For the first time in my 20 years facilitating LFA workshops, a client insisted to modify the ‘brainstorming’ procedure and emphasised the use of ‘interviews’ instead to acquire information from individual stakeholders.
Apparently it was considered difficult to get the participants committed to a workshop that would take more than one day….
When presenting the LogFrame of the programme derived from the documentation together with the observations gathered in the interviews, I felt that the participants in the workshop, who had been interviewed, were expecting the ‘magic’ to happen by me, the facilitator. Maybe they thought that they had shared their views already and expected me to present these to the group. In doing so it appeared to be hard to get them involved in explaining and discussing the issues raised. Actually I sometimes even felt ‘tension’ between me and the participants, probably because some did not openly share the same views and challenged me instead. I felt pretty uncomfortable with their ‘monkey’ on my shoulder.
Actually the issues raised in the short 30 minutes interviews were quite general in my eyes making me believe that such an interview is not really an effective way of collecting sensitive insights. Actually after the initial introductory formalities we surfaced the programme and when a slightly more interesting issue came on the table the session was already over. Moreover, when comparing to a 20 minutes ‘brain-tapping’ exercise in a workshop, when all participants are silently writing their issues on cards, in confidence that those issues will be treated anonymously afterwards, I believe the quality of the issues being shared are much more confrontational and interesting. Also, when writing cards the number of issues that can be raised is also a multitude of the number of issues raised in an interview. And once written, the issue will never disappear until everybody agrees to remove it.
Why is it that participants this time somehow closed down and shut up? This is exactly what the facilitator tries to avoid. I feel strongly that the ‘interview’ approach did not help. Usually in a facilitated workshop the participants comment, explain and discuss the problems raised and the facilitator guides the process. It should not be them in discussion with the facilitator, who – like the piano player – is just passing the message, but who falls easily in the trap to confuse his role and defend the issues raised. It should be them, the participants discussing the issues among themselves under the guidance of the facilitator.
My lesson was clearly again for the facilitator to stay out of the ‘content’!
In October we will again train Moderators here in Brussels and certainly deal with this issue!
Read about the training of FACILITATORS and register here.