Journeying towards deep capability


September 8th, 2009

Anne Pattillo and I have worked together for a few years now delivering Facilitating With Confidence and other facilitation training across Australia and New Zealand and in Africa and south-east Asia. Based on that experience we’ve tweaked our Facilitating With Confidence program and our approach.

At the heart is a belief that facilitation is a deep capability – something we can draw on to adapt and improvise our way through complexity, difficult decisions and everyday work. And our approach – to training and facilitating – is based on a single rule: the key to advancing any problem or situation is to get others to work on it together.

Sounds simple. Get others to work on it together. And it is. Or can be. The real skill in facilitating is not knowing yet more processes; it’s not the ability to ‘control’ a group; or even the capacity to design a workshop. It’s the interpersonal skill of getting others to work on a problem or situation together.

How hard can that be? After all it’s what we humans have always done – gathered in groups, talked about what’s happening, worked together to solve problems or adapt to new circumstances.

Yet so few of us seem to have the capacity to draw others in to work together, to overcome individual egos and agendas, to tap into our group genius and to improve our collective circumstances. Facilitation, as a deep capability, tries to do just that.

And the way we want to facilitate is with a light touch – little effort, big impact – creating a space for others to shine rather than taking up the space ourselves.

Help us further develop our understanding of facilitation as a deep capability. What does it mean for you?

4 Comments so far

  1. Phillip Bonser on September 10, 2009 9:36 am

    Hi Viv
    For me it is about the difference between “thinking about” things that have happened in the past and developing theories about what should be done in the present and “thinking with” each other and with the situation in which we find ourselves in the living present.

    Strangely I sat down today to write something that tries to capture the essence of this to post on my blog. I really want to be able to say more about what is on offer simply by thinking and talking “with” an individual or a group of people in ways that enable them to reflect on their experience from within the process of acting together with no more of an intention than to, metaphorically, “find their way about” in unfamiliar (or perhaps familiar) situations and work out where to go and what to do next.

    I would love to chat to you about this sometime.

    Phillip Bonser

  2. Viv McWaters on September 13, 2009 4:10 pm

    Thanks Phillip – I really like your comment about “thinking with” each other – I think it captures the essence of ‘slow’ – slowing down enough from ‘doing’ to actually hear each other, and think with each other. Nice!
    Viv

  3. Andy on September 27, 2009 4:30 pm

    I like what Phillip had to say about enabling people to reflect on their experience from within the process of acting together. As a deep capability action inquiry is not a bad one to be working with. The outcome of this is increasing the connection the group has to itself.

    Is the point of facilitation “getting” others to work on the problem together… or creating the conditions where working on the problem together is possible? Making the invitation and then working with what unfolds.

    Viv, I also like “the way we want to facilitate is with a light touch – little effort, big impact”. Only possible when I am am absolutely tuned into the group and myself – and sometimes that sort of listening seems to be all that is required. A coach I once had described it as working “lightly, deeply”, a state I still aspire to.

  4. Viv McWaters on September 27, 2009 5:33 pm

    Hi Andy – Yes, I agree – enabling connection is something worth working towards.

    And I do believe the point of facilitation is to ‘get others to work’ – so often we see facilitators doing all the work (on behalf of the group – the facilitator ends up with all the knowledge, and exhausted, while for the group, it’s business as usual). When it’s possible to create those conditions, we do. Sometimes we have to work with what’s available – to improvise (I am reminded of this every time I work in developing countries 😉 and a few country halls in rural Victoria! I agree with you that working with unfolds is important – and in getting out of the way.

    “Lightly, deeply” – nice!

    Cheers, Viv

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