by Steve Roche

Why facilitation?

Everyone in business has at some point come out of a meeting feeling that it was a waste of time. People get bored, frustrated, lazy or cynical when not much is accomplished and when there is little to inspire or motivate.

And it doesn’t just have to be a meeting. It can also happen in other situations that people frequently encounter at work: conferences, away days, brainstorming sessions, inter-departmental talks and impromptu get-togethers.

Most of the time these events function well enough. But there are situations where it is essential to have someone with an objective eye who can

  • Stop people wasting time
  • Get them out of routine
  • Get things moving forward
  • Help people to avoid ‘groupthink’.

Whenever groups of people get together, each individual sees the world a little differently and each person thinks their view is the right one. When meetings get bogged down, people get polarised, dispirited and fed up. Facilitation is about creating an environment where things can move forward – by clarifying, simplifying, and assisting in making things happen.

A skilled facilitator removes antagonism, distrust and an adversarial attitude from the start. Facilitation helps people to see further than their own view of the world and their need to be right.

Changes in business

In the past few decades there has been a huge growth in the use of groups and teams of all types, structured for a variety of purposes. This is because lessons learned from organisational change tell us that

  • Participation is important
  • Teams generally perform better than individuals
  • Process (how something is done) affects outcome (what is accomplished).

Combinations of these three lessons have greatly influenced the whole spectrum of change methodologies (such as quality circles, work re-design, re-engineering, TQM and task forces).

Today nearly all methodologies

  • Use more involvement up, down or across the organisation
  • Use more team-based structures
  • Focus more keenly on the design of change processes.
Key point

Regardless of what a group is called or why it has been formed, any group that has a task to complete can benefit from facilitation.

Facilitation is the design and management of structures and processes that help a group to do its work and minimise the common problems people have in working together.

Benefits of using a facilitator

Having someone facilitate group processes

  • Helps to achieve good outcomes
  • Is a highly cost-effective use of resources
  • Introduces rigour, objectivity and professionalism
  • Gives positive messages about people and their issues being taking seriously.

Why does the need for a facilitator get overlooked?

Common reasons include

  • Lack of understanding of the nature of facilitation
  • Underestimating the importance of the role or activity
  • Mistakenly believing that ‘anyone can do it’
  • Failure to invest in people
  • Pressure of time and false economy.

As the use of groups and teams increases in business, more and more people need to undertake the role of facilitator, enabling groups to succeed.