Socrates used facilitative methods in teaching philosophy, and for good reason: They work!
Fast forward to today, and managers, supervisors, consultants, trainers, and others are learning to use facilitative techniques to improve performance in the workplace and other areas that demand results.
The authors of this series, led by an expert with twenty-five years of experience as a professional facilitator, provide a complete model of group facilitation in Process-Based Facilitation.
In this first volume, they introduce the basic skills of facilitation, the process-based facilitation model, many facilitation methods, and evaluation of the facilitator’s methods and assessment of style.
Inside, you’ll get:
tested and proven facilitation planning methods, including dozens of worksheets;
explanations on elements of the process-based facilitation model;
Discussion reviews the seven values of facilitation and twelve core principles of facilitation;
multiple methods to guide intervention as a facilitator;
sixty-five articles describing concept models, frameworks, tools, and techniques of facilitation.
Loaded with figures, tables, and worksheets, this book is easy to read, review, and most important—use. Whether you’re a novice or a professional, this book will help you apply facilitative techniques to succeed in and out of work.
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Facilitation for Meeting Leaders, Consultants and Group Facilitators
By Wayne J. Vick
iUniverseCopyright © 2015 Wayne J. Vick, MBA, CPF
All rights reserved.
Basics Skills of Facilitation
A Review of 10 Key Facilitation Skill Groups
This chapter shares an overview of the basics of facilitation without a Process-Base perspective. The basics are organized as an introduction to the skills through 10 Facilitation Skill Groups.
Introduction to the Facilitation Skillsets
The "Basic Facilitation Skillset" is an overview of 10 topical groups of knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) that can be applied without regard to a particular facilitation model. As an overview it only introduces techniques, methods of facilitation to the 10 basic skillsets we've identified. We point out key elements of knowledge, skills and abilities to be developed and practiced. Key KSAs and core skills are central to understanding and applying facilitation successfully. For the purpose of organizing the information the Basic Facilitation Skillset is listed in 10 topical groups:
1. Using Process
2. Planning the Work
3. Managing Workflow
4. Using Ground Rules
5. Encouraging Participation
6. Promoting Effective Group Communications
7. Intervening When Needed
8. Modeling Effective Behavior
9. Observing the Group
10. Closing the Session and Follow-Up
In this chapter we introduce a number of terms that can be very confusing because they can sometimes be used interchangeably. While we present a glossary of definitions in Appendix 1, we want to start by defining a few terms:
Concept: something conceived in the mind, an abstract or generic idea that is generalized to represent how things around us work. They are theoretical representations or broad ideas that may not be fully developed or well thought out. An example is the concept of Strategic Planning. Many parts of strategic planning can be discussed conceptually, or generally, without the specifics of how it is done or developed.
Model: a standard, representation, design or construct of an approach to doing something specific. They are constructs, detailed ways of doing something, created around a system or theory to represent how the world operates with respect to that idea. They describe the preliminary work or construct, as in a plan, for how something works; they are a schematic description of a system, theory or phenomenon that accounts for its known or inferred properties. There are many strategic planning models. An example is the Total Strategic Planning (TSP) model. TSP model is a construct of how to do strategic planning in a specific way.
Framework: a structure composed of techniques fitted together to accomplish something. Frameworks can be an incomplete model or something designed to address elements of a concept. Using the strategic planning example, a framework can be created to meet the data collection requirements for planning.
Method: the mix of tools and techniques used to accomplish something specific.
(It's not unusual to hear these three terms, —Methods, Tools and Techniques —used interchangeably.)
Tools: implements with physical properties and characteristics through which various techniques are used when working with groups. Examples of tools in facilitation include flip chart, sticky wall, colored markers, computer and projectors, portable facilitation walls and organization schemes such as a fishbone or herringbone or fishbowl organization layout, etc. Just remember when talking about tools, we mean the facilitator's wrenches.
Techniques: constructs of the process, step-by-step procedures designed to do something specific, used with the groups we facilitate. They are strung together in different ways, to form methods, depending on the type of engagement desired and the needs of the group. They are step by step instructions often designed to be used with a specific tool, or can be constructed in such a way that one can choose the tool and adapt the procedures for use with that tool.
1. Using Process
Central to both perspectives of the Basics of Facilitation and the Profession of Facilitation are Process skills. Everything a facilitator is asked to do, every job or task, will have related to it, sometimes in multiple ways, something to do with process. To the facilitator, even the most basic skills of facilitation have some element of process associated with it. It is, therefore, imperative for the facilitator to understand processes and how to apply them with groups. In the world of facilitation processes occur on many levels of abstraction. Like with fractals, as described in Chaos Theory, processes can be seen from the broad, very generalized approach to, sometimes two to three levels lower, the very focused steps needed to accomplish something specific.
Additionally, key process knowledge and skills are important for the group process. The group process is the basic structure through which all the work we do is accomplished. In the basics of facilitation, it is how we string the questions, conversations and dialogue together to accomplish the end results, or to help the group achieve their purpose or objectives.
Looking at it from the profession of facilitation, the work we help groups accomplish is what we often refer to as "Specialties of Facilitation." These are events focused on such work as problem solving, strategic planning, partnering, emergency preparedness planning, community development, etc. For each of these specialties there are several different approaches, models and methods. And all of them use process of increasing levels of detail as we drill down from general to specifics.
Group Process: Above, we mentioned that process skills are imperative for the group process. Group Process is a core point of knowledge and applying it with a group is a key skill in facilitation. Group Process refers to the way we organize the work to get things done. There are some minor variations on the steps from model to model, but basically, as described in Chapter 6: The Group Process, it involves the seven steps as noted below:
1. Focus on Purpose
2. Plan Process
3. Gather Data
4. Process Information
5. Examine Options
6. Make Decisions
7. Document Results
Concepts, Models, Frameworks and Methods (Tools and Techniques): In the real world, group process is built through the application of various concepts, models, frameworks and methods. Depending on what the group is trying to do, the facilitator selects a concept or model that best meets their need. Then, based on several factors including the group culture, level of education of group members, desire to learn new methods, time available for work and work space organization, the facilitator will select the tools and techniques or a framework to do the work and that supports how they want to engage the group.
Applying facilitation skills, even on a moment's notice, we must consider how to align our thinking and application with the group we are helping. Are they trying to "solve a problem" or do they just need a "plan of action?" Without the general knowledge of a concept or model with which to align our approach, methods applied will become disjointed and difficult for everyone to follow. For instance, a plan of action is a result included in many types of events. However, if we were doing strategic planning, the model would first have us explore the future before we started trying to identify what actions we would take to create it. If we were problem solving, we would need to explore root causes and then options to address the problem, before we began planning actions. When viewed separately, concepts or models do very different things for us. However, in the big picture they help us understand what we are trying to accomplish.
Most concepts, models and methods in facilitation are designed to follow the steps of group process at a higher level of abstraction. Individual techniques will also cover the steps of the group process, but at a more operational, or detailed level. Most techniques do not completely address all the steps of the group process. For this reason we will string multiple techniques together, used in series as a means of covering all the steps.
Standardized Discussion Methods: In most cases facilitators are given the time and information needed to plan a facilitated event. However, that is not always the case. Professional facilitators will tell you that having a basic discussion methodology ready to use as a framework for nearly any group discussion is a critical ability that every facilitator must learn.
The Focused Conversation Method (aka ORID or FEMA) or the Action Discussion Framework methods are key skills that help us follow the group process. The flow is simple and easy to remember, and it takes just a little training to learn. By learning and understanding these standard discussion methods you will have a ready-to-use group process methodology available at any time, on a moment's notice.
There are several other ways that process is important in facilitation. This is discussed in more detail in Chapter 5: Event Planning and Agenda Design, Chapter 6: The Group Process and techniques are found in Chapter 17: Basic Facilitation Toolkit.
2. Planning the Work
With group process, we must learn to plan events. To do this, we need to have standardized methods and processes for planning. Chapter 5: Event Planning and Agenda Design reflects the need for planning. Planning an event begins with identifying the needs of the group, their purpose and objectives, understanding the need that drives them to undertake the event. Even starting from scratch, within just a few sessions, a facilitator can gather a list of things they need to know to begin planning almost any event.
Planning the Agenda: If a facilitator were asked to step in on a moment's notice to help a group already in progress, one would expect the facilitator to take a few moments to prepare an agenda or modify an existing agenda. They might even do it with the group's help. To do this, the facilitator would reflect on the steps of the group process, use it to structure an agenda and then determine the simplest methods for doing each step. Often they must consider the current space limitations, the materials available in the room and time already allotted to the event.
When planning a future event, the facilitator basically does the same thing with respect to the agenda. Using our understanding of group process, we identify what we are asked to do and then break down what is needed into basic steps to design the step-by-step process. As a shortcut to this, once we know what we are being asked to do, we can turn to the Concepts, Models, Frameworks and Methods to see if we have an approach that best fits the group's needs. Then we determine which tools and techniques will be used to identify the methods that can be used to fill the steps of the process.
Planning the Mix of Activities: One primary consideration in planning a future event is identifying the mix of activities to make the event interesting, or at least to keep the participation, energy and interest up. The mix of activities refers to the different ways in which we engage the group members. We need to engage group members to ensure that we see the full picture, gather information from everyone, give everyone a chance to be heard, avoid having one or a few people dominate the conversation, and keep everyone involved. This often breaks down into four participation modes: Large group, small groups, individual work and breaks. (It is surprising how much work gets done during the breaks.) A more detailed discussion continues in Chapter 5: Event & Planning Agenda Design.
Planning for Event Logistics: For any event there are logistics that need to be considered and planned. In a standup engagement, something that occurs at a moment's notice, the facilitator is limited by what is available in that moment. But even then, a facilitator's creative approach can surprise many. In one event I used paper plates for name tents so I had names to go with the people. You will want to consider that you have enough space for the size of the group you are expecting, how you will arrange the group for different activities, and what kind of tables are available for the type of event (chair circle, round tables, classroom, theater style or standing). Based on the agenda mix of activities and the selected methods, what supplies will be needed? What about logistics for alternative methods? Does your list include the basics; e.g., markers, paper, sticky walls, flip charts and tape? Does the room have work and wall space to keep the work visible and sequenced? If not, are there alternatives?
3. Managing Workflow
Managing the workflow means that the facilitator needs to keep the group focused on the work, quickly transitioning between topics and off of side topics. They keep the work visible to all participants, so they can participate and use parking boards to manage information flow.
Transitioning Activities: As depicted in Figure 1-3, when transitioning between activities, facilitators tie the upcoming work with the work that the group just completed, and then they relate this to the overall purpose. Facilitators use a transition activity called a "Checkpoint" and it is done in the first few moments of a new activity. The Checkpoint has three parts:
1. The Review briefly tells the participants what they just did in the previous activity.
2. The Preview tells the participants what they are getting ready to do.
3. And the Big View relates the results to the higher Purpose or Objectives.
The facilitator might be heard to say, "OK, we have just gathered all of your responses identifying the significant issues we face in the production of widgets. The next step is to organize the list and group them into similar types of issues. By doing this we may be able to see what issue group has the largest number of issues, or maybe which are the most difficult to resolve. This is, of course, what we have been assigned as our purpose."
See Chapter 6: The Group Process and Chapter 7: Session Opening for more info.
Keep the Work Visible: Second, during the work, if possible, facilitators keep the work progress visible to everyone with methods like these:
taking notes on flip charts,
posting cards on Sticky Walls,
projecting notes from a computer
illustrating concepts on butcher or banner paper
They also use the wall space to post work artifacts to keep the work visible so it can be referred to as needed. As much as is practical, this work is posted in a chronological way, from left to right, so that it follows the agenda and makes it easier to find and review. This review is known as Walk the Walls.
There are three ways we Walk the Walls:
1. Review is a simple review session done after a break or lunch. It is used to remind everyone of the work they have done, showing the group's progress, and to bring the focus from outside conversations back to the topics at hand.
Physically – walk along the wall of posted work progress.
Verbally – review, in general terms, the work accomplished.
Touching – point to work artifacts, to focus the group's attention.
2. Extended Review. If the work is interrupted overnight or over a weekend, we want to expand on the basic review and talk more about the results and key parts to refresh the memory of the participants.
3. Closing Review is a major activity that is discussed in Chapter 11: Closing the Session. It is used to review, confirm and recognize, or even celebrate the amount of work the group did.
Use Parking Boards: Sometimes called the Parking Lists or Parking Lots, this is a generic name for three lists that are posted adjacent to the primary work area. Usually located together the three include Issue List or Parking Lot, Decision List and Action Lists. To keep work flowing, the facilitator will move issues that are off-topic to a Parking Lot. Parking Lots are used to hold items that come up in conversation that are appropriate topics for the group, meaning they are consistent with the purpose or objectives of the group, but are not consistent with the current topic of discussion. The idea is to keep the group focused on the current topic and save anything that goes off topic for another, more appropriate, time. Within a few moments of the discussion going off topic, they will query the group to determine if the current discussion is still within the scope of the discussion topic. If not, they may ask the individual central to the issue to place the topic in the Parking Lot.
Excerpted from Process-Based Facilitation by Wayne J. Vick. Copyright © 2015 Wayne J. Vick, MBA, CPF. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
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Table of Contents
About This Series, xv,
How the Book Is Organized, xix,
PART 1: Introduction to Facilitation, 1,
1. Basics Skills of Facilitation, 5,
2. Values of Facilitation, 27,
3. Principles of Facilitation, 37,
PART 2: The Approach to Process-Based Facilitation, 67,
4. Process-Based Facilitation Model, 71,
5. Event Planning & Agenda Design, 79,
6. The Group Process, 113,
7. Session Opening, 127,
8. Ground Rules, 137,
9. Planning for Group Decisions, 145,
10. Questioning Techniques, 161,
11. Closing the Session, 177,
12. Follow-Up, 185,
13. Effective Listening Skills, 193,
PART 3: Advanced Concepts of Facilitation, 233,
14. Co-Facilitation, 237,
15. Facilitating Interventions, 247,
16. Evaluating the Facilitator, 277,
PART 4: Facilitators Toolkit and Appendices, 305,
17. Basic Facilitation Toolkit, 309,
A. Concepts, Models and Frameworks, 315,
B. Tools, 327,
C. Techniques, 341,
D. Assessments & Worksheets, 367,
E. Facilitation Planning Techniques, 373,
Appendix 1: Glossary / Definitions, 385,
Appendix 2: About the Authors, 389,
Appendix 3: Bibliography, 393,
Appendix 4: Index, 399,