view, the best way to do this is as follows:

  1. It is best to start with the Primary Tasks (primäre Aufgaben), as these are the easiest way to get started and should be mostly obvious. Of course, attention has to be paid to the amplitude; small-scale tasks (e.g. daily participation, etc.) are not welcome here.
  2. You then fill out the Goals and Mission (Ziele & Mission) field to define the overarching context of the tasks, making it transparent. At this point, it is often helpful to reconcile the primary tasks as well as check for completeness.
  3. Then it is time to fill out the Responsible and Decides (Verantwortet & Entscheidet) field – feel free to also use the results of any previous Delegation Poker rounds (see above).
  4. In the Help section, write down who you can expect support from and who you, yourself, should support.
  5. The Information transfer (Informationstransfer) block is where you should write down the most important channels of bilateral or multilateral role-specific communication.
  6. Now it is time to take a look at what I consider to be the most important field: NO! (Nein!) What do I explicitly not do? This is a powerful way of delimiting roles and, after consultation with all the involved parties, avoiding a series of sometimes grueling small conflicts.
  7. Notes (Offene Punkte) is the joker field. This field is for notes as well as issues that have not yet been clarified or are unclear. In most cases, all the fields together already provide a fairly accurate overview of the role.

With the filled-out canvas, you can now begin the dialogue: with the team or with the manager. More information about Role Model Canvas can be found here.

I hope both of the presented methods can be helpful to you. As always, it is best to test them for yourself, gain experience, and: inspect and adapt!

One more thing

I have one more thing: While writing this post, I have been using Noisli, a highly appropriate tool to promote concentration in the often noisy office environment as opposed to, for example, trying a music streaming service. Ambient noises that can be selected individually in connection with noise-cancelling headphones ensure a high level of focus – at least for me. On top of that, it is also possible to save your specific composition. More information about Noisli can be found here.


Axel Lütgering
Axel Lütgering

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Axel is a passionate agilist and certified Scrum master. He has years of experience with agile project management and consulting in- and outside IT. His particulat attention is on Scrum, a value-based agile mindset and facilitation techniques. At Cloudogu he works as a Scrum master and agile coach.