Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0386, Mar 24, 2009

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I've been watching the news lately a little more than usual and had an impulse to explore an obvious pattern I see that relates to our work with groups. It has to do with people arguing their solutions to problems with little knowlege of the source of these problems. In this week's article, How Did We Get Here?, we explore practice of seeking the source of a problem before we go about solving it.

Check out our Article package this week. We're offering a package which includes our MFJ Portable Article Bank
and the Seniors of Organizational Development article collection. See details after the article and consider adding these resources to your personal Facilitator's Toolkit.

Our Journey of Facilitation and Collaboration Workshop scheduled for June is filling up fast...check out this opportunity to learn an Integrally Informed Approach to Facilitation and Leadership. Click here for details and registration.

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facilitation articles

journey of collaboration

The Point
How Did We Get Here?
Dig beyond symptoms to find and solve the source of problems.

Group Dynamics Skill

In this modern age, we want the answers. And we want them NOW! After all, with answers comes acknowledgement, power and success. This seems self-evident in the business world. It's also often true in the world of personal and spiritual growth, where many of us are seeking "The Answer" to our purpose and existence.
Perhaps we were conditioned with this desire to have the answers through our years of traditional schooling. It was the role of the teacher to have the questions, and our role was to seek the answer. We were "supposed" to know the answer, punished if we didn't, rewarded if we did.

When I watch adults in community meetings, business meetings, political committees, and TV debates, the goal, sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit, is to have the right answer. He or she who expresses an answer with the most clarity and power is reverred. It doesn't matter so much what the question is. If the answer satisfies the emotional need of the masses in question, it is given our blessing, our attention, and our energy.

When we have an answer that satisfies us, the case if often closed. But what if the answer doesn't address the source of the issue that inspired it? What then? I know of a nation not too far away that has been enertaining empassioned answers for decades, most of them pretty much the same, while a nearly intractable debt hole $60 trillion deep has gone virtually unnoticed. Perhaps a little more focus on the question is in order.

Questions tend to keep the case open for exploration. Yes I know, we like tying up lose ends. But if our answers simply cover the symptoms, which seems to have become our modern response to difficult problems, is the problem resolved or simply postponed?

I've also noticed that in order to be accepted, answers have to fit into our established value or belief system. A true solution to a problem, however prudent and validated, may fall flat if it isn't appropriately sexy, or politically or morally correct according to the definitions of those who decide.

I came across a great example of this latter point in Lester Brown's book, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. The example had to do with solutions to global over-population, one the key source issues to many of our biggest problems, present and future. A highly validated solution is available, relatively simple and inexpensive. But, it's kind of boring and doesn't correlate well with many of our misguided moral imperatives. The solution? Here it is: School Lunch Programs. That this would work, actually does work, isn't intuitively obvious at first is it? However, many years of experience and research in third world countries, where over-population is the biggest problem, suggest conclusively that this works, and works well. But regrettably, it doesn't sell well.

So, where in your organization, community, country, family, life, are you looking for answers in all the wrong places and perhaps overlooking the source issue that is right in front of you? That my friends, in my mind is the question. So how can we get around our answer addiction and begin to open ourselves to the right questions? Let's have a look.



  • What is the question? We often are so quick to find an answer, we forget the question. This is the most basic starting point of any effective group effort, that is, clarifying what we are here to do. Write out the problem or question you're exploring clearly so that everyone can see it and understand it.

  • Stop trying to look smart. Too often we don't ask those very, very simple questions that are nagging us because they sound too silly, too simple, too stupid--questions perhaps a six-year old might ask. If we had six-year olds asking questions of our congressman and they were answered to everyone's satisfaction, I'd wager everything I have that we'd be in a whole lot better shape right now.

  • Is there a deeper question. Rather than approach the problem like a western medical doctor, treating the symptom, ask yourself this question: "Is the problem you're solving a source issue or just a symptom of a bigger issue." Dig deeper to the question underlying all questions, to the source of the issue, as best you can see it. Now work on solving that one and you have increased your leverage substantially.

  • Take your time. OK, I know this is heresy. Who has time for anything these days! We've got to solve this issue now! Right, sure you do. Keep that attitude and you're likely to be solving much bigger problems down the road that will sap untold mountains of additional time that you don't have if you aren't addressing the real issue. Solving the source of a recurring problem is a time saver in the long run, sometimes even a lifesaver.

  • Humble yourself. Invite experts, opponents, competitors, opposing party constituents, and others who have perspectives and beliefs systems that you find unattractive or distastful. No one is smart enough to be wrong all of the time and you aren't omniscient enough to know everything all of the time. So perspectives coming from those who see the world a lot differently that you do are likely to have some valuable information. If you trully want to make serious progress on a problem, encourage those outside your box to challenge your thinking.

  • What are we missing? This question is for your group and for you dear reader, what am I missing on this list. Help me to see a bigger picture. Am I off my rocker or onto something here? I look forward to you rocking my world!


Where in your organization, community, country, family, life, are you looking for answers in all the wrong places and perhaps overlooking the source issue that is right in front of you?
Which of the strategies above or beyond will you employ to help? I'd love to hear from you. Send me your experiences and ideas by replying to this email.

This Week's Offer

The Portable Article Bank

For Facilitators, Trainers,
Teachers, Coaches,  Leaders, and Consultants...

- 50 Publishable Articles and
- 120 pages covering
- Six core competency areas.
- Indexed my competency and article

Click Here to Table of Contents

Click Here to View Sample Articles

We've compiled the top 50 issues of the Master Facilitator Journal into the form of an e-book collection. This collection contains the engaging content you're used to receiving in the Journal, but that has been polished and formatted into the form of publishable articles, complete with examples, book suggestions, links, and action steps to take to improve your facilitation skills.

How Will This Collection Help Me? 

a. Use articles as handouts to your team members to educate and empower them with tools to improve communication, team cooperation, meeting, and problem solving skills.
b. Useful content for facilitation and leadership training.
c. Use collection as foundation for a course in facilitation or leadership skills
d. Use as content and backup for public speaking, workshops, and seminars.
e. Use as reference resource for your own facilitation skill development.
f. Use as engaging content for your website.


a. Easy to read, engaging writing style.
b. Colorful graphics.
c. Includes relevant resources with links.
d. Actions for student practice included with each article.
e. Indexed with dynamic links according to six facilitation competency areas.

1) Self-Mastery Skills: How you facilitate yourself.
2) Presence And Presenting Skills: How you show up.
3) Relating Skills: How you facilitate others.
4) Group Awareness, Management, and Exploration (GAME) Skills: How you facilitate a team.
5) Intervention Skills. How you shift a group.
6) Logistic Skills: How you facilitate your environment. Master Facilitators plan and prepare their presentations.


This collection equates to over 200 hours of writing, research, and editting if you were to write the articles yourself. If your time is worth $50/hr. this equates to $10,000 of your time. The collection is downloadable in PDF format that can be saved to hard disk, floppy, or CD ROM. Articles can be viewed on your computer or printed as desired. Check out the index and sample articles here. 


The regular price for this entire collection downloadable in PDF format available immediately upon purchase is 39.95. This week, we're offering this collection for only $34.95 and including the following bonus. To purchase at this price enter the coupon code "articles" at checkout.


Seniors of Organizational Development Article Collection

Purchase the article bank above and also receive this collection of brief articles by senior consultants who have been gurus for consultants in the field of OD. Billie Alban, Dick and Emily Axelrod, Geoff Bellman, Peter Block, Barbara Bunker, Kathie Dannemille, and Bob Tannenbaum who discuss issues important to their consulting.

Click above to purchase now for $34.95 Membership Option

Become a member of and receive option 1 and a host of other items and benefits at an incredibly discounted price. An exceptional value. Click here for details.

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