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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0045| March 19, 2002
7,700 Subscribers


A Simple Model for Diagnosis and Intervention.
Learn when, why, and how to intervene.

The Point

I just discovered this neat model for group diagnosis and intervention in "The Skilled Facilitator," by Roger Schwarz, where he describes a simple 6-step cycle for diagnosis and intervention:

The first three steps of the cycle break down the thinking process of the facilitator leading her to making the decision to intervene. Some questions to ask yourself to help you make the decision to intervene are:

- Have I observed the behavior enough to make a reliable diagnosis?
- Has the group agreed to allow me to make this type of intervention?
- Will a group member intervene if I don't?
- Will there be sufficient time for the group to process the intervention?
- Is the group too overloaded to process the intervention?
- Is the behavior central and important enough to intervene on?
- Do I have the skills to intervene?

The three intervention steps mirror the diagnostic steps in the cycle.
During each step, the facilitator should check for agreement from the group. This involves the group in observing their own process and confirms or corrects the inferences contained in the facilitator observations (see ladder of inference model).

The group then decides what to do about the observed behavior and the cycle of diagnosis and intervention continues to see how any changes play out.


Here's an example application of the above cycle with each step of the cycle included in parentheses. Let's say you're facilitating a group and one of the members, let's call him Joe, has just interrupted the group for the third time with negative criticism of ideas put forward during a brainstorming session (1). You infer (2) that Joe's comments are damaging group process and the intent of the meeting. So you decide to intervene. (3)

Facilitator: Excuse me everyone, I'd like to check out an observation with you. You are currently engaged in a brainstorming session where you've all agreed that critical analysis is to be left to the latter half of the session. Joe, it seems to me that your last three comments were of a critical nature, at odds with your ground rules, and seem to be dampening the group's creative process (4). Does my perception seem accurate to you? (5)

Joe: Well I thought my comments were important because people were bringing up things that just aren't practical.

Facilitator: That may be true Joe, but remember that during the idea generation phase of this brainstorming session, we all agreed to refrain from critical comments until our time limit was up. Is that correct? (5)

Joe: Yes that's true. I didn't realize that my comments were critical but I guess I could see how they could be taken that way.

Facilitator: Is it OK if we check out how the rest of the group is perceiving your input? (5)

Joe: Sure.

(The group members concur that Joe's comments were off the mark)

Facilitator: So Joe, would you be willing to hold your criticism until after the idea gathering part of this session? (6)

Joe: Yes I will.

Facilitator: Great. Thanks for your cooperation Joe and you're willingness to receive constructive feedback yourself.

If you are a facilitator with a unique perspective on facilitation, please submit your article ideas to us via


This week, practice this intervention cycle with your groups. Even if you are only a participant in the meeting, you can still experiment with this cycle. We'd love to hear about your experiences. Please email your comments to us.

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Reader Survey 
How do Cultural Differences Impact Facilitation?

This week, we're asking you to share with us what region you're from (state, country) and any cultural peculiarities you're aware of that impact your approach to facilitation in your region. In other words, what would impact the success of a facilitator visiting from another country or region?

Please send us your input and we'll send the entire collection to everyone who contributes.

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

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About the Author: 
Steve Davis is a Business and Life Coach facilitating others to reach  their full potential in their business and personal lives. Please email your stories, comments, suggestions, and ideas. Or call me at 800-216-3854. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading! 

In the Spotlight

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Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal.  Look for your next issue on March 26, 2002.   

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