Monday, July 15, 2013

Great facilitation doesn't mean being nice to everyone

I keep saying I'm going to stop cross-posting from - and then I do it again...

I’ve been talking facilitation over the weekend and realise that the advice I gave to my contact might have a wider appeal. He’s organising an away day to bring together the management, workers, trustees and volunteers of an organisation going through some painful times, with a view of building a collective vision for the future, and an action plan to turn them all around towards the right direction.

It’s a tough challenge for one day! But here’s what I told him:

“To make your away day effective, you need your facilitator to be challenging – to be independent of the issues and ask the idiotic or awkward questions that need to be answered but that no-one tied to the organisation would think or dare to raise. There is absolutely no point in everyone turning up and taking on their usual roles and delivering the responses they perceive are expected of them. From long experience of doing this kind of thing, the definition of madness is to do the same things over and over, yet expect to achieve a different result.

“I’m sure your facilitator will be perfectly aware of that and won’t fall into the trap of letting everyone get a little too comfortable. From what you told me it sounds as though your organisation faces some significant issues. Your away day looks like a fantastic opportunity to face up to those issues, shake out people’s worries, gripes and prejudices and start moving forward with a common vision. The best way to reach that common vision will be to enable everyone attending to leave their ‘role’ within the organisational structure at the door and to work together as equals with an equal stake in XXX’s future success. You need to get your facilitator to enable that right up front, otherwise the danger is that you’ll all end up being terribly nice to each other…. and actually achieve nothing.”

Often, facilitators see their role as jollying people along and keeping the peace, remaining ‘outside’ the discussion. My perception is that the best facilitators are far more active: agreeing objectives and desired outcomes up front, and managing the conversations so that the right questions are asked; the right debates entered and the right issues aired to enable the participants to act rather than just talk.

I’m looking forward to the feedback from my contact’s upcoming event.

No comments: