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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0018 | September 11, 2001
5,500 Subscribers


*Basic vs. Developmental Facilitation

Does the group only want your help to solve an immediate problem or do they want you to help them become better facilitators themselves?

The Point?

As you begin your work as a group facilitator, it's important to know the group's objectives with regard to process. If a group calls you in to simply help them to improve their process in order to solve an immediate problem, this is referred to as "Basic" facilitation. In basic facilitation, the group doesn't necessarily seek to improve the way they work together for the long-term. They are simply concerned about solving their immediate problem, at which time your work is over until the next problem arises, when they may call in a facilitator once again to facilitate a solution to this problem.

In "Developmental" facilitation, a group desires to go deeper in their work with process. They seek to improve their own facilitative skills while they solve their problem, with the goal of becoming self-facilitating over time. So your ultimate goal with this group is to eventually work yourself out of a job by teaching, modeling, and encouraging them to attend to their own individual and group process. 

It's important to know which level your working with in a group because your role as facilitator and why you intervene will vary based on this information. In Basic facilitation, your role is to guide group process and intervene to help the group solve their identified problem. In Developmental facilitation, your role is to  teach the group to monitor and guide their own process and you intervene to help them become better facilitators themselves. In this case you might intervene to point out elements of their process or behaviors that hinder the group's long-term effectiveness, or you might stop the process when opportunities arise to help members develop their own process skills.


Let's say you're conducting basic facilitation for a group of teachers and administrators who say that they want to solve the problems they're having with student violence on their campus. Filling the basic role as a facilitator for this group, you help them clarify and define the actual problems, then you help them develop creative solutions and alternatives, and plans to implement them. As a basic facilitator in its purest form, you would probably not choose to intervene and directly address the masked anger and frustration you see operating below the surface between the administrators and the teachers. As a basic facilitator you would probably choose not to explore, simply as an exercise, ways in which the violence occurring on the campus might be a reflection of repressed emotion contained in the leaders and executors of the institution.

Whereas if your group had agreed beforehand that developmental facilitation was their goal, along with all the challenges, opportunities, and risks inherently involved, then you would feel free, (given the implicit permission granted by developmental facilitation) to make the above interventions and quite possibly unleash Hell. And if the group had the courage, they might get through it and really solve the "problem" possibly a much bigger problem and inherent solution than anyone had bargained for!

* This material was adapted from "The Skilled Facilitator," Roger Schwarz, Jossey-Bass Inc., 1994, wiith permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Iím interested in hearing your perspectives on basic vs. developmental facilitation. Will this information help you in your role as a facilitator in the groups you work with? If so, how? Please email me your thoughts, stories, and experiences on this issue

cartoon image of a talking man.

Reader Survey 
Ice-breakers for Facilitators.
Thank you to everyone who sent in examples of probing questions to support groups engaged in planning or problem-solving.

This week, we're asking you to send us examples of any exercises you've used that you've found particularly effective in "breaking the ice" with groups to get them engaged with each other in a spirit of creativity and play. We'll make all of these exercises available to everyone who contributes at least one.

Please email your responses to me at Thanks for your help in making the site the best facilitation resource site on the web!

**NEW FEATURE! Facilitator Profile**

Susan Smith Facilitates community, teamwork, shared governance, women's wisdom...

Once upon a time, I was born a facilitator. Just lucky, I guess. As a child, I was bossy, organized, productive and a leader, but always caring and idealistic about my relationships. It really happened when I was in high school. I finally started getting the self-confidence to get in front of groups. Then, I lost it in college. I was petrified. Then, in the course of doing my graduate work in Counseling, I was forced to get back up in front of people and, slowly over time, it became second nature to me. My point here is that I think the art of facilitation can come and go depending on how much you focus on your art and where you are in regards to your own self-confidence. Facilitating becomes a way of living your life.

I have had the most experience facilitating groups through "personal/team growth" and "organizational development" processes. It gives me such a thrill to see groups move forward through chaos, and achieve a sense of team or community. With more than 20 years working in Student Services at the community college level, I had opportunities to facilitate groups of staff and students through the process of community- building, shared governance, and task-oriented projects. Recently, along with two female friends, I have created a Women's Wisdom Group in our community that meets four times a year at the change of the seasons to gather and honor our collective wisdoms. I am modeling the art and process of facilitation. It is, again, a wonderful experience. 

During this time, I have developed a stronger and stronger vision about the importance of facilitation. It can provide a laboratory, a safe place for both individuals and groups to learn to relate in more healthy and productive ways. It has tremendous potential to change the world, one person at a timeÖ as in the facilitator and/or a participant, as in one group at a time, as in one organization at a time. It can truly move us towards more effective relationships, more functional families, more democratic workplaces, and a more caring and compassionate world. 

If you're interested in being considered for a profile in this column, please email me for guidelines. We look forward to hearing from you.

If you know someone who might benefit and enjoy this newsletter, please send this link to a friend.

picture of Steve Davis, editor of the Master Facilitator Journal.

About the Author: 
Steve Davis is a Business and Life Coach facilitating others to stretch beyond their full potential in their business and personal lives. Please email your stories, comments, suggestions, and ideas. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading! 

A Special Message to You
I'm regularly receiving requests from readers for some type of facilitator training that they can take at a distance. In response to this interest, I'm putting together a distance learning program on facilitation. To put together a course that provides you the most value, I need to begin to dialogue and work with more of you on the real-world challenges you're having in the field of facilitation. Therefore, to gather input for myself and as a gift to you, my devoted readers, I'm offering the following:

FREE Facilitator  Competency Day!

Free 10-minute Laser Competency Call
Come Join me this Wednesday, September 12th, for a FREE Facilitator Competency Day!

Email me to set up an appointment anytime between 2-4 PM Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) for a quick ten-minute coaching session on one of the facilitator competencies you are having trouble with or would like to enhance. Here are some examples of things you might come to work on:

- I need help figuring out what it means for me to be a facilitator. 
- I have a difficult time being in the present when I'm in front of people.
- I have so much performance anxiety that I get queasy when I have to "perform."
- What does it means to be a great facilitator?
- I have weak personal boundaries so my energy is always sapped.
- I'm under so much stress that I find it difficult to be effective.

- How do I better connect with and engage the group?
- I don't really respect the people I'm working with, what do I do?
- How do I challenge people without being rude?
- How can I become a really great listener? 

- How do I intervene to facilitate the process within a group that I do not lead?
- How do I intervene on annoying personal behaviors that are holding the group back?
- How do I know when to intervene?
- How do I get people more involved in the meetings?
- How can we make better use of our time in the meetings?

- I can't stand the company I'm working for and I feel trapped. Help!

- I have a  big challenge I'm up against right now. What do I do?

- All questions and concerns are welcome...

Refine facilitation competencies that you're having trouble with.
Brainstorm ways to enhance your effectiveness as a facilitator in your organization, classroom, work group
Get help handling a problem, challenge, or opportunity you're facing right now.

Prior to this call, please review  the Facilitator Competency Assessment to select those competencies you'd like to discuss. Come prepared with one or two competencies you'd like to enhance or discuss. Write down three things you'd like to leave the call with before you dial in.

Email me to set up an appointment anytime between the hours of 2-4PM PDT at 805-489-4130. If the line is busy or if there is no answer, I'm probably on the line with someone else. Please just wait 10 minutes and call back or leave your name and number and I'll call you right back when I'm finished.

I look forward to helping you make a leap forward on Wednesday!

Warmest Regards,

Steve Davis
Publisher, Editor, Coach

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Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal.  Look for your next issue on Sept 18, 2001. 


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