Facilitators are keenly aware of the need to help groups embrace, enhance, and invoke processes intended to help them get the results they want in healthy ways. This attention to process is often what’s missing in our task-oriented culture. Therefore, many groups really benefit by looking at how they get things done, communicate with one another, share information, manage their organizations, etc.
Imagine that a group is bearing down hard on their goal at the exclusion of all else (Donald Trump style), and running into trouble getting things done. As facilitators it’s tempting to think that appropriate dialogue or effective processing will resolve their problems. This isn’t necessarily so.
Facilitators can get overly enamored with process. Further, there may be groups that they work with, who by their nature, have a strong process focus. They may be into environmental awareness, social service, counseling, or involved in various forms of personal growth who have come to recognize the power of working through people processes. They tend to embrace an egalitarian world view that believes all individuals have something important to express at any given time.
While these views are all well and good, it’s important to note that an overly biased process orientation can be just as dysfunctional as an over bearing focus on task. Have you ever been in this type of group? For some it might feel very comfortable, warm, and fuzzy, and downright maddening and frustrating for others.
When Facilitation Strengths Become Liabilities
How do we know when we’re over processing? Review these indicators of Process Paralysis in a group setting, that may be just as relevant to individuals.
- An inordinate emphasis on processes and/or relationships at the expense of task.
- (As a symptom of the former point) a tendency for meetings to drag on, and while being civil, they tend to yield few tangible results.
- A tendency to seek consensus even on issues that don’t require it.
- Avoiding closure or a commitment to action.
- Difficulty or refusal to make value judgments around ideas, strategies, or actions that support the task on the table. In other words, every idea is a great idea!
- An inordinate concern about leaving anyone out of a decision-making process even if those being left out are unaffected or indifferent to the decision.
There may be a time when the value of hearing more opinions has expired. There can come a point during a meeting when action is more important than process. There may be time when all the healing in the world won’t move it forward. At times like these, autocratic direction just to get things moving, might be the best recipe.
To illustrate this point, let me take you on a thought experiment. Remember a time when you felt stuck. By that I mean that you felt something in your life needed to change and it wasn’t budging. You were either over analyzing (processing) the situation or you simply didn’t know what to do or how to do it. Now tell me, what got you out of this stuckness? I’m willing to be it wasn’t more processing.
For me personally, the only way I’ve ever gotten out of my process prison was to do something… anything! You see, when we’re stuck, we need a new point of view. And staying in the same place simply shows us the same scenery. Often, the best way to get unstuck is to simply move, and it doesn’t matter where or what we do. Changing our position affords us a new perspective. And from there, we have new information that we can actually process in a way that will usually move us forward.
So when you encounter a group that appears to paralyzed by processing, clear direction may be welcome and very helpful. Giving direction might not feel very facilitative to you because it’s, well, directive. But when we’re stuck in a process loop, most of us yearn to be told what to do, at least for a moment. And if your direction doesn’t resonate with the group, you’ll know that right away. Now go, click on the link below and tell me what you think!
Are you over-processing in your groups or by yourself? If you exhibit any of the warning signs above, please consider a self-intervention. Please share your thoughts, stories, and experiences in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you!