Group Facilitation in 10 Simple Steps

Are you a team lead and want to help your team achieve a goal? Or are you working in HR and want to support a specific project of a team or department? Then your job is group facilitation – and we can help you get started.

Before we delve right into it, there is one thing you should know: The following structure is one way to organize a facilitation workshop – but it’s not the only way. It also most certainly isn’t the best way for every possible facilitation scenario.

But if it’s your responsibility and / or wish to help others succeed at something, the following ten steps may help you get the process started:

Step 1: Plan the workshop and invite participants

Facilitation is an open format where the results are not known beforehand. Therefore, planning in this context means that you plan the structure and how long you want the individual phases to be. Then book a room, invite participants and organize any material you may need (e.g. sticky notes, projector, pens, …).

Step 2: Welcome participants and introduce the agenda

At the beginning of the session, give everyone the opportunity to introduce themselves and tell you (and the others) about their expectations for the workshop. Make sure all of you have an agreement about what you would like to have achieved at the end of the workshop.

Step 3: Identify the problem

Often, most people think they know what the problem is – without realizing that other group members may have different views about this. Therefore, you should let the group discuss what it is they want to solve or achieve, why they want to solve or achieve it, and who will be the beneficiaries of this achievement.

Step 4: Find top tasks and top challenges

Have every participant come up with key issuestasks, challenges, sub-problems – pertaining to the problem you identified. They can write those down on sticky notes and put them on the wall.

Step 5: Sort the input

As a facilitator, moderate a process where you group similar sticky notes and cluster them in a way that lets you recognize larger topic areas.

Step 6: Prioritize

Let everyone have a look at the wall of sorted sticky notes and tell them to individually decide which of those topics are the most important ones. As a method, you can give each of them five dot stickers they can put all on one note or distribute among several notes. At the end, you will have some notes with many dots, some with a few, and some without any dots. (If you cannot get dot stickers, just ask people to draw up to five dots on the notes.)

Step 7: Highlight the top priorities

As a facilitator, re-organize the notes on the wall to reflect the priorities the group has just decided on. Display the top 3-5 notes separately from the rest.

Step 8: Discuss the requirements for the top priorities

For this step, you should have a voluntary note-taker because things are getting real now: Discuss with the group for each of the top priorities what you need to solve them, who you need to involve, and what potential hurdles there are to overcome.

Step 9: Decide on responsibilities and deadlines

Now that the group knows what they need to do, they should agree on individual responsibilities and on a timeline for each task.

Step 10: Agree on further steps

At the end of the workshop, have the group decide how they want to ensure the agreed plan is being implemented: Do they want to have regular follow-up meetings? Should someone be in charge as a project manager? Should the results of this workshop be presented to someone, and if yes, who should do it?

Blueprint for your facilitation efforts

As you can see, facilitation isn’t as hard and intimidating as it may sound – if you have a coherent structure you can follow. We hope that the ten steps above will prove to be a useful blueprint for your facilitation efforts.

If you would like to read more about the topic of facilitation, then download the Premium eBook How to influence organisational change by Dr Sally Watson and Maggie Shannon.

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