For anyone with even the most basic experience in facilitation, it becomes quickly apparent that facilitation is as much an art as it is a science. Much of what we find to be effective resonates with our personal style and is gleaned over with time with practice. With that said, there are also some competencies that are fairly universal to the practice of a well-rounded facilitator. So this week, we present what we believe to be a comprehensive set of facilitation competencies and an assessment you can take to see where you stand relative to this model.
Competency Basis. In the process of developing our competencies we reviewed many existing competency lists out there. While they were all good, none of them seemed to rest on any sort of model that might provide a context for the field. So we went about developing such a context to give us a big picture or container for skills important to the practice.
The Three P’s. We start with this simple idea that projects we facilitate exist in time. And that there are three phases of any effective project, as shown in the figure to the right.
1) Preparation. There should be some kind of preparation before the facilitated event to scope the work, identify necessary players, and develop processes appropriate to the group and its task.
2) Process. Then there is of course the actual process of facilitating the event where most of our competencies are exercised.
3) Progress. Finally, if any event is to be of lasting value, some kind of follow up, integration, or action must be taken based on the work done together.
Now let’s look a bit closer at the Facilitation Process.
Facilitation involves the inside and the outside
Would you agree from the perspective of facilitation, that there are externally measurable elements such as behaviors, information, and materials? If so, there must also be elements that are internal such as the feelings, thoughts, assumptions, values, etc. that are subjective or privately experienced. We illustrate this in the figure to the right by dividing the Process circle in half, labeling one side internal and the other, external.
Facilitation involves individuals and collectives
Most of us would feel safe to assume that facilitation also involves individuals and groups. So again, we divide the process circle in half labeling one side individual and the other, collective.
Now we have a Four Quadrant Facilitation Process Model. Note that this view is informed by the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber. For a great primer on this model see his book, A Theory of Everything, Shambhala, 2001.
Now if you think about it, is there really anything in the universe that doesn’t fit into one of these quadrants? If you find something, I’d be very surprise and would love for you to let me know! We take this perspective not to divide the world unnecessarily, but to help us be inclusive of everything relevant to the discipline we’re exploring.
Many of our social issues are exacerbated as a result of us denying or ignoring elements in one or more of these quadrants. Not to belabor the point, we simply want to be inclusive in our view of the T/VM Facilitation Process and the development of competencies therein.
A Four Dimensional Facilitation Process
Now that we have our four quadrants, let’s look at what’s inside each of them. Given that the upper left quadrant involves internal and individual elements, it seems fitting to label this Self-Awareness. Would you agree that a facilitator or participant is effective to the degree they are present to what’s going on inside of them?
Given that the lower left quadrant involves internal and collective elements, it seems fitting to label this Group-Awareness. Doesn’t it make sense that a group of people will work together effectively to the degree they can relate to and connect to one other?
Since the upper right quadrant involves external and individual elements, it seems fitting to label this Task-Management. Doesn’t much of what a good facilitator does involve helping a group define a task and stay on track? Further, an ongoing task of facilitation involves managing your own behavior.
Given that the lower right quadrant involves external and collective elements, it seems fitting to label this Group-Management. Isn’t another critical aspect of facilitation the act of defining and managing visible group processes, structures, and systems?
So now we have an inclusive lens through which to view the art and science of facilitation.
Competencies and Archetypes
So this is the context we used to develop our list of competencies and performance criteria for an effective facilitator. We arrived at 20 competencies that we call “archetypes” that we feel bring a bit more life to what is often a very dry subject. And under each archetype or role a facilitator might play, we’ve developed measurable criteria one can use to gauge facilitator performance. A more detailed primer on our integral model, our 20 archetypes and performance criteria, and a self-assessment based on these criteria are available for download.
In your experience, how valuable have you found facilitation competency models to be? Please share your thoughts, stories, and experiences in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you!