Facilitator Journal | Issue #0446, June 1, 2010
As facilitators, we are keenly aware of group process and expert at facilitating it. However, is it possible at times our process-oriented
strengths hold us back? In this week's article, Process
Paralysis, we explore how inordinate attention on process can be an impediment to group progress. I realize this
article may be a bit controversial, and being a closet radical, part
of me hopes it is. So I welcome your comments, disagreements, or any
other thoughts you'd be willing to share on this topic or anything that
it might trigger for you. I look forward to hearing from you.
Does your company have money to waste? I don’t think so! But statistics consistently show, as does your intuition I would imagine, that most companies do waste a lot of money on meetings. Join us this Thursday for a one-hour webinar, Make Every Meeting Great to learn how to save a lot of time and money by only attending and running meetings that work. See details after the article.
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Group Process Skill
Facilitators are keenly aware of the need to help groups embrace, enhance, and invoke processes intended to help them get the results they want in healthy ways. This attention to process is often what's missing in our task-oriented culture. Therefore, many groups really benefit by looking at how they get things done, communicate with one another, share information, manage their organizations, etc.
Imagine that a group is bearing down hard on their goal at the exclusion of all else (Donald Trump style), and running into trouble getting things done. As facilitators it's tempting to think that appropriate dialogue or effective processing will resolve their problems. This isn't necessarily so.
Facilitators can get overly enamored with their process focus. Further, there may be groups that they work with, who by their nature, have a strong process focus as well. They may be into environmental awareness, social service, counseling, or involved in various forms of personal growth who have come to recognize the power of working through people processes. They tend to embrace an egalitarian workview that is open to all viewpoints and believe that all individuals have something important to express at any given time.
While these views are all well and good, it's important to note that an overly biased process orientation can be just as dysfunctional as an over bearing focus on task.
Have you ever been in this type of group? For some it might feel very comfortable, warm, and fuzzy, and downright maddening and frustrating for others. How do we know when we're over processing?
It may be helpful now to look at some indicators of over processing in a group setting that may be just as relevant to individuals.
Warning Signs Process Paralysis
Equal say for every input no matter what value that contribution has to group goals.
An inordinate emphasis on processes and/or relationships at the expense of task.
(As a symptom of the former point) a tendency for meetings to drag on, and while being civil, they tend to yield few tangible results.
A tendency to seek consensus even on issues that don't require it.
Avoiding closure or a commitment to action.
Difficulty or refusal to make value judgments around ideas, strategies, or actions that support the task on the table. In other words, every idea is a great idea!
An inordinate concern about leaving anyone out of a decision-making process even if those being left out are unaffected or indifferent to the decision.
There may be a time when hearing the opinions of certain people in a group will serve no one. There may be times, when explicit action is required in order to move a group to a place where they can see what they need to see for any focus on process to be affective. There may be time when all the healing in the world won't move it forward. At times like these, autocratic direction just to get things moving, might be the best recipe.
To illustrate this point, let me take you on a thought experiment. Remember a time when you felt stuck. By that I mean that you felt something in your life needed to change and it wasn't budging. You were either over analyzing (processing) the situation or you simply didn't know what to do or how to do it.
Now tell me, what got you out of this stuckness? I'm willing to be it wasn't more processing.
For me personally, the only way I've ever gotten out of my process prison was to do something... anything! You see, when we're stuck, we need a new point of view. And staying in the same place simply shows us the same scenery. Often, the best way to get unstuck is to simply move, and it doesn't matter where or what we do. Changing our position affords us a new perspective. And from there, we have new information that we can actually process in a way that will usually move us forward.
So when you encounter a group that appears to paralyzed by processing, clear direction may be welcome and very helpful. Giving direction might not feel very facilitative to you because it's, well, directive. But when we're stuck in a process loop, most of us yearn to be told what to do, at least for a moment. And if your direction doesn't resonate with the group, you'll know that right away. Now go, click on the link below and tell me what you think!
Add Your Comments
Are you over-processing in your groups or by yourself? If you exhibit any of the warning signs above, please consider a self-intervention. Please click on the Add Your Comments link above and share your thoughts, stories, and experiences around this topic. I'd love to hear from you!
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Make All Meetings Great!
Webinar Learning Module
The majority of managers spend at least 50% of their time in meetings every week. If that's not depressing enough, much of this time is wasted! 4 billion dollars are spent in the U.S. yearly on meetings and a Microsoft study showed that 69% of those meetings are unproductive.
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