Newsletter No 9. June 2008

Various research (Roffey Park, Ashridge, MCE) confirms our own straw poll findings that the two biggest challenges faced by organisations today are managing change (an oxymoron if ever there was one) and performance management. In this newsletter we share our definition of Facilitation and how this set of tools can help you tackle both these thorny issues.

In this issue:

The LASA Team

Latest thinking

Leading through Facilitation

As we said in our introduction, managing change and performance management appear to be the two biggest challenges currently facing organisations today according to surveys run by several business schools. Research tells us that 70% of all change initiatives fail, yet all around us everything is changing so fast; as organisations, how do we cope against odds like that? And with performance management one in five managers believed that it wasn't being tackled at all in their organisations (The Management Agenda 2008, Roffey Park).

Facilitation provides a great set of tools to use for both of these challenges. In fact it is a key leadership skill as it helps leaders to work with groups and individuals and to facilitate both performance improvement and change.

What is Facilitation?

The definition most people would recognise is that it refers to the process of designing and running a successful meeting or workshop. We use a much broader definition: A facilitator helps a group accomplish its goals. The group may be a team or an SME; it may be an individual, or a large organisation.

'To facilitate' means to make something easier, less difficult or more easily achieved. A facilitator in a meeting or workshop helps the progress by paying attention to and controlling the process. A facilitator does not pay close attention to the content of the meeting/discussion, but attends to the process, actions and interaction (see below for more on content/process).

A facilitator is like the conductor of an orchestra. A conductor demonstrates the count and speed so that the players can see where they are and how fast they should play; he lets different sections of the orchestra know when they should start or stop playing; indicates which emotion should come out of the music. In addition, when practising, he stops the music and tells the players what was done incorrectly before getting them to play the phrase or section again. He is concerned with insuring that the PROCESS of playing takes place as a whole, that the music which is played by individuals sounds as if it is one whole.

A facilitator watches how the meeting runs. As a facilitator, you are the time keeper. You have a bag of tools that you use to handle disruptive behaviours and to encourage people to become involved. For instance, you can 'name the game'; telling participants exactly what is happening. You can hold up a mirror, you can tell them what is not working, you can call a break to calm things down, you can use a conflict resolution method, you can defer an issue, or you can bring in those who are not taking part, you can speed things up or slow them down. You are there to handle disruptive behaviour and help the team reach a successful conclusion to the meeting. You help to get (and keep) any emotion out of discussions and to uncover assumptions.

We also think it means to hold 'safe space' so that possibilities, ideas, change, innovation and best decisions can emerge. Oops! The dreadful 'E' word. I can feel some of you recoil. But, what else are we about in business if we don't uncover and take advantage of the synergies in our teams and between people? An organisation cannot afford NOT to take the time to deal with relations between people. Those relations affect productivity and therefore your bottom line. A facilitator helps you to find the appropriate path - for instance between structured and emergent methods to deal with relations and to achieve your goals more quickly and effectively.

Facilitation helps businesses and organisations improve their competitive advantage by:

  • Making better decisions
  • Improving productivity of the group
  • Improving group motivation as the group all have a part in making the decision, they are more committed to implementing it
  • Increasing group confidence, self-esteem, creativity and innovation
  • Enabling radical change
  • Improving organisational learning and capturing of learning
  • Improving working relationships between group members

A facilitator 'does' all of this by diagnosing what is going on in the group process and then intervening in an appropriate way to help the group improve how it identifies and solves problems, makes decisions and increases its own effectiveness. The facilitator's 'expertise' is in the area of group process, so a facilitator does not need to be an expert or even know anything about the content that is being discussed.

Content is what is being discussed in a meeting. Process is 'a series of actions, course of events or proceedings; series of stages in an operation.' Process is the 'how,' the content is the 'what' is happening of a meeting. A facilitator works with process and leaves content alone. If he/she wishes to make a comment on the meeting content, then they must request permission from the group to do so.

For us, Facilitation has two parts: a (large) set of tools and techniques, or things you can do (vertical axis) and your attitude or who you are 'being' (horizontal axis).

Figure 1 - developed by R. Henderson, J. Hughes and others

Read more of this article

If you would like someone to facilitate for you, or you are interested in learning some facilitation skills yourself, please contact us here

�Patricia Lustig, 2008

Latest Books

The Medici Effect: what elephants and epidemics can teach us about innovation

Frans Johansson

It seems that this month is one for creativity and innovation. This is a fascinating book which was both enjoyable AND constructive. Mr. Johansson talks about 'The Intersection' where two different fields meet. This is the field of real innovation, of paradigm change in business. He suggests that there are two types of innovation, directional ideas where you know more or less where you are going with an idea (in a particular direction with a particular improvement for instance) and intersectional ideas which change the world and go off in an entirely different, unpredictable direction. Sitting in 'The Intersection' is the best opportunity for productive, effective, income generating innovation. This is not to say that directional ideas are bad, just that there is a greater probability of success (and also of failure) when you are working at 'The Intersection.'

Johansson begins by describing what 'The Intersection' is, followed by how to create 'The Medici Effect' which means to set the scene for developing intersectional ideas, then finally how to make the ideas happen. He uses stories from real life interviews and research to illustrate how these ideas can be used practically. It is interesting to think about how you can use what you learn here to improve the way you do business and perhaps even what your business is about. A book we highly recommend!

The Hyper-Creative Personality: how to focus your ideas and become the most successful person you know

Blaire Palmer

This book was recommended to me by my coach. It is based on Ms. Palmer's model and is written to help such people to understand themselves and to learn to work with what they have, encouraging the creativity this brings and minimising the flip-side and what can be holding you back. In reality, all of us are this type of personality some of the time, so everyone can learn from this book.

She describes Hyper-Creatives as people who are full of ideas many ideas for any one particular issue. They love generating new ideas and solutions. But they are not very patient with detailed work. They don't like finishing things, they go more for gut feeling than facts and data. They get bored with putting ideas into action. Do you know someone like this?

The book is structured around helping you define which type of hyper creative you are and then identify the benefits and their flip-side for that type. And she gives ideas on how to get around some of the difficulties you might encounter. Ideas that make sense, are relatively simple to implement and really do work. As someone who is frequently hyper-creative (to the frustration of some of my colleagues), I have discovered some by trial and error. The book is short and illustrated with case studies that help you to see what a particular type looks like in 'real life' or how one of the suggestions works out for them in practise. If you think you might be someone like this, then the book does give you ideas around how to support yourself so that you CAN complete what you start and become even more successful in your work and life.

HR Corner

You're NOT fired

Performance Management starts with checking the facts and making the decision to trust the person you are selecting as your new employee

Those who have been following the latest of BBC TV's 'The Apprentice' will be aware that Lee McQueen won, despite having been caught out in a 'lie' on his CV

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) job applicants are being warned that lying on their CVs is a big gamble, and at the end of it, some will find they get told 'you're fired'.

The warning follows Lee McQueen's victory in the BBC TV show The Apprentice, despite having been found to have used his CV to 'enhance his experience' by lengthening the period of time he spent at university. The final decision to appoint him as his new Apprentice was made by Alan Sugar consciously taking these facts into account and making the choice to employ him based on Lee's performance on a number of other criteria.

The 2008 Recruitment and Retention Survey from the CIPD has shown that in one year a quarter of employers in the UK withdrew job offers after discovering someone had lied or otherwise misrepresented themselves in their application. Earlier research from the CIPD shows nearly as many (23%) dismissed someone who was already in post for the same offence.

When you employ someone the written contract sets out 'the deal' - you do x, y and z and in return we will pay you 'a consideration', i.e. the money. The psychological contract begins well before that, with the first information the potential applicant sees about the job, and everything they experience through the selection procedure, building their belief that this is the right job and yours is the right organisation for them to join. Developing this psychological contract successfully with your employees is essentially what managing performance is all about, but given a label and a formal reporting process linked to pay reviews or disciplinary processes the majority of managers soon feel disquiet and well out of their 'comfort zone' with anything called 'performance management'.

Read more of this article

Jill Lang CFCIPD
�People Potential Partnership Ltd.- helping managers hold 'those difficult conversations'
Need help, contact Jill here

Interesting Links

Rose Henry Photo � PMLustig May 2008

Latest News from LASA

  • Nic has a new project doing a series of improvements to a travel agency website
  •  Tricia has run a workshop with the NHS on Workforce planning and Scenarios (how to future proof your workforce planning)


Facilitation quotes

Through sharing our thoughts, we inspire one another, share visions and create the future. We discover common values and build commitment. By thinking through and analyzing how, we determine how we can do things together.
- Ruth Hild, The Art of Facilitation

Joining together to get work done requires trust and relationships as well as process and information.
- Suzanne Morse

Personal participation is the universal principle of knowing.
- Michael Polayni

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.
- Benjamin Franklin

All new and original thought begins with a question, which leads to an exploration.
- Dawna Markova

The greatest of all arts is the art of living together effectively.
- William Lyon Phelps

Groups become great only when everyone in them, leaders and members alike, is free to do his or her absolute best.
- Warren Bennis, Patricia W. Biederman

Organizations that have learned how to think together and that know themselves are filled with intelligent action.
- Margaret Wheatley

There aren't any embarrassing questions just embarrassing answers
- Carl T. Rowan

The most sensible and intelligent nation in Europe lays down, as the eleventh commandment, the rule never interrupt. Noise is the most impertinent of all forms of interruption.
- Arthur Schopenhauer

We should have a great many fewer disputes in the world if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas only, and not for things themselves.
- John Locke

To get others to come into our ways of thinking, we must go over to theirs and it is necessary to follow, in order to lead.
- William Hazlitt

Joke corner

Birds of a feather flock together and crap on your car.

When I'm feeling down, I like to whistle. It makes the neighbour's dog run to the end of his chain and gag himself.

A penny saved is a government oversight.

The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight, because by then your body and your fat have gotten to be really good friends.

The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement.

He who hesitates is probably right.

Did you ever notice: The Roman Numerals for forty (40) are ' XL.'

If you think there is good in everybody, you haven't met everybody.

If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.

The sole purpose of a child's middle name is so he can tell when he's really in trouble.

There's always a lot to be thankful for if you take time to look for it. For example I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don't hurt.

Did you ever notice: When you put the 2 words 'The' and 'IRS' together it spells 'Theirs?'

Aging: Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.

The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.

Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people to know 'why' I look this way. I've travelled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved.

When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra.

You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.

One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it is such a nice change from being young.

Ah, being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable.

First you forget names, then you forget faces. Then you forget to pull up your zipper. It's worse when you forget to pull it down.

Long ago when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today, it's called golf.

LASA Website

If this interests you, there are other interesting resources on the LASA Insight website so why not take a look by going to

Comments and Feedback

If you have any comments or feedback on - or suggestions for - this newsletter then please email them to us  here

@Patricia Lustig 2008