Facilitator Journal | Issue #0267, August 29, 2006 ....
I had a conversation with a colleague a couple of weeks ago about
her desire to expand her facilitation skills. She recounted her
recent work with a group that involved some very difficult and complex
issues. Long story short, I came away with the questions "How
do we know when we're being effective facilitators?" And, "How
do we feel when we're being effective facilitators?" We explore
these questions in this week's article, "What Does Success
Feel Like?" I look forward to your thoughts on this provocative
The Facilitation Debates
Help us stir the proverbial pot. Check out the question
of the week after the main article and send us your thoughts on
it to stimulate debate and round out our perspectives on key topics.
Facilitation R&D Teleconference
For the past three years, I've been thinking about how
to map the art and science of facilitation into Ken Wilber's Integral
Model. Over the past couple months, I've begun moving forward in
my efforts to formulate this model and perhaps glean some new insights
from it about achieving results in groups. You're invited to a roundtable
teleconference on this model on September 18th cohosted by colleagues
at the Integral Learning Community (ILC) at the University of Wisconsin.
See details at the end of this issue.
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Does Success Feel Like?
successfully facilitated session is often difficult to measure in the
I had a conversation with a colleague a couple of weeks ago about her desire
to expand her facilitation skills. She recounted her recent work with a
group that involved some very difficult and complex issues. She told me
that both during and after the session, she felt uncertain about what had
happened and felt that she hadn't been all that effective.
Almost in the same breath, she told me that at least 80% of the group had
considered their time spent as very effective. I probed further and she
confided in me that she just didn't feel like she knew what she was doing
with this group.
This turned into a very interesting conversation and got me thinking more
deeply about two questions, "How do we know when we're being effective
facilitators?" And, "How do we feel when we're being effective
Borrowing from the vocabulary of systems thinking, any collection of human
beings gathered to work together can be characterized as a complex,
adaptive, self-organizing system. As facilitators, much of our job entails
the design and maintenance of an environment and set of conditions that
allow the system (group) to self-organize at ever higher levels of functioning.
Another thing we know from systems theory, or chaos theory specifically,
is that systems must disorganize and move through a period of chaos in order
to provide them the freedom they need to reorganize at a higher, more evolved
level of functioning.
Ok, enough theory. Let's see how these insights apply to our work as facilitators,
especially around our conceptions of how success looks and feels. While
working with a group seeking to elevate its level of functioning, either
explicitly, or implicitly by solving a problem, creating a plan to grow
or improve, etc., then it's highly likely that the group will encounter
some degree of chaos somewhere in the process. Chaos in groups can take
many forms, from simple confusion to full out rebellion, and everything
Whatever form it takes, when you're in chaos, you'll be "out of control"
and you won't "know what you're doing," by definition! By most
standards that we're accustomed to in the modern world, being "out
of control" and not "knowing what we're doing" are very
bad things. No wonder we want to correct these conditions when they occur
as quickly as possible.
But, going back to what we know of chaos theory, letting go of control
and being open to the unknown are prerequisites for change. Therefore,
as change agents, doesn't it make sense for us to reevaluate our needs
for control and knowing? I'm not saying that we shouldn't exert appropriate
control during group processes and that we shouldn't strive to understand
what's going on as best we can. What I am saying is that in helping a
group move forward, there may be times when you'll feel lost and out of
control. This doesn't mean that you'll be completely out of control nor
completely lost. Just like rafting down white water, you have some ability
to steer in the current and you also know that things will calm down eventually
as you move down river.
So as we progress in our work with groups, let's move beyond our feelings
of being in control and having things turn out as we planned as indicators
of a job well done. Long lasting change enjoyed by a group sometimes comes
from arduous work that may not always feel all that good nor make all
that much sense in the moment. After all, change and innovation give birth
to the unfamiliar. So doesn't it make sense that a looser grip on the
familiar and a willingness to dance with mystery is necessary to give
change a chance to unfold?
your experiences around facilitating through chaos? How did you feel?
What did you think? How did it turn out? I'd love to hear your thoughts,
feelings, and stories on this subject. Please click reply and email your
comments to me.
Debate this one
and founder of the GFSC,
Gilbert Brensen-Lazan, suggested I begin using this forum to stir the
proverbial pot around questions of facilitation. As a veteran pot-stirrer
myself, I gladly jumped on his suggestion. What we're doing then is
presenting a new provocative question each issue. We'll ask for your
thoughts and comments on it, then formulate articles based on your inputs
in an effort to get broader views on complex subjects. Also, we'd love
to hear your ideas for questions to consider for the future.
this week is:
Should facilitators work for clients with questionable practices
(hire illegals, polluters, unethical practices, etc.)?
click reply and email your comments on this question to me. Those questions
that garner adequate response will be converted to articles for future
issues of this journal. Thanks for your interest and support!
you like to republish this or other articles from the journal? You are free
to do so providing you follow these guidelines.
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Integral Facilitation: "Facilitating Optimal Results in
September 18, 2006, 2:30-4:30 PM Eastern
For the past three years, I've been thinking about how to map
the art and science of facilitation into Ken Wilber's Integral
Map. Over the past couple months, I've begun moving forward
in my efforts to formulate this model and perhaps glean some
new insights from it about achieving results in groups. My colleagues
at the Integral Learning Community (ILC) at the University of
Wisconsin are co-hosting a roundtable teleconference on this
model on September 18th. Here are the details...
The focused effort of committed people in groups is an extremely
powerful instrument. It has been engaged by social activists,
harnessed by business, and inspired by politicians and poets.
Over the past few decades, a method called facilitation has
been evolving and showing up at town hall meetings, in board
rooms, and in working groups throughout the worlds of business,
government, industry, and education. All sorts of techniques,
practices, and mindsets have been applied by the facilitator
to aid in group cohesion and success. Facilitation, however,
can not be reduced to flip charts, markers, or the latest slick
session will describe and engage the Integral Learning Community
(ILC) in Madison, WI with the possibility of integral facilitation:
defining a comprehensive scope of facilitation to achieve optimal
results in groups. Steve Davis and Darin Harris will help uncover
the potential for a full systems approach to facilitation using
Ken Wilber's "four quadrant" model.
the first hour a descriptive teleconference will take place,
while the second hour will allow more seasoned integral practitioners
to delve deeper in the material. Find out more by visiting:
here and send a blank email to register for the call. The
bridge line is limited to 50 callers so call in early to secure
a spot on the call.
Schedule. The first hour of the
call, from 2:30-4:30
PM Eastern, we'll present an Overview of the model as it stands.
From 3:30-4:30 Eastern we'll engage in a group discussion and
suggestions for continued development and use of the model.
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