The starting point for an effective facilitation intervention is to clarify what is the project, challenge or issue to be addressed in the facilitation process. This might seem obvious, however it’s our experience that even the most successful and resourced organisations can struggle to articulate the issue; often talking about the symptoms or consequences of the issue rather that the core issue. Experienced facilitators will take the time to explore issue(s) with the client before suggesting the appropriate facilitation process, timeline and fees/costs.

But you don’t have to rely on the external facilitator to clarify your organisation’s thinking and reach agreement on the core issue to be facilitated. You can run a simple but very effective self-diagnosis exercise yourself and with colleagues by addressing the following 10 questions;

Q1. What’s the project, challenge, concern or issue that external facilitation is seen to be an answer to? Write your responses with the prefix “We need to …” or “How to…”

Try restating the issue with these prefixes several times and you will arrive at a short, sharp statement that seems right

Q2. Examine the background to the core issue, for example how has the issue arisen and for how long has it been apparent?

Is it possible to quantify the monetary cost of the issue not being resolved, if not why not? E.g. poor customer service is costing the company €250,000 per annum in reworking; additional service call-outs and lost repeat sales

Q3. What have I/we tried to date to resolve the issue?

Q4. Why has this not worked?

Q5. What have others in our sector in similar circumstances tried to resolve this issue?

Q6. What’s the “ideal situation” for me/us re this issue?

Q7. What’s our timetable/by what date must this be resolved?

Q8. What’s my power to act on the issue? Do I have the final say? Do I need others to be in agreement?

Q9. What would be an “acceptable outcome” if the “ideal outcome” is not achievable?

Q10. Finally what am I & the organisation willing to commit to the resolution of the issue- my credibility/authority; my time; others’ time, money etc?

A 2 page response to these 10 questions will give you the clarity you need to then engage with external facilitation. By doing this exercise in advance of calling in the external facilitator you will save them time in their preparation and thereby reduce the fee they will charge you. Good luck!