• Mirjami Sipponen-Damonte

The Paradigm Of Facilitation: what we need is what we disregard

As the workshop closing time is approaching, you start to realize that you won’t get anything concrete out of this workshop, again. Wall full of post-it notes with ideas you were invited to create, and even got exited when working on them…and then its time to go. “We’ll work on these ideas” you hear the facilitator say, and at the same time have a strong feeling that you will never here of that workshop again. “Why did I have to waste precious work time on this?!”, you ask yourself. Does this sound familiar?

I often here of a so called “post-it allergy”, no wonder why! It’s however not the fault of poor post-it notes if they are not used properly.

Many organisations and industries are phasing unprecedented challenges in this very moment. To succeed in the fast changing environment with new kinds of competitors and requirements, it is more important than ever to get groups work effectively together, to transform organisations to respond to the needs of the future, and to create a deep, shared understanding of the relevant issues. Real transformation can only be done through strongly engaging the people that it affects.

Professional, high-quality facilitation is therefore needed more than ever before. To succeed in many different organizational roles, facilitation skills are required. Also external, qualitative facilitators are needed to support organisations through the changes, to ensure that everyone has a voice and a possibility to share their thoughts, to enable strong commitment and movement towards clear and shared objectives, to help people within organisations to communicate better with their stakeholders.

There’s a paradigm: what we need most is what we disregard. Who would think that hiring a facilitator is a solution to the big organizational challenges? That guy or lady with lots of post-its and an awkward warm-up exercise? Really??

High quality facilitation is not an easy service to provide. It is the result of a set of different skills, strong understanding of group behaviour and different organisational contexts, as well as lots of experience of various kinds of organisational and group situations. The skills of a professional facilitator are related, for example, to objective-led process design, familiarity with and appropriate use of different methods, strong communication skills and ability to hold up different emotions that emerge as a natural part of change and learning. An important element is also to understand what are the boundaries of the facilitator’s role. If one thinks that there aren’t any, it’s good to start a deeper reflection process, to build the muscles of professional standing.

If you are a facilitator or use facilitation in your work, I strongly encourage you to get familiar with the competences of The International Association of Facilitators (IAF), assess your own skills against those, and define where are the development needs. If you are looking for a professional facilitator to support your organisation, a good way to start is to look for Certified Professional Facilitators (CPF) in your own area. It will be important to do further quality checks as well, but at least you can be sure that all those facilitators are committed to their continuous development in the competences of a professional facilitator.

By actively and consciously working on building the competence base and value base of professional facilitation, we can together help solving so many burning organisational challenges.

Do you also see this paradigm? What’s your view on it?


We'd love to hear your thoughts!

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  • Mirjami Sipponen-Damonte