Facilitation - Questions to ask
...not all Facilitators are the same...
Facilitation: What & Why
Facilitation comes from the latin ‘facile’. It means ‘to help something to happen’. So facilitators are helpers with a special set of practices, protocols and tools for leading, communicating and working with groups to help people overcome some of the inevitable and inherent difficulties groups encounter when they come together to work on a task. Whether it’s an occasional meeting, a management team, a team-planning or visioning day or some kind of community forum, facilitation is fundamental to effective group functioning.
Group working can be really effective but to get good results, we have to pay attention not only to what the group is doing but how they go about it – what processes they use to achieve their goals. Without good process, progress stalls, meetings fail, conversations bog-down, good ideas get quashed, opinions polarise, decisions get hijacked, people disengage, actions remain unclear and commitments lapse. This is where the facilitation role comes in. Facilitators help by giving groups appropriate tools and methods at the right time to tackle the right tasks or steps they’re up to.
The intent of facilitation is to achieve maximum creativity, involvement and commitment to achieve the task the group has to tackle, while channelling conflict and disagreement constructively – and working towards agreement and best-fit ideas. It’s useful when a group needs to work together to share differing or conflicting perspectives, highly charged views, make difficult or complicated decisions or agree on courses of action for change. Often facilitators are used for strategic change or business planning to keep discussion focused, make sure everyone is heard, and ensure meetings proceed efficiently as possible. Facilitation improves group effectiveness. It makes group work easier and more efficiently together to get results.
Using a Facilitator
When people with different interests come together, they often encounter trouble organising content and communication. By choosing a facilitator to guide the group, who is neutral, has no decision-making authority and no preference for particular outcomes or options, groups are more likely to participate fully and work creatively and effectively toward a common outcome. The facilitator can be someone from inside the organization or an outsider.
Facilitators work with the group (or representatives of it) beforehand to design a process to meet their desired outcomes. They help them decide how much time to schedule for different kinds of interactions and which tools and activities will help the group accomplish its desired goals.
During the session, the facilitator manages the interactions to create a productive and creative climate for creativity, engagement, mutual understanding, dialogue, perspective-sharing, problem solving and action-planning.
Winding-up, the facilitator helps to clarify commitments, actions and accountability for any next steps or decisions and ensures these are captured in writing and shared fully with the group (excerpt from The Change Forum’s Guide on Fundamental Facilitation: Getting Great Results through Good Group Process..)
Finding the Right Facilitator
Not all facilitators are the same and not all facilitators facilitate the same way in any given situation. Facilitators vary in their preferred approaches, tools and techniques they like to employ, their personal and emotional style and their focus, interest and philosophy about what works well in working well with groups. Like most things, it’s often a case of horses-for-courses. Facilitators vary in:
Organisations or teams who haven’t used an external facilitator before, or who have never really thought about why they prefer one facilitator over another, can sometimes be mystified about making the right choice of a facilitator in your context, for your situation.
So we’ve compiled a few lead-questions you may want to explore with potential facilitators before you make a decision about which one might best suit you. Hopefully, they might help you get a sense of how well the facilitator will work with your group and your situation and how tuned-in they are to your situation and your group’s style.
Our Approach to Facilitation
Bill Cropper, Director of The Change Forum, is an accomplished facilitator with more than 20 years practical experience helping groups at all levels from senior management to shopfloor, grapple with diverse issues, problems and challenges in a broad range of business settings.
If you'd like to find out more about our facilitation services and how we might be able to assist with your forum, conference, planning or problem-solving session, you mazy wish to...
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