The Reasons Why Many Change Programmes Fail

Part 11

Lack of Facilitation

In this twelve-part series, this month I am looking at another reason why significant change programmes can fail.

Lack of Facilitation

As you know I write these blogs from my own practical perspective gained from over 20 years management consultancy experience implementing large scale change programmes in large organisations.

When I was trained and developed to design and support large scale change programmes I learnt there were three distinct managerial sets of tools and skills that needed to be established if they weren’t already there in the client organisation.

  1. The ability to take individuals and groups in a new direction with conviction and appropriate behaviour.
  2. To achieve the appropriate tasks and activities in line with plans to manage a shift from the current state to the desired state.
  3. The ability to achieve things through others, with enough technical knowledge to develop and support new skills within the organisation.

Over the years the facilitation role has been eroded away somewhat to become a “trainer” or a ”co-ordinatior/administrator” function in a change or improvement  initative. In the past, large organisations had dedicated roles of “facilitator” and they were a key component in the programmes success.

More recently, many organisations have abandoned the dedicated role. (I believe due to cost and/or not fully understanding the value such a role brings.) Nevertheless, the concept of facilitation should be embraced in organisations either by developing the skills within existing roles, such as Business Improvement Manager or Continuous Improvement Manager etc.

Organisations often have these roles above, but they are designed around the understanding of the tools and techniques associated with the methodology used such as Lean, TPM or Six Sigma, for example. The softer skills needed to engage with people at all levels are not identified when selecting the person for the role or not developed thereafter.

True facilitation is a way of “being” and is not something that is switched on and off at will. The best facilitators are people who have a genuine belief in individuals being an asset in a business that can be tapped into and released to make real business improvements.

Good facilitators understand that Knowledge alone is NOT king but combining knowledge with skill and having the right attitude is the correct combination that raises one’s capability to achieve greater things.

Also, good facilitators understand that a workshop for example is NOT a series of tasks or lectures, but a “system” with a clear purpose, outcomes, inputs and outputs and many influencing factors. When that is understood then a good facilitator owns and manages that “system” and that is the method to achieve real development.

The core people skills required by a facilitator are;

  • Focuses on participating employees, not on “looking good” as a facilitator
  • Builds relationships
  • Flexible and responsive
  • Listens, seeks clarification, checks understanding
  • Listens with head (content), eyes (feelings), heart (commitment)
  • Works with each team and individual to achieve success
  • ‘Team player’ – supports other facilitators in meeting needs
  • Shows clear sense of purpose and outcome
  • Controls work sessions
  • Enthusiastic, energetic
  • Committed to the outcomes
  • Does not automatically offer solutions and answers
  • Reflects questions back to the business
  • Encourages group discussion and participation
  • Uses open, closed, rhetorical, non-rhetorical technical/non-technical questions
  • Asks for examples to illustrate the point

Not only does a good facilatator have the people skills a good facilitator also has the ablitity to “position” themselves within the business correctly.

The diagram below shows the positioning of the faciliatator within the organisation.

The diagram above shows the facilitator outside of the organisation (the triangle) and that is very important, so that the facilitator doesn’t get engrossed in the day today workings of the organisation.

It also shows that the facilitator predominantly works with the middle managers to introduce tools and techniques which are then passed down to the workforce through the middle managers, but it also shows the facilitator working with the senior managers in partnership to ensure direction and continued correct messaging is given by the seniors.

Time spent in each key part of the role could be 50:50!!

If you’d like to know more about facilitation in change programmes and our programmes to develop internal consultants please contact us for an informal chat.

Martin Gummery, Managing Director, NewLeaf International Ltd

Tel: 01905 425209