Introducing The Facilitation Kernel

Now that I’ve reposted a few older posts, I’ll give a new one…

One of the things I often get called upon to do is facilitate; meetings, workshops, retrospectives and other occasional agile ceremonies are all meetings I get called upon to facilitate.  I also find myself facilitating teams talking to one other (which actually goes into the encouragement to get together, not just the resulting meeting session) and sometimes what normally would be one-on-one sessions.

A few years back, I took one of the IC-Agile certified courses on Facilitation; they presented what they called the Facilitation Stance.  It’s useful.  (Because of possible IP ownership issues, I won’t present it here…) One thing that didn’t feel right was the treatment of maintaining neutrality as a facilitator; it wasn’t treated as core.  As I gave training to others on facilitation, they also seemed to question that lack of centrality.  Another area that I personally got, but others struggled with was the “stand in the storm”. So I began rethinking how to depict the concepts and came up with what I think is something easier to understand.

Facilitation_Kernel_Final

I call this the Facilitation Kernel.  It places Maintain Neutrality central to the entire concept.  This is important as if I am asked to render an opinion, where I am no longer a neutral party, the entire rest of the Kernel can be sacrificed.  This is particularly true if I am asked to give insight from experience or observations.  The Facilitation Stance doesn’t make this as explicit as I would like (though it does acknowledge it).

My personal feeling is that the ‘Stance’ over complicates itself with the internal “being” and external “doing” (of which maintaining neutrality is an external “doing”.  This may be just me, but I find neutrality at the core.  In the “doing” circle, I place Modeling Servant Leader Behaviors, Leading the Group’s Agenda, Promoting Dialog, Decisions, and Actions, and Harnessing Conflict. Let’s dissect these one by one:

Modeling Servant Leader behaviors is very important to exhibit as a facilitator; you are there for the team and to serve them.  You are not there to serve someone else or yourself.

By Leading the Group’s Agenda you are not just Stance’s Holding the Group’s Agenda; you are also leading them through their Agenda, whether explicit or implicit through design of the session or keeping a watchful eye and ear on what is occurring and needed.

In Promoting Dialog, Decisions, and Actions (which encompasses the Stance’s Upholding the Wisdom of the Group), you are gently nudging the group to a bias of action versus inaction and making assumptions explicit so that good decisions can be made.

And lastly by Harnessing Conflict you are doing more than simply “Standing in the Storm”, but are helping people through their differences to a positive outcome.

To do this, you need to maintain three states of “being”; self management (which IMHO encompasses self-awareness), group awareness, and situational awareness (this may be my aviation background talking to me). The alignment I have chosen in the model is important.  In order to Model Servant Leader Behaviors, I need to mostly manage myself; the situation and group awareness are far less important.  To Harness Conflict, I need to be able to be wary of where the group is currently (in terms of emotional state and energy) and the situation at hand (in terms of positions and opinions).

I places the Lean and Agile Values & Principles outside this Kernel as if I wasn’t facilitating in this realm, it may be replaced some other set.  I think this makes the Kernel fully aligned with what any general facilitator may provide.  I know I have found this useful when considering facilitating more generalized sessions such as Open Space (which I have had the opportunity to do twice) and various workshops.

What do you think? Is this congruent with your thinking on facilitation?

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One thought on “Introducing The Facilitation Kernel

  1. Pingback: Leadership Quadrants & the Facilitative Leader | Paul Boos' Nimblicious - Making Agility Tasty

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