Certified Agile Facilitation Skills (AFS)

The Certified Agile Facilitation SkillsTM (AFSTM) recognition is awarded to professionals proving an exceptional facilitation mindset that foster participatory decision making in agile teams.

When taking the Certified Agile Facilitation SkillsTM (AFSTM) exam you'll go through a series of challenging facilitation scenarios where you'll need to apply your facilitation skills to help a team become self-managed

Professionals taking the Certified Agile Facilitation Skills (AFS) exam go through a series of challenging scenarios where they must apply their facilitation skills to help a team become self-managed.

20 scenarios
90min timebox
80% passing score
2 attempts
English or Spanish
Digital Badge through
USD 197.-
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Certification Criteria

Candidates should demonstrate the following competences to be granted the Certified Agile Facilitation Skills (AFS) certification:

1. Fundamentals

A facilitator should distinguish between a conversation’s process and content to ensure that the conversation remains focused and productive. The “process” represents how the conversation is structured and conducted, while the “content” is compounded by the topics and ideas that the participants discuss. A facilitator’s focus on the process helps the participants to have a more meaningful and productive conversation by keeping it on track and preventing it from becoming sidetracked or unproductive.

The role of the facilitator is to help a group of people come to their own decisions and solutions rather than imposing his/her own ideas on the group. To achieve this, the facilitator intervenes in the conversational process, helping guide the group towards its goals but not altering the discussed content. By allowing the group to work through the decision-making process on their own, the facilitator can ensure that the final solution is well thought-out and reflective of the needs and perspectives of all group members.

Additionally, by avoiding taking over the process, the facilitator can help to build the group's confidence and decision-making skills, which can be beneficial in the long run.

Common Errors
  1. Failing to address group dynamics: A facilitator who cannot differentiate conversation content from the process may not address issues such as power imbalances or conflicts within the group, focusing solely on the content of the conversation rather than the underlying dynamics that may be impacting the group's ability to communicate and work together effectively.
  2. Ignoring body language and nonverbal cues: A facilitator who cannot differentiate conversation content from the process may not pay attention to nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, or tone of voice, which can provide valuable information about group members’ feelings or reactions to the discussion.
  3. Not adapting to changing group needs: A facilitator who cannot differentiate conversation content from the process may not be able to adjust their approach in response to changing group needs, such as shifting the focus of the discussion or providing breaks as needed.
  4. Not facilitating effective communication: A facilitator who cannot differentiate conversation content from the process may not facilitate effective communication within the group, such as by allowing for equal participation or encouraging active listening. This can lead to misunderstandings or miscommunication within the group and may hinder their ability to achieve their goals.

A facilitator should remain neutral and not attempt to steer the conversation toward a particular outcome to which he or she is committed; otherwise, it can undermine the participants’ trust and create an uneven dynamic. Instead, a facilitator should allow the conversation to unfold naturally.

If a facilitator has a conflict of interest, they must disclose this to the participants, ensuring that the participants are aware of the potential for bias so they take this into account when considering the facilitator's comments and suggestions.

The facilitator should also avoid expressing personal opinions or trying to influence the conversation in a way that is biased toward their own interests. Instead, they should focus on facilitating a fair and balanced discussion among the participants.

Common Errors
  1. Only presenting information that supports their own views or beliefs: A biased facilitator may only present information or perspectives that align with their own views, ignoring or downplaying alternative viewpoints.
  2. Disrupting or shutting down opposing viewpoints: A biased facilitator may interrupt or shut down participants who express opposing viewpoints rather than facilitating an open and respectful discussion.
  3. Using leading questions or statements: A biased facilitator may use leading questions or statements to steer the discussion in a certain direction, rather than allowing for an open and unbiased exploration of the topic.
  4. Showing favoritism towards certain participants: A biased facilitator may show favoritism towards certain participants, giving them more speaking time or attention, while ignoring or dismissing the contributions of others.

A facilitator should identify and recognize participants' emotions since they affect how people think, feel, and behave. Understanding participants' emotions can help the facilitator better understand their perspectives and motivations. For example, valuable information about what is important to participants and what might be holding them back from fully engaging in the process. By identifying and acknowledging participants' emotions, a facilitator can create a safe and inclusive environment where everyone feels heard and valued.

Once identified, a facilitator should make participants' emotions explicit and visible since it can help them understand and manage their emotions healthily and constructively. By doing this, the group can address any negative emotions or conflicts that may arise and find ways to resolve them.

Common Errors
  1. Induce misunderstandings and communication breakdowns due to not fully understanding the perspectives and motivations of the participants.
  2. Participants do not feel heard and valued.
  3. Allow tension and conflict within the group because of not addressing negative emotions or arising conflicts.
  4. Trying to moderate the conversation by asking for "respect" and "professionalism", inducing the participants to hide their emotions.
  5. Create a false harmony where relationships and conversations seem to be "ok", ignoring undelaying conflicts.

A facilitator should recognize that participants have cognitive biases. A cognitive bias refers to how our brain simplifies information and makes judgments about the world. Participants' thinking and decision-making are influenced by their cognitive biases. A facilitator creates a better decision-making process by reducing the influence of cognitive bias.

But it's not only the recognition of cognitive bias an essential aspect for successfully facilitating conversations; it's also critical to help the participants to identify and acknowledge their own biases to create a process in which they can discover how these biases may be influencing their thinking and decision-making.

Common Errors
  1. Poor decision-making: Cognitive biases can influence group decision-making, leading to decisions that may not be well-informed or objective. This can result in poor outcomes or decisions that are not in the group's best interest.
  2. Lack of inclusivity: Cognitive biases can lead to a lack of inclusivity, as group members may not be open to hearing and considering diverse perspectives. This can have a homogenous group dynamic and a lack of creativity and innovation as a consequence.
  3. Conflicts or tension: Cognitive biases can lead to conflicts or tension within the group, as different perspectives may be dismissed or not considered adequately. This can create a hostile and unproductive group dynamic.
  4. Loss of trust: If cognitive biases are not addressed, group members may lose trust in the facilitator and the facilitation process. They may feel that their perspective is not being fairly considered.

To create a positive and productive atmosphere during any meeting or conversation, the person facilitating it should manage the energy by controlling the pace, tone, and overall feeling.

This can be achieved by setting the tone at the beginning of the meeting or conversation, encouraging participation, using visual recording or visual facilitation, taking breaks, and helping everyone stay focused.

Doing so can help ensure that the conversation is engaging, meaningful, and productive for all participants.

Common Errors
  1. Not setting the tone at the beginning: Failing to establish the ground rules and expectations for the conversation at the outset can lead to a lack of structure and direction, which can drain the energy from the conversation.
  2. Allowing one person to dominate the conversation: If one person is allowed to dominate the conversation, it can be challenging to keep the energy level high, as other participants may feel less motivated to contribute.
  3. Not encouraging active listening: Failing to encourage participants to listen to each other actively can lead to a lack of engagement and energy in the conversation.
  4. Not using visual aids: Using visual aids can help to keep the energy level high and engage participants. Failing to use them can lead to a lack of interest and energy in the conversation.
  5. Not taking the necessary breaks: If the conversation starts to feel sluggish, consider taking a short break to recharge and refocus. This can help to reset the energy level and keep the conversation moving forward. Failing to do so can lead to unfocused or exhausted participants.
  6. Blurred points of view: It's vital to ensure that everyone stays focused on the topic at hand and steer the conversation back on track if it starts to wander. This can help keep the energy level high and ensure the conversation stays productive.

2. Participatory Decision-Making

As a facilitator, it is vital to be familiar with the stages of the Kaner Diamond model for participatory decision-making to guide a group through the process effectively.

To guide a group through the process of participatory decision-making in a structured and effective way and to help ensure that the final decision reflects the needs and interests of all participants, it is essential to be familiar with each of these stages and to have a clear understanding of the steps involved in each one.

Common Errors
  1. Not helping the group to gather sufficient information: If a facilitator does not understand the process, the group may not have all the information they need to make an informed decision.
  2. Leaving voices out: a facilitator may not ensure that all interest parties have a say in the process, leading to a decision that does not reflect the needs and interests of all group members.
  3. Skipping important stages: jumping too quickly to evaluate options, not exploring all possible alternatives, and missing the chance to come out with creative solutions.

As a facilitator, you should ensure that the group dedicates time to each stage in a participatory decision-making conversation and stay aligned to the goal of each one, avoiding deviations and any practice or activity that might dilute its purpose.

Common Errors
  1. Not providing enough structure: A lack of structure can lead to chaos and confusion, especially during certain stages in a participatory decision-making conversation, as people may not know how to contribute effectively or stay on track.
  2. Not allowing enough time for exploration: It's essential to give people time to explore different ideas and perspectives during certain stages in a participatory decision-making conversation. If the facilitator rushes through this stage, it can prevent people from fully engaging in the conversation.
  3. Not encouraging participation: Certain stages in a participatory decision-making conversation are an opportunity for people to share their ideas and perspectives, so the facilitator needs to encourage participation and ensure everyone has a chance to contribute.
  4. Not managing group dynamics: Facilitators should be aware of group dynamics and work to create a safe and inclusive space where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas, criticizing, discussing and negotiating them.
  5. Not allowing enough time for negotiation and compromise: It's important to give people time to negotiate and find solutions that work for everyone during certain stages in a participatory decision-making conversation. If the facilitator rushes through this stage, it can prevent people from fully engaging in the process.
  6. Not facilitating respectful communication: The facilitator needs to encourage respectful communication, especially during certain stages of a participatory decision-making conversation, when people are in disagreement.

A facilitator should address any issues or challenges that arise in a group setting without being overly controlling or imposing their own views on the group. Non-invasive interventions are typically subtle and respectful, aiming to support and guide the group rather than dictating their actions. By intervening non-invasively, facilitators can help to create a more collaborative and respectful environment where everyone feels comfortable contributing and participating.

Examples of non-invasive interventions might include asking open-ended questions, summarizing or paraphrasing what has been said to ensure that everyone is on the same page, restating a participant's comment more neutrally or objectively to help facilitate understanding, redirecting the conversation to a more productive path if it starts to veer off track, encouraging participation from quieter members of the group.

Common Errors
  1. Dominating the conversation: preventing group members from fully participating.
  2. Disrupting the group's natural flow: leading to confusion or resentment among group members.
  3. Failing to create an inclusive environment: particularly with those participants who may feel marginalized or underrepresented.
  4. Damaging group dynamics: causing tension among group members and hinder the group's ability to work effectively together.

3. Facilitation at Scale

Open Space, World CafĂ©, and Pro-Action CafĂ© are all facilitation techniques that can be used to facilitate conversations, discussions and problem-solving sessions in various settings, including large groups. 

Knowing these techniques can benefit a facilitator because they provide a structured approach for guiding group discussions and decision-making processes. This can help ensure that all group members have a chance to participate and be heard.

Common Errors
  1. Using the wrong technique for the situation: Each of these techniques is designed for specific types of discussions or problem-solving sessions. Using the wrong technique for the situation can lead to confusion or unproductive discussions.
  2. Not providing sufficient structure or guidance: While these techniques are designed to be flexible and open-ended, the facilitator needs to provide some structure and guidance to ensure that discussions stay on track and are productive.
  3. Failing to establish clear ground rules or expectations: Without explaining the techniques and setting clear ground rules or expectations, participants may not understand how to participate effectively in the discussion or may not feel comfortable speaking up.

Designing a functional Open Space refers to planning and preparing for an Open Space session in a way that supports the goals and objectives. This includes, but is not limited to, clearly defining the purpose and theme, creating a welcoming and inviting physical or virtual space, providing enough resources for participants, setting clear guidelines and protocols, and facilitating the closing circle.

A wrongly designed Open Space can lead to a negative and unproductive experience for participants, which can undermine the goals and objectives of the session. It's essential for facilitators to carefully plan and prepare for Open Space sessions to avoid these negative consequences.

4. Scrum Facilitation

The Scrum Master's responsibilities involve facilitation for supporting the team in achieving their goals and objectives. By using various facilitation techniques, the Scrum Master helps the team identify and resolve issues, generate ideas, and make decisions.

Understanding the purpose of each event helps the Scrum Master ensure that each one is facilitated in a way that aligns with its goals and objectives. Operating from a facilitation standpoint enables the Scrum Master to guide the team collaboratively and inclusively rather than dictating solutions or decisions. This encourages the team to take ownership of their work and find their own answers to problems.

Common Errors
  1. Facilitating Scrum events in a way that is misaligned with the expected outcomes: rendering Scrum into a dysfunctional process.
  2. Failing to provide the right level of structure and guidance: leaving the team unsupported and disoriented.
  3. Not encouraging participation and collaboration: turning the decision-making process into a centralized or individual kind.

A facilitator that knows the purpose of the different stages of a retrospective can guide the teams through the process effectively and ensure that the retrospective is productive and beneficial.

A facilitator that doesn't know how to split a retrospective in different stages with specific purposes and facilitation techniques may not help the teams get enough value and achieve high levels of self-management.

Common Errors
  1. Not setting the stage properly: team members won't understand the purpose and agenda of the retrospective and may not be fully engaged and not contribute as fully to the discussion.
  2. Not gathering enough data: team members may not provide enough information to enable the themselves to identify areas for improvement.
  3. Not generating meaningful insights: team members may not be able to identify specific actions that can be taken to improve the their process and productivity.
  4. Not deciding on specific actions: team members may not prioritize the most important improvements or may not have a clear plan for implementing changes.

5. Tools & Techniques

Powerful questions are a valuable tool for facilitators because they help encourage critical thinking, facilitate group discussion, promote personal growth and learning, and guide decision-making.

A facilitator who does not master the art of powerful questions may struggle to facilitate meaningful and productive discussions, promote personal growth and learning, and guide effective decision-making.

Common Errors
  1. Asking closed-ended questions: Closed-ended questions can be useful for gathering specific information, but they may not encourage critical thinking or exploration. To be truly powerful, questions should be open-ended and encourage people to think more deeply about the topic or issue at hand.
  2. Asking leading or biased questions: Leading or biased questions can influence the way people think or respond. It's important to avoid asking questions that are skewed or loaded in a particular direction, as this can distort the conversation and hinder critical thinking.
  3. Asking too many questions: While powerful questions can be a helpful tool, it's important not to overuse them. If you ask too many questions, people may feel overwhelmed or like they are being interrogated. It's essential to find a balance and give people time to think and respond to your questions.
  4. Not giving people time to think and respond: Powerful questions require time and thought to answer. It's important to give people enough time to consider their responses and not rush them or interrupt them.
  5. Not following up on responses: Powerful questions can generate exciting and valuable information. It's essential to follow up on people's responses and explore their ideas further, rather than moving on too quickly to the next question.

A facilitator should recognize situations of low participation and employ invitational techniques to mitigate them because it helps to ensure that all group members have an equal opportunity to contribute and be heard.

This is important because it helps to create a sense of inclusivity and provides that all perspectives are considered. It also helps to prevent one or a few individuals from dominating the conversation and allows for more productive and effective group discussions. 

In addition, encouraging participation can help to foster a sense of ownership and commitment among group members, leading to better decision-making and outcomes.

Common Errors
  1. Ignoring the issue: not realizing there is a problem with participation or being hesitant to address it.
  2. Blaming the group: blaming the group for not being engaged or blaming individual members for not participating.
  3. Using confrontational techniques: trying to force participation by being confrontational or calling out individuals who are not participating.
  4. Focusing too much on one individual: trying to engage one group member who is not participating rather than addressing the issue more broadly.
  5. Giving up: becoming discouraged and giving up on trying to encourage participation.

A facilitator needs to differentiate between paraphrasing and mirroring techniques because they serve different purposes. Paraphrasing is used to help the speaker clarify their thoughts while mirroring is used to show empathy and create a sense of connection. Using the wrong technique in a given situation can be ineffective or counterproductive.

By being aware of the different purposes and uses of paraphrasing and mirroring, a facilitator can choose the most appropriate technique for the situation and more effectively support the group and facilitate productive discussions.

Common Errors
  1. Using the wrong technique: A facilitator may use paraphrasing when they should be using mirroring, or vice versa. This can be ineffective or even counterproductive, as the wrong technique may not address the needs of the speaker or the group.
  2. Failing to show empathy: If a facilitator uses paraphrasing instead of mirroring in a situation where the speaker is expressing strong emotions, they may fail to show empathy or build rapport. This can lead to the speaker feeling unheard or misunderstood.
  3. Confusing the speaker: If a facilitator uses mirroring instead of paraphrasing in a situation where the speaker is trying to clarify their thoughts, it may be confusing for the speaker and make it more difficult for them to express themselves.
  4. Undermining the speaker's message: If a facilitator uses paraphrasing instead of mirroring when the speaker is expressing strong emotions, they may inadvertently downplay or diminish the importance of the speaker's feelings. This can be hurtful or dismissive to the speaker.

A facilitator needs to be aware of the different techniques and tools available for visual communication and know when to use each. 

By understanding the differences between visual documentation and visual facilitation and knowing when to apply each, he or she can choose the most appropriate approach depending on the situation and purpose of the conversation and ensure that the group can communicate and work effectively together.

Common Errors
  1. Over-reliance on visual documentation: If a facilitator is not aware of the different techniques and tools available for visual facilitation, they may rely too heavily on visual documentation as a way of capturing the key points and decisions made during a meeting or event. While visual documentation is important for creating a record of what happened, it is not as effective at supporting real-time communication and decision-making.
  2. Failure to use visual aids effectively: If a facilitator is not familiar with the different visual aids and tools available for visual facilitation, they may use them ineffectively or not at all, which can hinder group communication and decision-making.
  3. Misuse of visual documentation: If a facilitator is not familiar with the purpose and proper use of visual documentation, they may create visual materials that are not relevant or useful or that do not accurately capture the key points and decisions made during the event.

As a facilitator, it is essential to understand the differences between Design Thinking and Design Sprints so that you can choose the most appropriate approach for the specific context and problem that the team is working on.

Common Errors
  1. Using the wrong approach: If a facilitator is unaware of the differences between Design Thinking and Design Sprints, they may choose the wrong approach for the specific context and problem they are working on.
  2. Not adapting to the group's needs: not being familiar with the specific structure and activities of either Design Thinking or Design Sprints will prevent being able to adjust the workshop to the group's needs.
  3. Not keeping the natural flow: unfamiliarity with the structure and timeline of either Design Thinking or Design Sprints, they may struggle to keep the workshop on track and ensure that all activities are completed within the allotted time.