I spent the first 15 years of my working career onboard merchant and offshore support vessels. I started as a deck trainee and climbed up the ladder to a chief officer’s position. I still have a valid Captain’s license. It was a giant leap from the bridges of offshore vessels to a product development team focusing on maritime autonomy applications. Facilitation was one of many new things I got to learn in this unfamiliar corporation environment.
Finding a balance
Facilitation was not part of my vocabulary when I was working at sea. Or so I thought. After thinking about my onboard experiences, I realized that I have been facilitating before, even if I did not know the right word for it back then.
I was working onboard a Norwegian flagged vessel in Brazil. We had Norwegians, Brazilians and me, a Finn. Cultural differences caused some friction. I was in a way in a neutral position. I had my own little culture shock already when I joined a Norwegian company a few years before we started operating in Brazil. Maybe that was why it was easy for me to adapt to the Brazilian way of doing things.
To enable a positive working environment, I was helping Brazilians understand the Norwegian ways of working and vice versa. We managed to create a balanced mix of cultures. This succeeded because people felt that their opinions and ideas were listened to, and therefore it was easy for them to adapt and commit to a new way of doing things.
Facilitation in agile software development
My journey as a facilitator began by becoming a scrum master for a software development team. I had no clue about developing software, but I had an idea how to create good vibes in a team. I learned quite fast that it is important to create an atmosphere where all team members feel that they can express their opinions and feel safe to ask questions.
Always bring pulla
My agile coach taught me to always bring pulla (Finnish word for cinnamon rolls) to a meeting. This has proven to be a pretty good advice. If you bring a small snack, even a healthy one, people tend to cheer up. It is easier to continue with the agenda when people have their energy levels boosted. People are more concentrated and positive. You are not you when you are hungry, like the add says.
Test new facilitation methods
In the beginning of my scrum master career I was using rather traditional methods in facilitating stand ups, sprint plannings, reviews and retrospectives. My toolboxgot bigger over time as my knowledge about different facilitation methods grew. I got more confident in my skills and tested different methods. You can always find interesting new ideas online.
Legos, for example, are a great instrument for a retrospective. I have never had training in lego facilitation. I have tested them in a safe atmosphere with our team. I received good feedback and used them for a bigger audience later. Don’t be afraid to test new things. People usually appreciate a person who is willing to experiment with new stuff.
VTT SenseWay knows the value of good facilitation. It is inbuilt in our customer work.