Friday, July 04, 2014

9 of 11: Suggested Facilitation Strategies - Too Focused on Task? Too Focused on Group Dynamics?

Some Facilitators find it a challenge to keep track of group maintenance (how they're feeling) when they themselves are getting swept up in the content of discussions; and others find it hard to focus on the task and content of discussions when they're getting swept up in the group dynamics. Maybe you have experienced both at different times. What are some things you can do about that?

(1) Ask the group about the progress it is making with reference to the desired outcomes. 

(2) AND ask the group about how they feel about this work. 

(3) Some people are naturally intuitive when it comes to the maintenance side of group processes.  Others need some help picking up on cues, as well as some tips to change the energy and dynamics in the room.  If you are less intuitive in this area, you can always ask the group how they feel. For example, Are they energized or tired?  Do they feel ambitious or cautious? Creative or constrained? Then you might get some information and consider how you need to shift gears. 

(4) Create yourself a prompt sheet of ideas! Have some tricks up your sleeve for changing energy and dynamics.  It might be as simple as taking a break, getting some coffee and fresh air, or changing the physical environment (such as by going outside, or rearranging seats). If you’ve been doing lots of group discussion, perhaps take a break for some individual thinking time or watch a short video talk (have some short ones aside).  Ask people to draw what they are thinking or pick and image (have a mixed deck available) which reflects their mood and do some ‘presencing’ to get people back in the room.  Jump around.  Clap.  Make noise a task: such as tasking people with creating a 30 second musical reflection of the event so far using only what they find on their tables.  Have some quick games up your sleeve (we find a great source is the Systems Thinking Playbook) to highlight a relevant point from the event so far.  Consider different scenarios (from people tired and flagging to people playing and laughing too much and not applying themselves to the task) and options for each.

(5) If you know you have a bias towards ‘task’, practice wearing a ‘maintenance’ hat in group opportunities.  In situations where you are not officially ‘facilitating’, try and turn down your ‘task’ hat and tune into group maintenance, thinking specifically about what is happening in terms of group dynamics and what interventions or design choices you could make to strengthen the process for the benefit of group maintenance. 

(6) If the reverse is true and your bias is towards maintenance, try and practice wearing your ‘task’ hat.  Try and step out of your ‘modus operandi’ and flex other thinking muscles.  And note the great things other people do that you might like to incorporate into your own practice.

(7) If you struggle to follow the discussion sufficiently, consider strategies to help you ‘tune in’.  For example, perhaps decide to take notes at a flipchart so that you can structure your thinking – creating a mind-map of the keep points emerging from the discussion.  And if that doesn’t work and an element of group dynamics is really distracting you (e.g. some voices are not being heard and others are overbearing), chances are others may also be struggling – in which case you could go with a different methodology (maybe break from plenary into groups to discuss either the same questions in parallel or different questions according to their interest). 

(8) See also the points about summarizing and synthesizing above.  Use the strategies suggested there, getting others to summarize things for everyone (you included) and using lots of templates that you can review as necessary.

(9) Invite others to review your event designs with you - with knowledge of ‘you’ in mind.  And invite others to observe you in facilitation delivery mode and provide you feedback.  Additionally consider providing feedback forms (or other mechanisms) at the end of each event, providing people with opportunities to help you improve.

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