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The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook: Tips, Tools, and Tested Methods for Consultants, Facilitators, Managers, Trainers, and Coaches / Edition 1

The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook: Tips, Tools, and Tested Methods for Consultants, Facilitators, Managers, Trainers, and Coaches / Edition 1


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The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook: Tips, Tools, and Tested Methods for Consultants, Facilitators, Managers, Trainers, and Coaches / Edition 1

The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook is based on the sameproven principles outlined in Schwarz's groundbreaking book. TheSkilled Facilitator Fieldbook is the next-step resourcethat offers consultants, facilitators, managers, leaders, trainers,coaches, and anyone that works within the field of facilitation,the tools, exercises, models, and stories that will help themdevelop sound responses to a wide range of challenging situations.The book spans the full scope of the successful SkilledFacilitator approach and includes information on how to getstarted and guidance for integrating the approach within existingorganizational structures and processes.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780787964948
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 04/08/2005
Series: Jossey-Bass Business and Management Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 576
Product dimensions: 7.80(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Roger Schwarz is an organizational psychologist and president of Roger Schwarz & Associates ( He is the author of the best-selling book The Skilled Facilitator: A Comprehensive Resource for Consultants, Facilitators, Managers, Trainers, and Coaches. Schwarz facilitates groups and consults, coaches, and speaks on facilitation, facilitative leadership, and developing effective teams and organizations.

Anne Davidson, Peg Carlson, and Sue McKinney are consultants with Roger Schwarz & Associates, a leadership and organization development consulting firm, which is dedicated to helping people think and act differently so they can improve their business results and relationships.

Read an Excerpt

The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook

By Roger Schwarz

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7879-6494-8

Chapter One

The Skilled Facilitator Approach Roger Schwarz

The Skilled Facilitator approach is a values-based, systemic approach to group facilitation. It is designed to help groups (1) increase the quality of decisions, (2) increase commitment to decisions, (3) reduce effective implementation time, (4) improve working relationships, (5) improve personal satisfaction in groups, and (6) increase organizational learning. This chapter provides an overview of the approach.


Group facilitation is a process in which a person whose selection is acceptable to all members of the group, who is substantively neutral, and who has no substantive decision-making authority diagnoses and intervenes to help a group improve how it identifies and solves problems and makes decisions, to increase the group's effectiveness.

The facilitator's main task is to help the group increase its effectiveness by improving its process and structure. Process refers to how a group works together. It includes how members talk to each other, identify and solve problems, make decisions, and handle conflict. Structure refers to stable recurring group processes, such as group membership or group roles. In contrast, content refers to what a group is working on-for example, whether to enter a new market, how to provide high-quality service to customers,or what each group member's responsibilities should be. Whenever a group meets, it is possible to observe both its content and process. For example, in a discussion about how to provide high-quality service, suggestions about installing a customer hotline or giving more authority to those with customer contact reflect content. However, members responding to only certain members' ideas or failing to identify their assumptions are facets of the group's process.

Underlying the facilitator's main task is the premise that ineffective group process and structure reduces a group's ability to solve problems and make decisions. By increasing the effectiveness of the group's process and structure, the facilitator helps the group improve its performance and overall effectiveness. The facilitator does not intervene directly in the content of the group's discussions; to do so would require the facilitator to abandon neutrality and would reduce the group's responsibility for solving its problems.

To ensure that the facilitator is trusted by all group members and that the group's autonomy is maintained, the facilitator needs to meet three criteria: (1) be acceptable to all members of the group, (2) be substantively neutral-that is, display no preference for any of the solutions the group considers-and (3) not have substantive decision-making authority. In practice, the facilitator can meet these three criteria only if the facilitator is not a group member. Although a group member may be acceptable to other members and may not have substantive decision-making authority, the group member has a substantive interest in the group's issues.

By definition, a group member cannot formally fill the role of facilitator. Nevertheless, a group leader or member can use the Skilled Facilitator principles and techniques to help a group. Effective leaders regularly use facilitation skills as part of their leadership role.


The Skilled Facilitator approach is one approach to facilitation. Often facilitation approaches represent a compilation of techniques and methods without an underlying integrated theoretical framework. The Skilled Facilitator approach is based on a theory of group facilitation that contains a set of core values and principles and a number of techniques and methods derived from the core values and principles. It integrates the theory into practice to create a values-based, systemic approach to group facilitation. In doing so, it answers two key questions: "What do I say and do in this situation?" and "What are concepts and principles that lead me to say and do this?" Exhibit 1.1 identifies the key features of the Skilled Facilitator approach and their purpose.

The Group Effectiveness Model

To help groups become more effective, you need a model of group effectiveness to guide your work. The model needs to be more than descriptive-that is, it needs to do more than explain how groups typically function or develop because many groups develop in a way that is dysfunctional. To be useful, the model needs to be normative: it should tell you what an effective group looks like.

The Group Effectiveness Model (GEM) identifies the criteria for effective groups, identifies the elements that contribute to effectiveness and the relationships among them, and describes what these elements look like in practice. The model enables you to determine when groups are having problems, identify the causes that generate the problems, and begin to identify where to intervene to address the problems. When you are creating new groups, the model helps you identify the elements and relationships among the elements that need to be in place to ensure an effective group.

* See Chapter Two, "The Group Effectiveness Model," page 15, and Chapter Fifteen, "Using the Group Effectiveness Model," page 135.

A Clearly Defined Facilitative Role

To help groups, you need a clear definition of your facilitative role so that you and the groups you are helping have a common understanding about and agree on the kinds of behaviors that are consistent and inconsistent with your role. This has become more difficult as organizations have used the word facilitator to define many different roles. Human resource experts, organization development consultants, trainers, coaches, and even managers have sometimes been referred to as facilitators. The Skilled Facilitator approach clearly defines the facilitator role as a substantively neutral person who is not a group member and who works for the entire group. Still, as I describe in the next section, even if you are not a facilitator, you can use facilitative skills.

The Skilled Facilitator approach distinguishes between two types of facilitation: basic and developmental. In basic facilitation, you help a group solve a substantive problem by essentially lending the group your process skills. When your work is complete, the group has solved its substantive problem, but by design, it has not learned how to improve its process. In developmental facilitation, you help a group improve its process by learning to reflect on and change its thinking and behavior so it can solve substantive problems more effectively.

* See Chapter Eleven, "Basic Facilitation," page 115, and Chapter Forty-Three, "Developmental Facilitation," page 339.

Useful in a Wide Range of Roles

Although I have described the Skilled Facilitator approach in terms of a substantively neutral third-party facilitator, the approach also recognizes that everyone needs facilitative skills. So the approach encompasses additional facilitative roles: facilitative consultant, facilitative coach, facilitative trainer, and facilitative leader. All are based on the same underlying core values and principles as the role of neutral, third-party facilitator.

* Chapter Three, "Using Facilitative Skills in Different Roles," page 27, has basic information on the different facilitative roles. Many of the chapters in Parts Six and Seven explore how the different roles work in practice.

Explicit Core Values

All approaches to facilitation are based on some core values, explicit or implicit. Whatever the approach, core values provide its foundation and serve as a guide. They enable you to craft consistent new methods and techniques and to reflect continually on how well you do in acting congruently with them. But if you are to benefit most from a set of core values, they need to be explicit. The Skilled Facilitator approach is based on four explicit core values, and the principles that follow from them: (1) valid information, (2) free and informed choice, (3) internal commitment, and (4) compassion. (The first three core values come from the work of Chris Argyris and Donald Schon, 1974.) Valid information means sharing all the relevant information that you have about an issue in a way that others can understand the reasoning. Free and informed choice means members make decisions based on valid information, not on pressure from inside or outside the group. Internal commitment means each member feels personally responsible for the decision and is willing to support the decision, given his or her role. Compassion means adopting a stance toward others and yourself in which you temporarily suspend judgment.

As a facilitator, you need not only a set of methods and techniques but also an understanding of how and why they work. By using an explicit set of core values and the principles that follow from them, you can improvise and design new methods and techniques consistent with the core values. Without this understanding, you are like a novice baker who must either follow the recipe as given or make changes without knowing what will happen.

Making the core values explicit also helps you work with groups. You can discuss your approach with potential clients so that they can make more informed choices about whether they want to use you as their facilitator. When clients know the core values underlying your approach, they can help you improve your practice, identifying when they believe you are acting inconsistently with the values you espoused. Because the core values for facilitation are also the core values for effective group behavior, when you act consistently with the core values, not only do you act effectively as a facilitator, but you also model effective behavior for the group you are working with.

* See Chapter Four, page 33, "Understanding What Guides Your Behavior," for an introduction to how assumptions and values guide behavior. For some applications, try Chapter Thirty-Four, "Being a Mutual Learner in a Unilaterally Controlling World," page 287, and Chapter Forty-Four, "Guidelines for Theory-in-Use Interventions," page 349.

Ground Rules for Effective Groups

As you watch a group in action, you may intuitively know whether the members' conversation is productive even if you cannot identify exactly how they either contribute to or hinder the group's process. Yet a facilitator needs to understand the specific kinds of behaviors that improve a group's process. The Skilled Facilitator approach describes these behaviors in a set of ground rules for effective groups. The ground rules make specific the abstract core values of facilitation and group effectiveness (Figure 1.1).

* See Chapter Five, "Ground Rules for Effective Groups," page 61, for an introduction to the ground rules. For practical detail on using them, try Chapter Fourteen, "Introducing the Ground Rules and Principles in Your Own Words," page 131; Chapter Twenty-One, "Ways to Practice the Ground Rules," page 189; Chapter Twenty-Six, "Ground Rules Without the Mutual Learning Model Are Like Houses Without Foundations," page 217; and Chapter Thirty-Five, "Introducing the Skilled Facilitator Approach at Work," page 293.

The behavioral ground rules in the Skilled Facilitator approach differ from the more procedural ground rules that many groups use ("start on time, end on time"; "turn off your pagers and cell phones"). Procedural ground rules can be helpful, but they do not describe the specific behaviors that lead to effective group process.

The Diagnosis-Intervention Cycle

The group effectiveness model, the core values, and the ground rules for effective groups are all tools for diagnosing behavior in groups. But you still need a way to put these tools to work. Specifically you need to know when to intervene, what kind of intervention to make, how to say it, when to say it, and to whom. To help put these tools into practice, the Skilled Facilitator approach includes a six-step process called the diagnosis-intervention cycle. The cycle is a structured and simple way to think about what is happening in the group and then to intervene consistent with the core values. It serves to guide you into effective action.

* Chapter Six, "The Diagnosis-Intervention Cycle," page 69, is an introduction to the diagnosis-intervention cycle. For more on applications, see Chapter Eleven, "Basic Facilitation," page 115.

Low-Level Inferences

To help groups become more effective requires that you constantly try to make sense of what is happening in the group. You watch members say and do things and then make inferences about what their behavior means (an inference is a conclusion you reach about something that is unknown to you based on things that you have observed) and how it is either helping or hindering the group's process. For example, in a meeting, if you see someone silently folding his arms across his chest, you may infer that he disagrees with what has been said but is not saying so.

The kinds of inferences you make are critical because they guide what you will say and they affect how group members will react to you. To be effective, you need to make these inferences in a way that increases the chance that you will be accurate, enables you to share your inferences with the group to see if they disagree, and does not create defensive reactions in group members when you share your inferences.

The Skilled Facilitator approach accomplishes this by focusing on what I refer to as low-level inferences. Essentially, this means that you diagnose and intervene in groups by making the fewest and the smallest inferential leaps necessary.

By learning to think and intervene using low-level inferences, you can increase the accuracy of your diagnosis and your ability to share your thinking with others, and reduce the chance that you will create defensive reactions when you do so. This ensures that your actions increase rather than decrease the group's effectiveness.

* See the Ladder of Inference sidebar in Chapter Five, "Ground Rules for Effective Groups," page 61, for an explanation of how we make inferences.

Exploring and Changing How We Think

Facilitation is difficult work because it is cognitively and emotionally demanding. It is especially difficult when you find yourself in situations you consider potentially embarrassing or psychologically threatening. Research shows that in these situations, most people tend to think and act in a way that seeks to unilaterally control the conversation, win the discussion, and minimize the expression of negative feelings (Argyris and Schon, 1974). The same problem that reduces your effectiveness as a facilitator reduces the effectiveness of the groups you are seeking to help. Like the facilitator, the group members are also unaware of how they create these problems for themselves.

The Skilled Facilitator approach helps you understand the conditions under which you act less effectively and understand how your own thinking leads you to act ineffectively in ways that you are normally unaware of. It provides tools for increasing your effectiveness, particularly in situations you find emotionally difficult. This involves changing not only your techniques, but also how you think about or frame situations, including the core values and assumptions that underlie your approach.

The Skilled Facilitator approach is grounded in a way of thinking and acting calling the mutual learning model. In the mutual learning model, you think that you have some information and that others have other information; you think that others may see things that you don't just as you may see things that they don't; you consider differences as opportunities for learning rather than opportunities to show the others that they are wrong; and you assume that people are trying to act with integrity given their situations.


Excerpted from The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook by Roger Schwarz Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Editors, Authors, and Contributors.


Part One: Understanding the Skilled FacilitatorApproach.

1. The Skilled Facilitator Approach (Roger Schwarz).

2. The Group Effectiveness Model (Roger Schwarz).

3. Using Facilitative Skills in Different Roles (RogerSchwarz).

4. Understanding What Guides Your Behavior (Roger Schwarz).

5. Ground Rules for Effective Groups (Roger Schwarz).

6. The Diagnosis-Intervention Cycle (Peg Carlson).

7. Thinking and Acting Systemically (Anne Davidson).

8. Contracting with Groups (Roger Schwarz).

Part Two: Starting Out.

9. Jointly Designing the Purpose and Process for a Conversation(Roger Schwarz, Anne Davidson).

10. Process Designs (Anne Davidson).

11. Basic Facilitation: What Can Be Accomplished? What Cannot?(Peg Carlson).

12. Do the Math: Creating a Realistic Agenda (Peg Carlson).

13. Beginning Meetings: Introductions and Guidelines for WorkingTogether (Anne Davidson).

14. Introducing the Ground Rules and Principles in Your OwnWords (Sue McKinney).

15. Using the Group Effectiveness Model (Anne Davidson).

16. Helping Group Members Focus on Interests Rather ThanPositions (Peg Carlson).

17. Developing Shared Vision and Values (Anne Davidson).

18. Helping Groups Clarify Roles and Expectations (AnneDavidson).

19. Using the Skilled Facilitator Approach to Strengthen WorkGroups and Teams (Anne Davidson).

20. Using the Ground Rules in E-Mail (Roger Schwarz).

Part Three: Deepening Your Practice.

21. Ways to Practice the Ground Rules (Anne Davidson).

22. Some Tips for Diagnosing at the Speed of Conversation (PegCarlson).

23. Opening Lines (Roger Schwarz).

24. Reducing the Skilled Facilitator Jargon (Roger Schwarz).

25. Now What Do I Do? Using Improv to Improve Your Facilitation(Roger Schwarz, Greg Hohn).

26. Ground Rules Without the Mutual Learning Model Are LikeHouses Without Foundations (Sue McKinney).

27. Writing and Analyzing a Left-Hand Column Case (RogerSchwarz).

Part Four: Facing Challenges.

28. Holding Risky Conversations (Anne Davidson).

29. Exploring Your Contributions to Problems (RogerSchwarz).

30. Moving Toward Difficulty (Sue McKinney).

31. Responding to Silence and Interruptions and Enabling Membersto Talk to Each Other (Roger Schwarz).

32. Raising Issues In or Out of the Group (Roger Schwarz).

Part Five: Seeking Your Path.

33. Finding Your Voice (Anne Davidson).

34. Being a Mutual Learner in a Unilaterally Controlling World(Sue McKinney).

35. Introducing the Skilled Facilitator Approach at Work:Pitfalls and Successes (Sue McKinney).

36. Bringing It All Back Home, or Open Mouth, Insert Foot (PeterHille and the Staff of the Brushy Fork Institute).

37. A Carp in the Land of Koi (Susan R. Williams).

Part Six: Leading and Changing Organizations.

38. Daily Challenges of a Facilitative Leader (Tom Moore).

39. Learning to Live Our Philosophy (Betsy Monier-Williams).

40. Helping a Team Understand the System They Created (RogerSchwarz).

41. “I Can’t Use This Approach Unless My BossDoes” (Roger Schwarz).

42. How to Stop Contributing to Your Boss’s and Your OwnIneffectiveness (Roger Schwarz).

43. Developmental Facilitation (Anne Davidson, DickMcMahon).

44. Guidelines for Theory-in-Use Interventions (Anne Davidson,Dick McMahon).

45. Introducing the Core Values and Ground Rules (JeffKoeze).

46. From Learning to Lead to Leading to Learn (Joe Huffman).

47. Reflections of a Somewhat Facilitative Leader (JeffKoeze).

48. Integrating the Skilled Facilitator Approach withOrganizational Policies and Procedures (Roger Schwarz, AnneDavidson).

49. 360-Degree Feedback and the Skilled Facilitator Approach(Peg Carlson).

50. Implementing a 360-Degree Feedback System (Bron D.Skinner).

51. Do Surveys Provide Valid Information for OrganizationalChange? (Peg Carlson).

52. Using the Skilled Facilitator Approach in Different andMultiple Cultures (Anne Davidson).

Part Seven: Integrating the Skilled Facilitator Approach inYour Worklife (and Non-Worklife).

53. The Drama Triangle: A Unilateral Control Program for HelpingOthers (Dick McMahon).

54. Using Creative and Survival Cycles to See and Shift MentalModels (Guillermo Cuéllar).

55. The Skilled Facilitator Approach and the Myers-Briggs TypeIndicator (Anne Davidson).

56. Applying the Skilled Facilitator Approach to a SystemsThinking Analysis (Chris Soderquist).

57. The Facilitative Coach (Anne Davidson, Dale Schwarz).

58. Becoming a Facilitative Trainer (Sue McKinney, MattBeane).

59. Being a Facilitative Consultant (Harry Furukawa).

60. Using the Skilled Facilitator Approach as a Parent (PegCarlson).

61. Running for Office in a Unilaterally Controlling World(Steve Kay).

62. Using the Facilitative Leader Approach in Public Office(Verla Insko).

Afterword: Some Important Lessons (Roger Schwarz, AnneDavidson).



About Roger Schwarz & Associates.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"This is one of the best field books I have ever read. The adviceis derived from sound research and theory, and it is crafted in aclear-cut, concrete, detailed, and highly useful way. It focuses onthe important everyday skills of practice, including some of themost difficult issues that challenge the user."
—Chris Argyris, James Bryant Conant Professor of Education andOrganizational Behavior, emeritus, Harvard University; author,Reasons and Rationalizations: The Limits of OrganizationalKnowledge

"Roger Schwarz and his coauthors are meticulous in theirguidance for facilitators, consultants, coaches, and leaderseverywhere. They dissect our encounters with each other and help usrecognize what works, what doesn’t, and what we might doabout it. This is a book to return to again and again."
—Geoff Bellman, author, The Consultant’s Calling andYour Signature Path

"Anyone who strives to lead more effectively will find this booka treasure trove of tips and tools. Whether you’re anexecutive or small team leader, a parent or a politician, TheSkilled Facilitator Fieldbook will be the reference you reachfor to increase your capacity to lead."
—Karen Thomas-Smith, global training and development director,SAS

"This book provides the tools, techniques, and actual experienceto truly practice shared leadership. Roger Schwarz and hiscolleagues provide not only the theory but the practical, hands-onexperience required to develop high performance teams."
—Jay Hennig, vice president, Moog, Inc.

"Although I consider myself already familiar with Roger’sSkilled Facilitator approach, I was amazed at the breadth and depththis Fieldbook provides. It is a compelling resource foranyone interested in building his or her facilitativecapabilities."
—Sandy Schuman, University of Albany, SUNY; editor, The IAFHandbook of Group Facilitation; and moderator, the ElectronicDiscussion on Group Facilitation

"The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook is a must have foranyone serving as a third party intervener, coach, consultant or amanager with a desire to develop people and groups."
—Thomas P. Zgambo, corporate ombudsman, Coca-Cola EnterprisesInc.

"The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook truly provides the readerwith an understandable ‘root cause’ perspective on whypeople interact the way they do and the means to create change. Itgoes way beyond the ‘memorize these rules’ approachadvocated by many practitioners."
—Sid Terry, director organization development, NA Manufacturing,Kraft Foods

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