According to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
Interesting isn’t it? What’s it got to do with facilitation? Good question. My commitment to write and publish useful content on this subject every week is a strong inspiration for me to look for connections anywhere and everywhere. Fortunately, with everything in the universe ultimately connected, you can always find them. Here’s what I see.
The paragraph I ask you to read above has three striking characteristics that I believe are connected to facilitation and how groups function.
1) Each word in the paragraph is bounded by the familiar. By that I mean, the first and last letter of each word are correct. By correct, I mean that each of us who can read the English language and can spell, agree on the the proper characters that begin and end each word. Without that agreement, the words would be unintelligible.
2) The words form a coherent paragraph that define a clear context. If the words were randomly joined without conveying something that made sense, it would become gibberish. Consider this sentence:
Wrod rset porbelm tihs taht iprmoetnt frist is ltteer be the wouthit mses huamn bcuseae lteter.
This is a random selection of some of the same words in the above paragraph that aren’t arranged to convey any meaning. Without the context of coherent speech, it’s far more difficult to decipher the meaning of the individual words.
3) We all experience life through filters. Declaring expectations is like tuning your filters to my particular station. In this case, I set up an expectation that you might learn something from reading this paragraph. If you were to have found it in your email without an explanation in the midst of a seemingly normal message, you might not have given it enough consideration to figure out it’s meaning.
For me, the above exercise underscores three important elements of facilitation:
1) Build a consensual container. Defining and agreeing upon which behaviors are functional is analogous to building a container within which your groups will function. This container is made up largely of operating agreements and the external environment. If the container is comprehensive, relevant, and supported by the group, then they can pretty much do anything inside of it without sacrificing the meaning they seek. Just as the jumbled words in our paragraph still work within their functional boundaries.
2) Define a clear and relevant context for your work. If a group is clear about why they’ve come together, what they’re there to accomplish, and engage in processes designed to get them what they want, then the “who,” “what,” and “how” of the group is congruent. They form and reinforce the context for their being together and will therefore present fewer barriers to getting what they want.
Again, just as our gibberish words were understandable when woven together into a cohesive paragraph with clear meaning, connecting people with agreed upon objectives and processes to get there will bring meaning and progress to their work.
3) Clarify and agree upon group expectations. When the early work in our groups entails exploration of individual and collective expectations, we can chart a much clearer course to realize them. Thus minimizing the many tangents, disagreements, and general confusion that often accompanies people working together toward an uncommon goal.
Evoking and managing expectations can help people remove blinders, barriers, and judgements, to better focus on the work at hand. This makes everyone’s work easier and helps us chart a more direct course to our destination.
I hpoe you ejnyeod tihs atrclie!
What can you do with your groups to better design their container, context, and expectations? Please share your questions, feedback, or experience in the comments section below.