Most individuals have had the opportunity to participate in a facilitated meeting at their workplace. Usually there will be some nice refreshments, like the picture above. Then we likely have a company leader guiding the discussion or even having a paid facilitator to assist. During the event you expect to be divided up into groups, play some games, worked around a table, fill out a chart and have someone in the group present results. Eventually you will come up with something, everyone will act excited and the meeting will be dismissed.
As a participant in several of these events I have often felt like 1) the results were pre-determined, 2) that the facilitator was just throwing different techniques at us, 3) I was there to deliver an expected result or that in extreme cases, this was about confirming something the leader wanted to do anyway, and 4) it was a waste of my time.
In “bad” facilitation events, we can walk away feeling 1) No ownership in the result, 2) Wondering if it was a waste of time, 3) Learned nothing new, and 4) Focusing more on the techniques and the refreshments than the purpose. Let’s face it, a bad event leaves us unsatisfied and in our hearts we would like to see the event end differently.
If asked to described a “good” facilitation event we might hope for 1) Sense of community, 2) Feeling what we are doing has value, 3) Having opportunities for discovery and insight 4) Having an opportunity to develop ideas that matter, 5) Creating something from the time that is actionable, 6) Ending with a real sense of ownership and pride and 7) Walking away wanting to focus on next steps and use this process again. Bottomline, a good event leaves us satisfied and motivated to engage again.
The sad part is that Facilitation is more often done badly because of poor training or a poorly designed process. This leaves us with low expectations and a tendency to dismiss facilitated events as being a “dog and pony show”. We walk in with skepticism looking for the hidden agenda and hoping the refreshments will be enough to keep us there.
For that reason, when people hear about Results-based Conversations they have a tendency to associate it with their memory of bad events. When that happens, they walk by and never explore to find if RbC is really different. And if they do look at RbC, they focus on the common elements that are a part of every facilitated event. They expect to have a facilitator, room setup, refreshments, cheesy bonding exercises, limited participants, boring activities, enthusiastic leadership and a vague purpose. Check, check, check…
For those who are curious, we believe that RbC is far removed from traditional facilitation. In fact, the very name “Results-based Conversations” is an anomaly. The word “Conversations” is intentional and points to the need for a relaxed interaction among multiple people. RbC is focused on conversations that matter between people who can contribute. So, if you’ve read this far, we hope you will compare some of these differences we see between Traditional Facilitation and RbC.
- Facilitator guides the event
- Facilitator is talking a lot
- Owner is an outsider in the process
- Facilitator is often an expert on the topic
- Activities include techniques, or a “bag of tricks” or games
- Limited number of participants due to the need for control
- Relies on the facilitator to capture/refine work done by the participants
- Process limits emergent possibilities
- Emphasis on controlling the participants
- A Design guides the event
- The Design was jointly develop by the Owner
- Facilitator manages transitions
- Facilitator mostly observes
- Facilitator doesn’t need to know the topic
- Process is Principle-based
- Number of participants is not a concern
- Participants do the work and capture of information
- Process centers on emergent patterns
- Emphasis on controlling the process
In addition to these differences, RbC has some foundational assumptions. One of those assumptions is the idea that the “solution is in the room”.
(For that to be the case, the Owner and RbC Facilitator must have prepared well, ensuring the right participants are there, the Design is solid, and the Objective is well defined.)
This assumption has other very positive effects on the RbC Session, which may not be obvious.
- It values the Participants above the Process
- It relies on the Participants more than Techniques
- It focuses on creating an Environment without Barriers
- It allows for the unexpected (Emergence)
- It trusts the Participants as they work the Process
One last observation. Because the RbC Facilitator spends the majority of their time “observing”, they are able to objectively identify emergent ideas and encourage further exploration. They aren’t focusing on leading the conversation, thinking up the next exercise or keeping people motivated.
I hope you have received a sense that there are differences about RbC. At WaveChanger, we are clearly passionate about the RbC method primarily because it is so effective. Time after time, we’ve seen it produce results above expectations and we know how valuable that can be for organizations.
As I wrap up this post, I hope you will take the next step and learn more!