Hiring a facilitator to lead a group session within your business is a significant decision.
Here are six questions to consider:
Have you been able to establish with mutual clarity the desired outcome from the session(s)? If either party is vague about what is to be accomplished, this is a dangerous sign. Has the facilitator described a clear process that will lead your group to your desired outcome? This should include a series of steps, describing relevant facilitated activities, to move the process through to completion.
Timing and duration.
Have you found agreement with the facilitator about the timing, including the duration of the process? Resolving issues around the urgency of the process and the facilitator’s sense of the required duration to achieve the outcomes is critical. If the facilitator initially suggests a time-frame but then quickly condenses it to accommodate your expectations, you must be confident that the facilitator’s own business interests are not getting in the way of their professional judgement.
Understanding of the circumstances.
Has the facilitator demonstrated an understanding of the circumstances of your organization, as it relates to the need for the session? This is a judgement call. In hiring a facilitator, you are not recruiting a content expert to come in with prescriptions for solving problems. That is another type of consultant. But they do need to be able to quickly grasp the complexity of the situation, demonstrate an ability to absorb new information throughout a session and ask probing questions.
Does the proposed facilitator have sufficient gravitas to forestall objections about the process, once the session commences? The facilitator must be able engage the participants in a manner that is conducive to an idea-friendly environment. However, participants must not be allowed to “redesign the process” in the middle of the session. That is a recipe for failure. Once the participants have agreed to commence, it is the responsibility of the facilitator to manage the process and to engage the participants in a collaborative manner.
Do you have the sense that you are engaging a “strategic partner” who will relentlessly focus on your desired outcomes? Presumably the business issues that the session is designed to address are critical. Therefore, you need a business facilitator that can provide no-nonsense support, to drive the process to a satisfactory conclusion on your behalf.
Choosing someone to come into your business and manage a facilitation process has its risks. Its also has its benefits; ones that could continue to accrue in the months and years to follow.