A colleague of mine recently attended a facilitation course I suggested to her, held by Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) Associates. She was talking about it, raving about it actually, and mentioned something she learned.
In the workshop, which is built on a foundation ICA calls the Focused Conversation Method, facilitators are coached through learning about and applying 4 important types of questions:
Objective - Begin with data, facts, external reality
Reflective - immediate personal reactions, internal responses, sometimes emotions or feelings, hidden images, and associations with the facts
Interpretive - meaning, values, significance, implications
Decisional - Bring the conversation to a close, eliciting resolution and enabling the group to make a decision about the future
I was coincidentally working on a document where I was linking experiential learning, (a feedback loop) to the using knowledge circle of learning before, while and after doing, as outlined in the Collison / Parcell book Learning to Fly.
So when I look at all three together, it strikes me that what Chris and Geoff were outlining was a practical approach to experiential learning in organizations. And when you look at both in the context of facilitation, blend in a bit of Ed Schein's Process Facilitation and Agyris' Double Loop Learning, it would appear that effective facilitation is the core competency / foundation for organizational learning and the creation of environments that support effective knowledge exchange. (Since they talk about the 4 stages of learning in the book - from unconscious incompetent to unconscious competent, maybe that's what Chris and Geoff were getting at in the book and I missed it - my bad.)
So what does this mean?Make facilitation a core competency throughout the organization by:
- explicitly including the skill in corporate competency profiles and dictionaries
- providing the opportunities, and ensuring everyone has the basic skill set to participate effectively in facilitated sessions or participative / collaborative work
- training managers across the organization on facilitative leadership and equip them to coach others, and ensure performance agreements reinforce appropriate effort and behaviours
- have a core group of skilled facilitators who can conceive, design, and run workshops of all types, and who have good relations with external facilitators to broker services on those few occasions when a true outside perspective is required
- ensure the core group of facilitators have access to resources, external networks and experts to ensure their skills and knowledge are always evolving