One of the skills of the facilitator is to seek out ambiguity – breaking it down, giving it clarity, achieving consensus and moving forward. Accepting that ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ can be hard! Facilitation Ambiguity is an ever-present – ambiguous client needs; ambiguous cohort sentiments; multiple possibilities.
Corporate complexity is fairly standard (evidenced by the continuous battle for simplicity) and this is common in facilitated sessions. In the workshops that I facilitate, I have used Fishbowl Discussion, World Café, and Open Space for group discussions. These activities are designed to explore issues and to determine a common understanding.
Once we are able to baseline the understanding (removing some of the facilitation ambiguity), we can then move on in whichever direction the client has identified.
One of the key factors to managing facilitation ambiguity is simple: the capability of the facilitator.
Facilitation Ambiguity isn’t just ‘the unknown’ – it’s also when we have multiple stakeholders with many viewpoints regarding diverse issues with several potential solutions. Again, the facilitator needs to be able to listen closely, challenge at the right times, and let the room talk.
Clarifying The Facilitation Ambiguity
Your facilitator will:
Pre-wiring of the event
- Analyse organisational environment
- Clarify the corporate perception of the situation / issue / opportunity
- Agree delivery roles & responsibilities
- Agree outcomes – and then design an agenda that supports the intended outcomes
- Check back at each stage the level of understanding and consensus
- Begin initial engagement with the participants
During the event
- Establish clear context for the session
- Understand problem solving and decision-making models
- Use the space available to create a sense of ‘safety’ where opinions can be expressed
- Ensure that everyone has a voice
- Manage the over-enthusastic participants so that the views are balanced
- Remove ‘hierarchy’ from the room so that everyone is equal and is recognised as being valid
- Work to an agenda that allows for unhurried conversation – give everyone room to think
- Use active listening to feed into the best questions to keep the discussion moving
- Encourage critical thinking (accessing data where possible) as a way to review underlying assumptions
- Be sure to encourage constructive conflict as a source of exploration
- Manage disruptive group behaviour
- Encourage creative thinking
- Allow some tangential discussion but always redirect to the task
- Be mindful of the energy flow in the room and vary the pace of activities accordingly
- Help the group synthesise patterns, trends, root causes, frameworks for action
- Assist the group in reflection on its experience
- Flex with the room – don’t micromanage the timetable or the activities
- Modify personal behaviour / style to reflect the needs of the group
After the event
- Reflect on personal behaviour and results
- Follow up meeting with key stakeholders to ensure that outcomes were achieved
- Identify the shift (if any) in the perception of the situation / issue / opportunity
- Agree next steps
Retaining a Facilitator
One of the main causes of problems in an organisation is ambiguity – the lack of information and the proliferation of opinions being at the base of it. Your facilitator is there to dismantle the ambiguity, develop consensus, and objectively move you forward.
Contact Neil to discuss facilitating your events: