Facilitation: Concepts

Facilitation is a service that someone (a facilitator) offers to a group:

  • To help the group improve their effectiveness
  • To provide an open forum to constructively manage conflict
  • To provide a safe environment to identify and address issues as a group
  • To assists with the decision-making process
  • To learn  from experience (as in facilitating Iteration Retrospectives)
  • To examine group processes for the purpose of improvement and addressing impediments

Being a facilitator means making sure all important points are brought out, giving everyone a chance to contribute and participate, and checking that everything is going well for the participants. In other words, being a facilitator means making learning happen. It also means that you don’t have to be the one doing all of the talking—as a matter of fact, the more you create opportunity for the participants to do the talking, the more they will make your points for you, and the more engaged they will be.

Facilitation is different from training and presenting as illustrated in the following table.

Training Presenting Facilitating
Here to learn something Here to receive something Here to work towards a joint outcome
Learning-based objectives Communications-based objectives Deliverable/outcome-based objectives
Instructor and team ask questions to clarify and/or learn Presenter answers questions to clarify and/or inform Facilitator develops and leads the process to achieve the outcome
Visual aids used to illustrate learning Visual aids used to present Visual aids used to remind participants of the process
Participants learn from others’ experiences Participants are mostly passive Participants are active and contributing