Steps to a Facilitative Meeting Process

Effective facilitation begins with an understanding of ‘how’ things are happening, and how that ‘how’ needs to change if things are to happen better. It is about taking a helicopter view of what is going on rather than getting engrossed in the detail of the debate. It is about developing an accurate picture of: what people are doing (good or bad or non-existent) and why; how that picture of ‘doing’ needs to change to arrive at an effective outcome; and what intervention or process adjustment will most likely bring that ‘change’ about. It is a big job, requiring lots of brain-power, and it cannot be done by someone who’s brain-power is absorbed in the content.

Part of the ‘how’ can be anticipated before the meeting starts, and this can be used to lay out a process which inherently provides a better ‘how’
  • Start with the purpose of the meeting, not just in terms of the outcomes you need, but in terms of the beliefs and attitudes of the people who will be required to deliver that outcome.
  • Develop a clear picture of where they are currently in terms of those beliefs and attitudes and in respect of the intended outcomes (this may require a few individual conversations).
  • Understand the changes that will need to take place in individual beliefs and attitudes to arrive at a place of ownership for the outcomes. This may be different for different people/groups.
  • Think through the questions, explorations, information, and debate that people will realistically need to go through these changes (use yourself as an example – if you thought that way, what would you need?)
  • Identify the best activities to provide that exposure to people’s thinking – ideally activities that can address several different mindsets at once and bring them more closely aligned
  • Sort out the most logical sequence for these activities – ideally a sequence which people would naturally work through, where one step leads onto the next
The result will do much to ensure an effective ‘how’ which people can follow to a good result. But plans rarely survive the first contact of battle intact – there is always a need for some adjustment:
  • Keep watching the dynamics of what is going on and how people are engaging with it – not the detail of what is said, but how it is said and the effect that it has
  • Where problems or inefficiencies begin to emerge, understand the reason for these. Quite often it is because people have temporarily lost focus on the objective or the process or both. But sometimes it is due to entrenched disagreement or politics, or bad behaviour.
  • Work through what needs to be done to bring people’s thinking back on track, or to resolve (or move around) the issue, and find the best way to introduce this idea to the group (or even better for them to ‘discover’ it themselves)

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