Thursday, June 07, 2007

Facilitation - The Cornerstone of Successful Project Management ??

Two of the blogs I track are PM related - PMThink by Jerry Manas and a number of his colleagues, and Reforming Project Management by Hal Macomber. To pursue an idea I was considering for a blog entry (this one) I searched both blogs for for "facilitation" and, as I suspected, it's not a hugely popular word in the context of project management, but a couple of very interesting things popped out:

On PMthink, an entry titled Scheduling is Dead, Bring on Chaos; So Says A Foremost Scheduling Expert, which referenced an article on the PM Forum web site by Murray B. Woolf, PMP, Managing Director of the PMI College of Scheduling’s Scheduling Excellence Initiative, titled The Future of Scheduling? Scheduling Has No Future!

It contained a rather provocative quote .. " My prophecy is that the progeny of today’s schedulers will be called Project Facilitators and the broader discipline will be called Project Facilitation. The overall role will still be as it is now, to assist project management, but they will do so by providing products and services that facilitate project performance. Those products and services may well include planning, scheduling, analyzing, monitoring, reporting, forecasting, and -- facilitating itself."

On Reforming Project Management, back in 2005, Hal posted a very thoughtful What is Project Management, which contains the following:

"I've taken a look at other models of project management recently and am coming to the conclusion that the (mechanistic) models are generally flawed because they concentrate not on the project, but on 'project management' as though this activity of bringing projects to fruition has an independent importance. They also neglect the fact, in my view, that projects are humanistic endeavors: done by and for people, and thus are constrained primarily socially."

"Like general management, project management is facilitation of communities of productive intent to achieve desired outcomes. With 'projects' noted as being more customised than routinised, relying on a temporary community for their realisation rather than an established or semi-permanent one."

I think there are many project managers who intuitively understand this. As an example, I've had the pleasure of meeting Mike Bogan a number of times in a work setting. He writes a blog titled I Think, does. Most recently Mike was offering his thoughts and experience in Planning and Estimating, and spent a lot of time talking about bringing different perspectives and types of expertise to the table since one person does not have all the answers, creating an environment / process to surface and leverage the different perspectives, collaboratively creating plans and estimates etc.

I think it's pretty clear that facilitation (diagnosing and intervening to increase group effectiveness through improved problem identification, resolution and decision making) & facilitative leadership, are core elements or competencies of good project management in today's complex and complicated work environments.

Therefore, should not project managers, and organizations who employee project managers, strive to explicitly assess, validate, and improve facilitation skills and capabilities?


Anonymous said...

bumped into your blog through google, and found it insightful and helpful.
I am part of a team of Technology of Participation (ToP)® trainers that has been working on some new courses, valuing simular insights as yours. One of those courses is "Facilitating Project (Management) Excellence (FPE). The first course we recommend, and your colleague mentioned in your May 28th blog, is Group Facilitation Methods (GFM). Courses can be found on, where you can also order "The Art of Focused Conversation" book with over 100 sample conversations plus details on how the structure works. Additionally, I'm providing you a link to "The Art of Focused Conversation" book via Amazon = I look forward to staying in touch with your thinking! Cheryl Kartes

Dale Arseneault said...

Hi Cheryl. Thank you very much for your kind words. Looks like you're working on very interesting things.

I know the ICA coursre well, and we've got multiple copies of the book "in house."

Facilitating Project Management Excellence.. mmm... good name for a program. I'm curious about what else is in it after the ICA course.