Tuesday, 9 June 2015

My Facilitation journey...........

My formal exposure to the world of Facilitation started in the year 2011 when I attended the IAF Annual Asia conference at Bangalore. I attended with the pre conceived notion that I knew everything about Facilitation but after attending the two day event I was rich with several learning’s that made me revisit the fundamentals and the power of Facilitation. How to engage with your audience without a power point slides and yet get the desired results with an overwhelming energy, enthusiasm and engagement from the participants was really a big takeaway.

Facilitation is an over-hyped but often understood skill. Most folks associate facilitation skills with the Learning and development function but in reality its utility and application can be extended into every business area one can think of.
The foundation of Facilitation is that participants like to express not necessarily by talking but also through Image Visuals or Words, and therefore every opinion expressed leads to participation by the individual which results in inception of new ideas.
The Six Important elements of considerations for Facilitation are Purpose, Pace, People, Process, Place and Props. The Purpose is to communicate the “Desired Outcome” meaning by the end of the meeting what is it that we want to achieve?

The Process for Facilitation is first allow people to diverge to invoke ideas, and in the process of divergence generate various learning’s in line with desired outcome and through the process of reflection, the group converges on their desired  outcomes. The Facilitator is not judgemental and sets the context before the start of the discussion. By ensuring participation through different methods based on the team dynamics of the group he gets the group to collaborate collectively by ensuring a fair process of asking open ended questions. Effective facilitation triggers group think, curiosity, sharing & leads to better peer to peer learning.

The social contracting which is the terminology for “ground rules” in the world of Facilitation is the key to the success of keeping the group involved since the terms and conditions are defined by the group. This ensures that the group keeps up their commitment without having to enforce any forced discipline. Social Contracting is very important to be done at the starting of the session (never call it rules because rules are meant to be broken whereas contract is agreed upon like agreement)

Few examples of questions to be asked during Social Contracting:
  • · How do we manage time while breaks, etc? (to ensure time management during breaks)
  • ·       How do we know the day is well spent? (to finalise the desired outcome)
  • ·         How do we ensure confidentiality? (confidentiality clause)
  • ·         What do you expect from me as a facilitator (to clarify facilitator’s role)
  • ·       How do we give equal voice to everyone in the program? (to ensure participation from silent introvert participants)
  • ·         How do we leverage the tremendous experience in the room? (to be asked in a session where participants are of high work experience to minimize the risk of ego clash)
  • ·         How could we manage distraction? (to manage people working on laptops or attending calls)

It’s been four years now and we have been effectively using the Facilitation process such as Textra, Brainstorming, World CafĂ©, Visual facilitation, Gallery walk, Snow ball, Flip Flop, OST, 35, etc at our organization in the areas of Induction, Employee Engagement action planning, HR Connect sessions, Brainstorming sessions, Strategy formulation process, Team Building, Open house, etc.

The role of Facilitator and the competencies required for Facilitator are important to demonstrate for effective facilitation.

The Role of the Facilitator:-
·         Set the context and explain clearly the Desired Outcome by being non-judgmental
·         Invoke the process of social contracting
·         Plan the Facilitation process linking the level of intensity in the group, group diversity, time of the day, linking the learning to the issues discussion, using Props such as Flip Charts, Markers, Tapes, Sticky wall, Colour Friendly  Post its,  Cards etc.
·         Use the Facilitation Process to drive Divergence and Convergence.
·         Do the debriefing to ensure that desired outcome has been achieved before the formal closure.
The key learning’s from my Facilitation experience is summarized below:

  • ·         To believe in the power of group. The group is always smarter than we think. It’s important to demonstrate genuine trust during the interaction.
  • ·         Group think happens when the group is put in-charge of their own learning.
  • ·         Trust the process of Facilitation as when followed as per the process, it produces the desired results irrespective of audience type and geographies.
  • ·         The facilitator’s task is to create conducive spaces that can lead to the desired outcomes.
  • ·         Facilitator has to maintain neutrality in the overall process and not take any position and start wearing the hat of expert.

Now any session whether it be teaching a subject in college, addressing a conflict within the project / team members, performance reviews with the group in meetings, etc are by default facilitated and no longer run by conventional methods. It has definitively yielded in getting results with engagement.