Facilitation as 2nd profession - a handbook with useful hints for facilitation!

'Did Colombus discover America? Or was America already there to be discovered?'  'And how is it about innovations? Did the innovator discover the invention?  Or was the innovation already there, before it was discovered?'
'Facilitationas a 2nd profession - author Jan Lelie' is a book with a number of remarkable quotes and practical examples on how to facilitate and guide groups.  Increasingly facilitation becomes a 2nd profession for professionals. It is the first profession, that determines people's capacities to deal with technical and content issues. Facilitation is a necessary skill to make the work with your colleagues more effective. Facilitation as a 2nd profession is a pré-condition to get the optimum out of the 1st profession.  
This book provides some useful hints and theories on how to guide and make groups work more effective.  Reference is made to theories such as Kolb, ORID, Theory U, Balanced Score Card, Appreciativeinquiry and Social-Technical Systems Design.  Most interesting for me were the chapters about 1. Leadership; 2. The path of change;  3. Rules of thumb for solving problems;  4. Useful tips for the facilitator.
Does the group need a leader? Or is the secret of an effective group, that people take leadership themselves including the leader?  According to Jan Lelie an effective group creates a leader and people take leadership in their own work. Ineffective groups ask for a leader. JanLelie distinguishes three types of ineffective groups:
Dependency - The group wants a leader who depends on them;
Flight or fight - Negative feelings  of the group are projected on another group.  Others are blamed for their mistakes;
Pairing -a small group or a commission is asked to come up with a leader.
A leader shows up when there is a change, or when change has to be initiated.

The path of change
An interesting method that caught my eye, is the 'Renaissance Path'.  It is the path of change, where people invent themselves on a new way.  For individuals this could mean a pilgrimage, writing a book, a retreat or finalizing a thesis.  Rebirth is the path of change, which can also be applied for groups or organisations.  Examples of a rebirth of an organisation are expressed by:
  • Adding new meaning or new value
  • Designing a new vision
  • Splitting the organisation
  • Initiating new activities
  • Have a new mode of working

Jan Lelie is stressing the importance of a 'shared vision'.  'Team co-operation is the main factor, that contributes to success',  according to Jan Lelie. It is not the result but a combination of communication, trust, co-operation and the feeling of being involved contributes to the success of an organisation. So it is not the quality of the vision that determines the success, but the 'shared vision'.   
Rules of thumb for solving problems
'Having the wrong solution for the right problem, is to be prefered  above the right solution for the wrong problem'  is a life essence which is repeated a number of times.  Some remarks about problem identification were useful for me:
  • The problem definition is 80 % of the solution;
  • People are never the problem, but their beliefs towards the problem are the problem;
  • Someone who is against something shows more commitment than somebody who does not want to be involved in the decision making;
  • Joint beliefs are necessary towards solving a problem;
  • Strive towards a consensus about the problem definition, but not about the solution;
  • Give people time to get clearity about their problem. Don't push! Patience brings some great results!

Some useful hints as facilitator
After reading this book I acquired and was re-affirmed on some techniques I  am using, while I am facilitating groups:
  • First evaluate before you start a visioning exercise. People will identify their mistakes and in-corporate their improvements in the session;
  • When getting started with an event check and ask about people's background. People talk and share their views and perspectives based on their historic background. Mathamaticians will refer to logical explications. Artists will talk from a creative and intuïtive perspective;
  • Let people first write their own ideas and insights.  After that they are more open to listen to perspectives of others.
  • People work most effective in small groups:  3-5 people;
  • Check how people relate to each other. If relations are well the group performance is likely to improve. If relations are bad, it is one of the facilitator's tasks to challenge the quality of the relationships;
  • Identify people's expectations in the beginning of the meeting. People feel more ownership if they have brought their own wishes and needs forward;
  • Facilitate in the 'here and now'.  It is the point of departure for an effective group session.

'Facilitationas a 2nd profession' is a practical and well elaborated book.   The practical examples and the anekdotes are helpful in understanding the complexity of facilitation.  Helping groups to become successfull sounds easy, but long-life experience is necessary to overcome challenges in change. Links are made with some major basic theories of facilitation methods. The author clearly explains the ad- and disavantages of each. I liked particularly the jokes and anekdotes. The book is supported with some beautiful paintings from Joyce Weber.  It is a pleasure to read.   Consult: 'Faciliteren als tweede beroep - Jan Lelie,   GellingPublishing'   


  1. Meer inforstie over dit boek in het Nederlands via http://www.faciliteren-als-tweede-beroep.nl


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