What is facilitation? How does facilitation work? Why facilitation is the future that has already happened?Getting ready for facilitation.

What is facilitation?


Facilitation happens in a setting where a group or team is together.

Facilitation is a leadership role in which the decision-making power resides in the members. This frees the facilitator to focus on creating a climate of collaboration and provide the group with the structure it needs to be effective.

Instead of offering solutions, facilitators offer group members tools they can use to develop their own answers. Facilitators attend meetings to guide members through their discussions, step-by-step, encouraging them to reach their own conclusions. The goal of facilitation is enhanced group effectiveness.

Rather than being a player, facilitators act more like referees. They watch the action, more than participate in it. They help members define their goals. They ensure that group members have effective rules to guide interaction. They provide an orderly sequence of activities.
They keep their fingers on the pulse and know when to move on or wrap things up. They keep discussion focussed and help group members achieve closure. They do all of this while remaining neutral about the topics under discussion so as not to interfere with the decision-making authority of the group.

How does facilitation work?


  1. a) Purpose & Objective is made clear before facilitation begins.
    b) Everybody is aware of how facilitation is different from training.
    c) Group accepts the facilitator’s lead in structure and process (the framework)
  2. d) Group contributes the content (everything that happens within the framework)
    e) Facilitator is content-neutral but not outcome-neutral

The point to remember is that facilitation is needed wherever group understanding & buy-in is required.

Fundamental Secret of Facilitation – You can achieve more effective results when solutions are created, understood, and accepted by the people impacted.

I facilitate using mainly the work of Michael Wilkinson (The Secrets of Facilitation), Ingrid Bens (Facilitating with ease) & Roger Schwarz (The Skilled Facilitator).

Why facilitation is the future that has already happened?

To facilitate is to make it easy.

In every success story, people make things easy for everybody. Even outside the training room, people are facilitating one way or the other, without using the word.

We use the word train because back then in the factory age, workers were trained to operate machines. In the knowledge age, employees contribute their brain, not brawn.

Earlier, we accepted the idea of the leader deciding and people following the orders. Now, success depends on people deciding together on matters affecting them.

Facilitation enables people to decide together in a way that makes the group more effective. Facilitation honours the capability of people. Isn’t it great if people who are most impacted by the work candidly share their ideas and viewpoints? If people are committed, they work best. Isn’t it worth securing their commitment? Facilitation secures that commitment in real-time.

There is an increasing acceptance today of people’s need to take responsibility by taking charge of the entire process. The demand is for learning leading to commitment and positive action.

As Michael Wilkinson says, “You can achieve more effective results when solutions are created, understood, and accepted by the people impacted.” Who wouldn’t agree? Facilitation makes it happen.

For all these reasons, facilitation is the future that has already happened.

Getting ready for facilitation

Does facilitation make you curious? Want to find out how to take it forward?

First, let us clarify its importance.

If you face any work or task or challenge as an organization or a department or a group, and you look around and can all agree on three things.

  1. More than a few people are involved.
  2. It is vital that these people understand the work.
  3. It is even more vital that there is a buy-in, that is, people accept the work imperative.

then, you are ready for facilitation.

The next step is to carefully consider what facilitation could mean, how it will unfold

It is at this point that those who are considering facilitation grasp how it means letting go of tight control and clearing the way for the people involved to collectively take charge. It is unsettling at first, as control makes us feel stable and loss of control makes us feel we are losing the plot. Action on next steps in right earnest makes us regain our balance.

What are they? In facilitation, the facilitator works with the client to crystallize the purpose and product before the program begins. This is critical. The facilitation is a non-starter and does not stand a chance if people are not clear on what is going to happen and agreed on what the general plan is. Facilitation begins even before people have entered the room.

For success, it is vital that every participant knows how facilitation is different from training. If all participants agree on the purpose ( why are we doing this) and product ( what do we want at the end of this); and they understand and accept the facilitator as a neutral third-party, we are on the right track.

Given these requirements, it is good to consider a few small steps. Attend facilitation events to experience it. Be a part of an emerging facilitation community. Get a facilitator for a compact issue that does not invite resistance in trying out a new approach.

For example, organizations spend so much time in internal meetings. Rarely do they try to maximise the effectiveness of their meetings. A facilitation session on becoming better at meetings is a good beginning. There is less resistance and it is still a significant value proposition. These are a few things you can do as a part of getting ready for facilitation.