Back in December I attended the first of three facilitation workshops at Bath University management school. My aim is to develop skills as a facilitator to use as a manager taking a team through change. Maybe one day I will become a facilitator. Who knows?

The workshop was great. Twenty people from a range of backgrounds who worked well together.

The main theoretical framework was that of group theory (see Wikipedia definition on groups). We worked through the 5 stages of group development – forming, storming, norming, performing and ending.

We split into groups and then carried out tasks to demonstrate each of these stages. Our group covered storming, the point at which a group shapes its identity, so we staged a conflict. It was all good fun and we managed to get our point across to the rest of the group.

Understanding group processes seems to be critical to helping teams work more effectively in a work context. It doesn't necessarily mean taking an active part in what the group is trying to achieve rather a role in helping the team to decide what they need to do and how they are going to do it.

Clearly there are times when there is a more instructional role to be played but it is for the facilitator to understand the role they need to take and to constantly reappraise it. This process of reappraisal is called action inquiry.

I am convinced this type of awareness would really help managers as facilitation is concerned with a constant reappraisal of what a team needs to do. For the facilitator this means going (and taking groups) into the unknown, taking them out of their comfort zone, it means dealing with paradoxes and polarities. At one point instructional techniques might be required, the next a listening approach needs to be adopted. 

And it means focussing on the here and now as well as the goals. This is key in change management as it is the journey – and being able to take people on it – that is so important – especially when the goal keeps shifting as they surely will in 2009.

My line of inquiry is 'How can I develop my presence as a facilitator'. This means that when I am facilitating I will be focussing on this area. 

I have plenty of opportunity to practise and to help me I am about to start reading John Heron's The Complete Facilitator's Handbook. Not sure why it costs £32 though!