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A facilitator is an individual who instructs, coaches, and guides project teams towards their continuous improvement objectives.

This person may be facilitating as a secondary role or as their primary function. They may also be an employee of the company that they are coaching, or they may be an individual hired in a temporary consulting role.

Good facilitators are hard to find. The challenge is that they need to be well balanced. They must be able to get results without being overly directive. They must be technically proficient, while still having the emotional intelligence to recognize and act on what people are feeling. They must be good trainers, coaches, and motivators. And, of course, they need to have a sharp eye for continuous improvement.

Another key trait is that they have to be able to help people make good decisions on their own. Telling a team what to do often results in relapse once the facilitator is out of the picture. If team members own their decisions, they are much more likely to take ownership of the resulting process. A facilitator’s job is to plant a seed of an idea, and then walk away to let someone else cultivate it. This is one of the most challenging aspects of a facilitator’s role. They have to be able to let a team make mistakes in order to learn and be able to do more on their own in the future. Because of their experience, facilitators can often come up with better solutions than inexperienced teams. That’s not to say a facilitator should let a team make a bad decision, but a good facilitator can recognize that a 70% solution with 100% commitment is better than 100% solution with little support.

Facilitators must be compassionate about the changes people face and the anxiety they are feeling, while still keeping the bottom line in mind. They must recognize when there are real barriers to meeting goals, and rapidly figure out how to get past them. They also have to be driven people who are able to work with lots of responsibility and no real authority.

Most of all, a facilitator that does well should be on the fringe of a project. The goal is to assist without becoming a crutch—you don’t want people becoming overly reliant on facilitators to the point that they are unwilling to attempt projects without one. In most companies, there are far more project opportunities than there is facilitator availability.

Responsibilities of a facilitator:

  1. Help properly set goals and scope a project.
  2. Help identify required resources and team members.
  3. Help develop project schedule.
  4. Help team prepare for project (get rooms, certificates, meals, equipment, etc.).
  5. Help the team bond.
  6. Train the team.
  7. Keep the team on topic.
  8. Help resolve disputes.
  9. Watch out for landmines (i.e. crossing boundaries into other areas without coordination, failing to communicate changes, etc.)
  10. Keep everyone involved.
  11. Help manage task lists.
  12. Remind the team of their goals.


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