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The Value of Using a Facilitator

July 1, 2009 by Ruth Gmehlin, Partner, Trillium Teams Inc

How would you like to attend a planning session where the purpose is clear, the right people are present, and there is a systematic process in place to help the group achieve its goals in a timely and organized manner? This is what process facilitation is all about. In light of Trillium Teams achieving the certified professional facilitation (CPF) designation, we would like to share more information about the value of having a facilitator guide a strategic planning session, an off site retreat, or an important meeting.

What is Process Facilitation?

Process facilitation enables teams to think more clearly, systematically, and effectively. The process starts with analyzing the needs of the event and working with the client to determine a clear purpose and end results. This is followed by careful pre planning and designing a process to meet the set objectives. Finally, having a process facilitator, who is not a member of the team facilitate the actual meeting ensures neutrality and effective group management skills.

Process facilitation is effective when you want to:

  • Have participants solve problems, analyze issues and make decisions collectively
  • Shift ownership and commitment levels to the group
  • Deal with group dynamics
  • Facilitate an intervention that will improve meeting or team effectiveness
  • Get participants to create action plans

When to Use Process Facilitation

Organizations rely on facilitators to help guide their meetings so they can focus on successful development and implementation of strategies for growth and solutions to their business needs. Process facilitators can save time and money by using their extensive library of processes as a starting point for designing meetings. Some examples are:

  • Strategic Planning: to establish direction and gain commitment
  • Issue Resolution: to gain agreement on how to address a problem
  • Team Building: to address internal strife hampering team performance
  • Employee Engagement: to gain employee or public input on initiatives
  • Meeting Transformation: to improve meeting effectiveness
  • Board Meeting Facilitation: to extract a wider breadth of valuable expertise and knowledge
  • Conference Facilitation: a guide event and manage participant discussions
  • Focus Groups: to gain valuable feedback on a specific topic

Benefits and Value

Facilitation can be a useful tool for any company. Meetings are an expensive necessity, and in using skillful facilitators you will maximize your chances of getting what you need done. Using process facilitators is often the key difference between wasting time, eroding confidence, and forging consensus and moving ahead to implementation. Participatory process is about sharing power, tokenism is too easily confused with participation. The benefits of using process facilitators are that it:

  • Ensures the outcome of the session is owned by the group and can be implemented
  • Enables groups to channel their expertise to achieve the results they seek in the time available
  • Encourages full participation so no one dominates the agenda.Process facilitators allow a flexible, realistic, and clear approach, while recognizing and capitalizing on the differing styles and strengths of the group to get the results needed.

Facilitators do this by:

  • Ensuring clarity of task
  • Providing a process and thinking framework appropriate to that task
  • Using effective facilitation and group management skills

Case Study

Trillium Teams recently worked with The Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI) to take them through a four month strategic planning process, which involved working with all levels of the organization, including the senior management team, the board of directors, all employees, partners and members. The catalyst for this process was the recent merger with the Ottawa Life Sciences Council (OLSC), and as a result the strategic vision and strategic plan for the organization needed to be revisited and updated to correctly position the new OCRI for future growth.