Volume 110, June 2011: Facilitation: Making It Easier for Others to Work

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2011 ISSN # 1545-8873

“As children, we are a series of question marks. We grow up into adults, and then our language is full of periods.” — Anon but so true

Facilitation is a practice used to make human proceedings facile (easy). It is sometimes called “leading from behind.” Facilitation is guiding – not controlling; enabling, pushing, doing for.

There is a continuum of facilitative interventions from doing nothing to being highly directive:

  • Non-intervention
  • Silence
  • Nonverbal
  • Question to Clarify
  • Descriptive Feedback
  • Evaluative Feedback
  • Question to Move (e.g., “Why don’t we adjourn now?”)
  • Debrief (e.g., “What just happened?”)
  • Reframe (“I guess that’s a learning experience”)
  • Teach/Train
  • Share Your Idea
  • Make Suggestions
  • Guide
  • Mediate (combine the interests of all parties)
  • Direct
  • Seek Third Party Intervention

When you see a person or team floundering, ask clarifying questions:
1) What is the aim? What are we trying to accomplish?

Then think through with them:
2) What process or method are we using to achieve this aim?

It may then be helpful to make a procedural suggestion.
3) Why don’t we __________________________?

Another simple technique we call the “Columbo (the TV detective) Method” – the asking of a dumb question, like “What’s going on here?”

Many human technologies, e.g., buzz groups, open space technology, appreciative inquiry, future search, collective visioning, use facilitative techniques.

The best read on Facilitation is by Roger M. Schwarz, The Skilled Facilitator. Jossey-Bass, 2002.

Practice Point

Spend a day asking only clarifying questions. “What are we trying to accomplish? What’s happening here? How shall we proceed?”


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