Facilitation. Low Rent and low impact – enough is enough.

Bad facilitation is easy. Brilliant facilitation takes skill.

I believe that business should invest in facilitation capability. For too long projects have been run by bad facilitators charging low fee for poor instructional design. Bad facilitation is easy. Brilliant facilitation takes skill. We’re on a mission to improve the quality of business strategy, projects and people by championing the role of Premium Facilitation. Better quality of facilitation leads to better output; better output makes for brilliant projects and brilliant projects benefit your people. Everyone wins.

And here’s why.

The fundaments of business haven’t changed. Things have just got more complex. A bit like a car engine – it’s still spark plugs, pistons, a drive shaft and wheels that take us from one place to another, but the operation of ancillary systems around the outside of the engine, designed for efficiency and comfort, are a mystery to us all…
Our world is disproportionality complex. Social and tech revolutions have entirely transformed the way business is conducted. Changing trends re-write established approaches to the management of organisational operation. Therefore, investment levels in all aspects of businesses development have risen. This is good, of course. But investment in people hasn’t kept pace.
Subsequently, I believe a few things most other people don’t.

1. There is imbalance between the strategic investment in new technology and the amount invested in human capital, training and people development. Organisations think nothing of spending £200k on an 8 week tech consulting project but buckle at the thought of spending the same on a core group of people who could deliver impact time and again. People development is the first to get cut when economic times are hard. Training budgets disappear, apprenticeship are culled, and recruitment is frozen. I believe that’s wrong.

2. When human capability is finally signed off, it’s crap. Firstly, the content has little to do with the business need. Myers Briggs or Mindfulness are the vogue for one learning programme whilst personal branding and presentation skills (sigh) are delivered at another. How does that really answer the need of the organisation? Secondly, this questionably relevant content is usually delivered in an appalling fashion. It’s still essentially chalk and talk. The delivery may have changed to PowerPoint or Prezi, but it’s still dated and dull. Thirdly, audiences with no understanding of why they’ve been selected arrive with no prep or resource on how to be effective learners before, during or after the interventions. No-one has bothered to take care of their learning experience. An example of a frequent corporate criminal would be the annual leadership conference where senior people are flown in from around the world only to be shown PowerPoints in a windowless conference centre and check their blackberries during the breaks (or during the presentations) until some unknown keynote gives them a talk on ‘positive thinking’.

3. Superficial training and poor project facilitation leads to a fragmented workforce. People put themselves in false boxes that provide labels for themselves not to get involved in projects at work. People are quick to excuse themselves as an “analytical this or that and I can’t work creatively because X, Y, Z.” People in your organisation are operating from mental maps based on pseudo-science that can potentially shape people beliefs and careers to the vice.

4. Finally though, whilst I believe we are all creative, I don’t believe we are all capable of facilitating project teams through the creative process. The art, science and skill of being a facilitator isn’t regarded as highly as it should.

Senior leaders are less supportive of work that takes employees away from their current responsibilities; but our insight goes deeper. Senior leaders are reluctant to sign any training or creative project facilitation off, as their personal experience of it was likely ineffective, trivial or pitiful. And with the market awash with coaches, trainers and gurus who all claim to get to an answer in a one day workshop, who can blame them?

My re-expression of this shameful situation is like that of a monopoly board. The pieces would be Filofax, a laptop, an iPad and a twitter handle (to represent the workplace generations). And whilst sexy technology, big data and social collaboration projects are all getting sign off to Mayfair and Park Lane budgets, down the road in HR, actually investing in people is being forced into lunchtime sessions over sandwiches, 60 minute bitesize workouts, or even worse, a ‘hey! watch this link on TED’ sent over email. It’s all OLD KENT ROAD. Low Rent and low impact.

All this leads to a growing gap between people’s natural ability to solve problems and their capability to do so in the increasingly complex work landscape. And business continues to pay low rent for poor quality project facilitation and ineffective training to address it. It’s a pathetic status quo.

Enough is enough.

We’re on a mission to champion Premium Facilitation and the creative facilitator and his/her role in setting the conditions in business where projects get done and people learn how to think differently.

For too long the responsibility of project facilitation or the development of creative capability fell between the stools of HR, L&D and COMMS. Each department trying hard to grow capability but without success. Instead, it became an assumed benefit of the work outsourced to agencies on other projects.

We don’t do advertising, media planning or digital transformation. It’s not part of our offer. So why do you ask those agencies to facilitate projects and develop your people when facilitation isn’t part of theirs?

I encourage everyone reading this to genuinely question the calibre of providers on your roster of preferred suppliers. How well do they answer your capability brief? How appropriate is the ‘what they deliver’ to your original question? Is real life making their content look dated? Are your people simply sitting still facing a PowerPoint?
There needs to be a shift from skills based training to long term capability building facilitation. Doing so is a profit strategy. It’s your money, but if you keep paying your current agencies to deliver poorly, they’ll just keep delivering more of it.

We exist to champion Premium Facilitation.

Thank you for reading.