Following a customer meeting last week we debriefed as always, discussing what went well and if there was anything we could improve upon. It led to an interesting debate around the topic of facilitation.
Having trained and coached many people over the years on facilitation it's a topic close to my heart, and central to our approach of accelerating change through focused interventions, generally in the form of workshops.
Facilitation comes in many sizes, I often describe the style of facilitation used for problem solving activities as being passive facilitation; the facilitator is your guide through the process, helping the team to apply a variety of techniques to prioritise problems, narrow solutions and develop clear action plans but never having a personal investment in the outcome. Rarely does this type of facilitation require the facilitator to challenge the content of the discussion, but crucially it ensures an outcome by providing the structure needed to accelerate the phases of problem solving.
At the opposite end of the spectrum we have active facilitation, this requires the facilitator to really understand the content as well as the process and therefore apply the appropriate level of challenge to the team to deliver the optimum outcome. A lean facilitator applies active facilitation to challenge the team (in a positive way!) to drive out waste from their processes and identify improvement opportunities. Lean facilitation can be exhausting (though very rewarding) as it involves proving structure, knowledge, understanding and challenge while also navigating the team through the process and ensuring everyone appropriately contributes to the final outcome.
If we imagine a scale with passive at one end and active at the other then a facilitator will choose where on the scale he needs to be to achieve the required result. Different types of problems, tools and techniques require different levels of active or passive facilitation.
In the facilitator community you tend to find some have a strong preference for one or other, some preferring the adrenaline rush of active facilitation, other preferring the more calmer passive facilitation. They all know that sometimes it is necessary to switch styles to achieve the desired outcome.
It's not enough to "just" be a facilitator?
Facilitation is the foundation that provides structure and accelerates the team towards a positive outcome, ensuring everyone is collaborating and has the opportunity to find their voice and place within the team. But it was argued during our debrief that you can find facilitators anywhere, it's not enough to "just" be a facilitator any more.
Now, personally, I don't subscribe to this view, I feel the opposite is in fact true. Facilitators are still a rare breed, good facilitators rarer still and organisations that understand the value of facilitation are scarce in the extreme. I'd be interested to hear your views on this, is good facilitation commonplace in organisations today? And do organisations understand the value of facilitation to accelerate a positive outcome?
I'll move on, because we did agree during our debrief discussion that our unique selling point as Wzard Innovation is definitely more than "just" facilitation and it's tricky to get the message across if people (a) don't understand what facilitation is in the first place; or (b) think that it's just about helping people through the process, passive facilitation in other words.
It's Facilitation on Steroids!
Accelerating the pace of change through short interventions utilising a workshop approach moves beyond active facilitation, it provides insight, opportunity and the art of the possible. It's dialling facilitation up to 11!
Our Workshops combine active facilitation with embedded deep industry knowledge in the team to further accelerate the pace of delivery, introducing challenging and innovative approaches while creating an empowering, passionate and creative environment for all the team to break traditional boundaries and find new opportunities to move forward.
It was good to have the debate, by debriefing the meeting we found a better way to articulate our approach and provided me with a terrific subject for this weeks blog. Let me know what you think.