A facilitator guides a group toward a stated objective, using proven methods that produce good decisions in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take. Facilitators are neutral parties who focus on the process by which discussions take place and decisions get made. By far, the most common facilitation skills pertain to running effective meetings. Here are some of the common roles that fall under the definition of a facilitator –
- Planning and running effective meetings
- Establishing ground rules in advance, creating an environment conducive to productive discussions
- Bringing clarity to group or meeting objectives
- Intervening as necessary to keep discussions on track
- Using structured methods for organizing thoughts and making decisions
- Providing feedback to group members
- Developing agendas
- Creating discussion notes that accurately represent participant input
- Encouraging participation from all individuals
- Ensuring that relevant data is gathered prior to a meeting
Definitions – Common Facilitator Tools
All great facilitators have two things in common: (1) they learn facilitation tools and when to apply them, and (2) they practice these tools on a regular basis. There are a number of tools and methods that have stood the test of time in their value to the facilitation process. Here are some definitions around the more popular tools and methods –
Agenda – A written document that structures discussion topics and desired outcomes, organizing them in time sequence.
Affinity Diagrams – A very efficient means for organizing brainstorming ideas into common groups (themes) for consensus building.
Brainstorming – A method by which all team member ideas are collected for consideration, without judgement. Other methods, such as the Affinity Process are used to reach consensus based on ideas that come up in a brainstorming session.
Force Field Analysis – A structured approach for discussing the “For” and “Against” forces acting upon a given situation.
Group Problem Solving – There are a number of tools that facilitate group problem solving, including 5-Why – a proven method for arriving at a root cause, and Fishbone Diagrams – a method for organizing potential causes into a graphical format.
Interventions – Various intervention tools are used deal with everything from sidebar discussions to unruly participants.
Multi-Voting – A structured voting process that guarantees full group participation usually results in rapid consensus.
Sequential Questioning – A series of specific questions presented to the group at the beginning of a meeting or event. The intent is to build participation and surface potential issues early in the facilitation process.
SWOT Analysis – A four-block summary that lists Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats related to the topic being discussed. A SWOT Analysis is a great way to collect diverse input from the group related to a business process or team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Visioning – A goal setting approach that actively solicits team input and creates buy-in to end goals.