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Why Is Facilitation Important? – Celebrating International Facilitation Week part 2

Written by Intersol Group

In our last post, we talked about six important elements of good facilitation. But why use facilitation at all? What value does it add?

First, a definition: “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.” (Roger Schwartz, The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook)

Facilitation isn’t necessary at every meeting, of course. For routine meetings, established groups usually have defined processes and roles and responsibilities that enable them to be effective without outside support.

Facilitation becomes important when the situation is not routine, and regular ways of working together may not be effective. For example:

  1. The group is not sure how to tackle a particular question or issue. Facilitation starts well before the meeting, with an identification of the objectives and desired outcomes, and the design of a process to meet those objectives and outcomes. Facilitators, as experts in group process, can help groups achieve the desired results more quickly and efficiently than they might on their own.
  2. The convener of a meeting is either not neutral, or is not perceived as such by the participants. Facilitation, which by definition is neutral, provides the necessary credibility for participants to trust the process enough to participate fully.
  3. The group wants to improve how it solves problems or makes decisions. Through the diagnosis process, a facilitator can identify the group’s strengths and challenges, and provide processes and tools for more effective problem-solving and decision-making. This not only helps increase effectiveness at a given meeting, it also improves the group’s processes in the long term.
  4. All group members wish to engage fully in the discussions. By taking responsibility for managing the process, the facilitator frees group members up to engage in the content without having to worry about tracking time or ensuring that everyone participates.
  5. There is conflict between group members. While many people are skilled at collaborating when things are going well, few of us have the knowledge and skills to effectively deal with conflict in a group. A skilled facilitator has the training and experience to understand what is happening, and to select the right intervention to either resolve the conflict or prevent it from escalating further.

In today’s complex and interconnected world, it is more important than ever that we work together collaboratively. Facilitation plays an important role in engaging group members in that process.