The discipline of structured facilitation differs from what we respectfully refer to as “Kum Bah Yah” or “warm and fuzzy” facilitation that frequently begins by co-creating ground rules.  Most corporate environments simply do not afford enough time to follow the slow but sure path of building trust and camaraderie among participants. The holarchy provides a good reason why structured facilitation ought be faster.

Structured Facilitation Begins with Your Holarchy

Structured Facilitation Begins with Your Holarchy

Typical meetings involve report-outs and updates such as staff meetings (typically, loosely structured). Structured facilitation supports workshops and non-staff meetings that occurs when report-outs and updates are complete.  Frequently structured facilitation supports a specific scope of work we refer to as a “project.”  The difference between a project and the program it supports is the same difference one finds between a process and an activity.  Both an activity and a project have a discrete starting and stopping time.  Programs and processes however, are typically ongoing or sustaining.  We could calculate how much time you invest per year with the activity of “paying bills”.  Yet, the process of “accounts payable” never stops.

Why is this important?  When active listening fails to reconcile different view points, structured facilitation through a disciplined facilitator takes the team back to the project objectives or the reason for the meeting in the first place.  Next we can view the program goals to improve consensual understanding as to why the project was approved.  Finally we can appeal to the business unit and/ or enterprise objectives to see which argument best supports or aligns with our primary objectives, mission, and vision.

Appealing to the objectives to reconcile arguments underlies structured facilitation that is missing from many Kum Bah Yah settings.  Notice for example, to stimulate peace in the Middle East, the structured facilitation approach suggests reconciling arguments first with active listening and then by appealing to the objectives in the holarchy, shown in the diagram below.  However, when there are no SHARED purpose, scope, and objectives, there is no ultimate appeal for resolving arguments.

In corporate environments, all arguments are best answered by which position most strongly supports the corporate objectives.  With Kum Bah Yah, the objectives may be competing. Therefore we rely on a different tool set, then pure decision-making science.  Both structured facilitation and unstructured facilitation have their time and place, but do not confuse one for the other.  No corporate cultures can invest two or three hours to build ground rules at the start of meetings and workshops.  We do need clear line of sight however, to the project, program, business unit, and enterprise objectives that our meeting supports.

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

First of all, go to the Facilitation Training Store to access our in-house resources. You will find annotated agendasand templates used in our FAST Professional Leadership, Facilitation, and Methodology.

Furthermore, the FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual. Attend a FAST Professional Leadership, Facilitation, and Methodology workshop offered around the world. FAST provides an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, 40 CDUs from IIBA, or 3.2 CEUs. See MG Rush for a current schedule.

Finally, don’t forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. Change or Die provides detailed workshop agendas and numerous tools. It will make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective.

We dare you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Monthly Facilitation blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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