The Electronic Discussion on
Faciliation Tools and Processes
From the Electronic Discussion on Group Facilitation
Compiled by Mary Margaret Palmer
(to give it it's full title) -
Spencer (1989) Purpose is to:
- provide the questioner with a framework which is based on Kolb's
experiential learning model
- enable participants to reflect on an event or commonly shared
experience and to interpret the experience and decide what to do
as a result.
The facilitator leads the group by preparing, then asking questions to
which the group respond.
There are four stages (which we in Perth, Western Australia, have
abbreviated to SAID but Spencer, 1989 uses the acronym ORID) - let me explain.
Stages: (look at the first letters of each stage)
2. Affective Domain (feelings)
3. Interpretation of Events
4. Decision (what are you going to do as a result?)
Outcomes: the group develops a shared understanding of the event and
the desired outcomes.
Ref: Spencer,L. (1989) Winning through participation - meeting the
challenge of corporate changes with the technology of participation.
Kendall Hunt Publishing Company: Iowa, USA
Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential learning experience as the source of
learning and development. Prentice Hall Inc: Englewood Cliff, New Jersey
provides a structure for effective communication
that is based on our natural thinking processes. The facilitator directs
the thinking of the group towards making a decision using a sequence of
specific questions that takes them through the four levels of awareness:
objective, reflective, interpretive, and decisional.
The purpose of this process is to - enable participants to think
holistically and contingently.
Basically it goes like this:
1. Participants bring a question which is based on previous material.
2. The question must fit the following 10 guidelines:-
a. provide the basis for group discussion
b. not be simply factual
c. be central to the shared reading material
d. open to a variety of interpretations
e. be concisely worded
f. be easily understood
g. not be ambiguous
h. require reflection before answering
i. relate to the course (training, etc)
j. be open (more than a yes/no response)
3. Participants form groups (6-8 people), discuss their questions and
pick their "best question"
4. Two teams are randomly picked to submit their question to two other
randomly selected teams. The latter leave the room and prepare answers.
5. The two questions are graded by the remaining people in terms of the
criteria outlined in 2.
6. Two teams return and present their answers. The whole group then
discuss the answer.
7. Time allocated for the whole exercise is ten minutes (believe me - you
can do it!)
8. Questions are graded by the group and the lecturer (facilitator)
Ref: Delbecq, A. (1992) Firing Line. Handout from the Organisational
Behaviour Teaching Conference, University of Calgary, Canada, June 1992.
The last "tool" takes some getting used to but it gives participants the
opportunity to test their questions - after all, poor questions usually
elicit poor responses (implications for continuous improvement and
the whole TQM process).
From: Andrea Tannenbaum, IntraGroup Dynamics
(Originally posted under the thread Facilitator's Toolkit)
I think it
was developed by Disney studios originally, and it got tweaked along the
way. This technique is utilized for planning actions (or stories). It
can be used for 'simple' projects, or complex efforts.
- start with a concise statement (e.g. what are the steps to....)
- the answer is brainstormed.
- Similar to clustering, the ideas can then be grouped, but the process
is much more controlled. Headers are created for each grouping. You
should be able to go backwards (if I do all these *headers*...will I have
- The process is then repeated within each grouping, with subheaders
identifying distinct processes that add up to the header.
- and repeated again, until you have as much detail as is necessary.
The end result looks something like an organization chart.
From: Sandor P. Schuman S.Schuman@albany.edu Albany, New York
An excellent source for processes and techniques is:
VanGundy, Arthur B. Jr. (1988). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
He reviews about 110 structured techniques organized into the following
Redefining and analyzing problems
Evaluating and selecting ideas
Eclectic and miscellaneous techniques
From: "ChRoseW" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One additional facilitor process you could add to your list.
1. Bring together a group of people interested in the same general topic
and with a desire to solve the problem or work together. This can
work with small or large groups.
2. The trainer opens the session and sets the tone for working together.
The trainer asks everyone to list all the issues, people involved,
impacts, etc. related to the topic. What the trainer asks for varies
depending on the topic. The goal is to get all the various compentents
of the topic in writing. The participants are not to focus on solutions
in this activity. Each item is written on a seperate piece of paper.
The paper can be large post it notes or plain paper. If it is plain
paper the trainer needs a large sheet of paper sprayed with 3M spray
3. Have people meet in small groups or dyads. They share all their
written ideas. Then the group must choose 3 or 4 top items. They
should save all the other ideas.
4. The top ideas are posted randomly on the large poster paper.
5. The trainer reads all the ideas and makes sure they are understood by
the group. As the ideas are read some groupings will become obvious.
6. The trainer takes the group through a process of grouping all the ideas.
The goal is to get consensus on the groupings. After all the ideas are
grouped labels for each grouping can be determined. The trainer can ask
the participants if there are any ideas from their orginial list that
are not represented in one of the groups. If there are more ideas they
can be added at this time.
7. In small groups the participants are asked to write a sentence or two
that represent the groupings listed.
8. The sentences are shared in the large group. The facilitator helps the
group form a sentence(s) that represents the ideas on the board.
9. A similar process can then be done around problem solving the statement
that has just been written.
I have found this process to be amazing in allowing people with very strong
diverse opinions to come together. This process allows people to hear each
other, to find the common ground, to focus on what they agree on rather than
what they disagree on and to begin to work on developing agreed upon
Date: Thu, 02 Nov 1995 08:42:07 EST
From: DAVID SOOCK <email@example.com>
This is a graphical representation of brain storming used to dewvelop a vision of what a particular topic, issue, role or person should consist of. The topic to be mapped is drawn in a circle in the centre of white board of flip chart. Then branches relating to that topic are created. Secondary and tertiary branches are developed. Graphics as well as key words are represented on each branch. Particiapnts are encouraged to be creative when represneting branches. Relationships between branches are represented by connecting branches. This technique is very useful for, but exclusive to, those with a predominantly visual learning style.
I use this technique alot when trying to clarify roles and responsibiltiies of a procedure or process. All of the people or positions involved int he process are listed down the left side of a page. The horizontal dimension of the page represents time, though not to any specific scale. Participants are asked what they do in each step of the process and who they pass the fruits of their labours on to. The ideal situation is to have only one arrow to and one going from each process step box. It is very helpful when trying to simplify processes and provides a great diagramtical alternative to flow charts.
I use personal "Visioning" as a way to get folks to be open about what
motivates them and to recognize that they share many values with their
co-workers. I instruct the group to take a sheet of easel paper. Then I
instruct them to close their eyes and imagine what it would be like to have
things in their work-group working so well that they just couldn't wait to
get to work, had to be forced to go home in the evening, etc. Visualize what
is going on in the workplace. What is happening? What are relationships
like? What is happening with your "customers," both internal and external?
Now, in phrases and sentences, write down what you are "seeing." What is
going on? How do you feel about it? What is happening between you and your
co-workers? What is happening with your "customers?" I give no instuctions
to "sign" the sheets.
Once everyone is done writing, I have them post their sheets on the walls of
the room with masking tape, and then call for a "break." Without any
instuctions, people begin to walk around and read what the others have
written. I let this go on until people spontaneously go back to their seats.
Then I pass out sheets of "inventory stickers" that you can get from any
office supply store (in green). The instructions are to walk around and put
a green sticker on any statement that you agree with, incuding your own. (If
folks run out of stickers I give them another sheet). Then I give them four
or five (depending on the size of the group) gold stars, with the instruction
to put the stars next to the statements that you would "die for," but you
can't put them on your own statements.
Once this process has been completed, I have folks walk around the room and
look at the the statements again. Then we begin a process of using the most
"starred" and "stickered" statements to develop a group "purpose statement."
A statement of purpose is a statement in the form "What are we making better
for whom, including ourselves?"
This process only takes place after I have done a lecturette on trust. Trust
is essential to getting people to be open and honest in the processes that
From: Andrea Tannenbaum, IntraGroup Dynamics
- Mind mapping
- Compression Planning
- Decision Grids (4 quadrants)
- PMI & other DeBono processes
- "Pink Sheets" (my own technique)
- Synectics & other uses of metaphors and analogies
- Habitual question posing
- any electronic medium that will help with organization (including WP
- NGT (Nominal Group Technique)
- strong agenda's
- respectful ground rules
- risk analysis
- 'option papers'
- force fits/brute think
- future thinking; visioning
- scenario building
- coaching, nurturing, modeling desired behaviors/attitudes
- realism, tainted by optimism
- WIIFT (what's in it for them?)
- purposeful accountability (who will do what, by when, for whom?)
there's a ton of creativity techniques, icebreakers, exercises, toys,
etc., out there. I believe that a 'professional' facilitator brings a
comfort level with a whole host of tools and techniques that can be mixed
and matched for the best effect. And is always ready to *play* and to
I guess that is what I mixed in to your process and techniques, some
skills and attitudes. I'm sorry if that muddies the water...but it's a
critical piece of the puzzle.
From: Jim Rough <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mary, in my four day seminars on "Dynamic Facilitation Skills for
Participative Leadership" which I have been leading for the past 6
years, I teach a process that I call "Choice-creating." It is a way of
supporting the natural energy flow of a group as it moves from head to
heart, intuition to analysis, concerns to mission, creativity to the use
of accepted patterns, etc. It is used for all kinds of issues including
those you asked about.
And, finally, digested from my training manual, the following, some
of which are repeats of the ones above.
is used to force the participants to take on roles that
are both unfamiliar to them and to make those roles geared toward
accomplishing a task or experiential learning. Simulation exercises
often involve role playing.
or idea generation (also called Blue Sky) is used to
generate ideas without judgment, evaluation, criticism, or comment. It is
- a method for rapidly generating ideas or issues
- a way to involve all participants in contributing insights
- a process which gets the group's best initial thinking
Brainstorming can be done individually, in small teams, or with the whole
group. If brainstorming isn't well directed it can result in more ideas
than the group can handle.
is used when it is easier to generate and evaluate
creative ideas within a small group than in the large group. This is
especially true when you are working with large (over 16) groups of
people. However, whatever is generated in the small groups must
eventually be validated by the large group.
is used to organize information collected during
a brainstorming or idea generation session. The information collected
must be on magnetics/cards/post-its/cut paper pieces that can be moved
around into groups. Affinity Diagraming is a variation of this process
by which the group silently organizes the ideas created during a
Three approaches to grouping are:
- Categories first (top-down)
- Associating similar items (bottom-up)
- Paired comparisons (bottom-up)
combines idea generation, small group work and
bottom-up clustering to collect, organize, and label information.
is a process for facilitating discussions
that ensures everyone has a chance to speak. One participant starts and
when they are done the next participant can speak. With the talking stick
or ball, an object is passed around and only the person in possession of
the stick or ball can speak. Usually there is some time limit placed on
how long a person can talk. Also, during this exercise, no one can
interrupt the speaker.
is used to analyze the complexity of a project.
The major functions of the project are written down the side of the matrix
and the organizational units associated with the project are written across
the top of the matrix. When a relationship exists between a function and an
organizational unit, the appropriate cell is checked. Sometimes codes are
used to identify the nature of that relationship, for example C=critical,
M=moderate, and L=limited.
uses words plus word formats (grids, matrices, etc.)
plus pictographs, images, icons and simple shapes that represent concepts
and ideas. For example, a circle to represent a whole, a notion, a problem,
an organization, an event, etc. The circle's line distinguishes what is
internal and what is external to the issue; thus the minds of the group
members begin to perceive the issue conceptually. Either the facilitator
or the participants can employ this technique which is very useful for,
but not exclusive to, those with a predominantly visual learning style.
The different formats for framing information and ideas graphically
- Boarding - Graphically recorded input
- Poster - An image to convey a central them whose purpose is
- Lists - An arranged list of ideas (most common method)
- Clusters - Groupings of related or connected ideas
- Matrices - Used for clarification and decision making
- Diagrams - Models of information and processes (flowcharts,
- Drawings - A metaphor, shared vision, or image of an idea
- Mandalas - A centered, unifying model whose purpose is to master
or show the whole
can be used to develop a vision of what a particular
topic, issue, role or person should look like. The topic to be
mapped is drawn in a circle in the center of a white board or flip
chart with branches relating to that topic attached. Secondary
and tertiary branches are developed. Graphics as well as key words
are represented on each branch. Participants are encouraged to be
creative when representing branches. Relationships between branches
are represented by connecting branches.
is a temporary model created as a result of pre-work. The value
of the strawman model is that it provides a starting point for discussion.
It gives the group something to edit, change, accept, or reject. It is not
owned by any one in the group.
is used to evaluate ideas against a set of criteria where
the ideas are listed on the vertical and the criteria along the top of the
matrix. The codes used in the matrix cells rate the ideas. For example,
5=high priority and 1=low priority.
was originally developed for use by
quality improvement teams to improve work flow processes. The steps for
creating a block diagram are outlined below and were adapted from PQMI
Consultants training materials.
1.Identify and name the process to be diagramed.
2.Identify the major groups that are actively involved in
the process from beginning to end. Groups can be anything from
an individual to an organization to a system. Outside groups
can also be included if they interact frequently throughout the
process. The names of these "groups" become the column names in
3. Identify suppliers and the inputs they supply. Inputs can be
anything that is necessary to carry out the process.
4. Identify customers and the outputs they receive. Outputs can
be anything that is delivered as a result of the process. Outputs
can leave the process at any time and not just at the end.
5. Set the boundaries of the process by identifying where the
process begins and where it ends.
6. Record in boxes the tasks and activities that must occur
between the two boundaries. Each box is placed in the column
of the group that performs that task or activity. Boxes are
joined by arrows that indicate the flow of the process. If a
decision is required, a diamond is used in the same way as it
is used in flowcharting. Ideally the process should flow from
the upper left corner to the lower right corner with no decision
boxes. The question to ask is, "who gets what was just done and
what do they do with it?"
7. After the diagram is completed, review it by "reading" to the
participants what they have just described.
8. Diagrams should be kept simple. Some boxes can actually
represent sub-processes that need to be diagramed themselves.
9. To use the diagram to improve a process. First create the
diagram of how the process REALLY works and then start moving
and eliminating boxes. If there are lots of lines crossing over
each other, this is a good indicator that the process needs to be
was advanced by Kurt Lewin as a framework for
problem solving. The technique examines both supporting and resisting
forces to a change or option. A strategy for accomplishing the change
can be developed from the insights that result from doing this process.
The fishbone diagram is a version of force field analysis.
The five steps of force field analysis are:
- Define the problem and write out a problem statement.
- Define the objectives; the desired results if the problem
- Define the driving forces; those conditions, actions, events
that promote or will promote change.
- Define the resisting forces that inhibit change.
- Given the identified drivers and resisters, develop a
- Compare the strategy to the objectives.
can be used to determine what will constitute
agreement or consensus among the participants. Using the technique takes
the ambiguity out of decision making. The decision-making scale is created
at the beginning of a workshop and then used whenever the group must make
a single choice decision. Steven Saint and James Lawson in "Rules for
Reaching Consensus" define consensus as "a state of mutual agreement among
members of a group where all legitimate concerns of individuals have been
addressed to the satisfaction of the group." Consensus does not mean group
conformity where everyone thinks alike, nor does it mean majority rule, nor
does it mean everyone agrees on everything.
is a voting method used to select posted
items. Participants are given a certain number of colored dots with which
they can vote by placing the dot or dots by the desired items. They can
place all their dots on one item or place one dot on many items. Another
variation, is to use a second color of dots to represent "no" votes.
as originally conceived by physicist David Bohm,
dialogue "explores an unusually wide range of human experience: our
closely held values, the nature and intensity of emotions, the patterns
of our thought processes, the function of memory, the import of inherited
cultural myths, and the manner in which our neurophysiology structures
moment-to-moment experience. . . [It] explores the manner in which thought
is generated and sustained at the collective level." (From the Foreword of
On Dialogue by Dr. David Bohm).
Recently there has been a profusion of variations on the process. One that
is useful to use with groups where the attention needs to be focused on the
subject rather than the speaker works in the following way. The group sits
in a circle and directs all questions, responses, and comments to the center
of the circle. The result is that the focus is taken off of the speaker and
directed towards what is being expressed. This allows an individual to
express him/herself without being biased by the outward reactions of others.
A basket or bowl is often placed in the center of the circle as a focus point
for the group.
is a process used for planning whereby basic trends and
uncertainties are identified and a series of possible future scenarios are
constructed often with the aid of statistical analysis.