Functional Entities 02
Many of the social organizations that surround us end up failing for reasons not so much economic or financial, but rather because they are incapable of resolving social and relational issues. As established by Fernando Zembranos and José Ángel Medina, authors of Intelligent Groups. Theory and practices of teamwork , “groups are often seen that far from being ‘more than the sum of their parts’ are a true subtraction of the possibilities of their parts.”
These authors point out the system of interactions, the shared culture, the way of holding meetings, the way of coordinating work or the way of resolving conflicts as related factors. Faced with this, they establish, “an intelligent group is one that truly manages to be more than the sum of its parts. It is a group that takes advantage of the potentialities and opportunities due to the fact of being a group:
- Collectively performs what it has been created for.
- It integrates the welfare of individuals considered individually with the group in general.
- It socializes the brain of each of its members to give rise to a collective intelligence.
- Take advantage of the diversity of the people that compose it instead of considering it a mistake.
- It makes the sense of the group the result of a real collective construction and not imposed.
- It has a horizontal, task-oriented structure designed by the group itself.
- It implements instruments, resources and approaches that facilitate cooperative interaction.
The improvement of these group dynamics can be learned and taught to achieve functional and horizontal functioning, where everyone participates and shares their wisdom. In this process, it can be of great help to have the figure of a facilitator and/or guide us as a group to acquire these skills. Most groups tend to focus their energy on reaching their goals quickly, without paying enough attention to what’s going on below the surface. Consequently, they often undermine the long-term success of the effort. A good facilitator helps to resolve these difficulties by balancing the focus on three dimensions: Results, Process and Relationship.
The facilitator’s main task is to help the group become more effective by improving its process and structure. Facilitation is a system of tools, techniques and skills to help a group of people to work well to define a common vision, make decisions, achieve their goals and create a relational climate where trust prevails and communication is fluid, empathetic and honest. It is also useful to work with conflicts, when they arise, in combination with other techniques, such as mediation or different types of forums.
Diagram of group facilitation (Source: cooperación.es)
The facilitator process can vary depending on the situation, but most of the time, you have the following responsibilities when participating in workshop or meeting facilitation:
Design and Planning – The cornerstone of facilitation is understanding what the objectives of the session are so that you can work towards achieving them. Once you know the objectives, it’s time to design the right group process and select the right facilitation techniques that will help you achieve the results. Having a solid agenda will help you maintain confidence and make any necessary adjustments during the event.
Execute the process and facilitate the meeting : When the session begins, it is time to guide the group through the designed process, encourage participation, and help the group achieve its goals. Here are some of the most important elements of what a facilitator specifically does during a session:
- Setting the Context and Ground Rules – This is about making sure everyone is on the same page about the goals and agenda of the session and making sure everyone knows and agrees to the meeting rules (rules are created about respecting others’ opinions, how questions will be answered, etc.). Facilitation best practices include leading by example – setting the ground rules is a great place to start.
- Encourage participation: It is important to create an environment in which everyone feels encouraged to share their opinions. This may involve breaking the ice, helping people prepare for the meeting, and acknowledging participants’ contributions to the conversations. This is one of the most important group facilitation skills.
- Facilitate discussions: By staying neutral, this will help start and round off conversations, highlighting points of consensus and summarizing key takeaways. Intervene only when necessary and help the group clarify the results.
- Maintain time and space: As you guide the group through the different steps of the process, maintain a focused and participatory environment. Take care of time and maintain the conducive environment to guarantee productive discussions.
- Monitor the efficiency of the group work and adjust the process if necessary: The main objective as a facilitator is to keep the group work moving forward and make sure that all participants contribute to finding solutions during the session. If it is noticed that cooperation is failing or the process is bogged down, we must find the right techniques to adjust the plan and help get the group back on track.
- Record the results: agreements reached, points of consensus, decisions and action items; all of these should be recorded and preferably kept visible to all participants during the event. Effective facilitation is about creating an open dialogue for groups and teams. Recording and sharing the results of a meeting or workshop is a hallmark of a facilitator doing a great job.
Developing the skills to be a good facilitator is a process that gets better with practice, practice, and practice. It is important to know the skills needed to facilitate a group and take steps to improve and reinforce those skills. Some facilitation skills to prepare for a meeting include:
- Create an inclusive environment
- Communicate clear guidelines and instructions
- Group dynamics (and group management)
- Active listening
- Verbal skills to facilitate conversations.
- Conflict management
- consensus building
- Manage time
- Measure the energy level of a room
- stay neutral
- record of results