Dynamic Facilitation: Steps and Stages

The website for Jim Rough’s work is here: www.tobe.net

The article that follows I found the text file here:


Thought it would be easier to see in a blog post. Entire article follows. All the steps they look great!!

Dynamic Facilitation: Steps and Stages

1. Establishing the context

Get to know the situation through initial interviews. Be sure you have the charter to facilitate.

Get clear about:
The role of DF meetings in the organization; will the results be implemented or ignored?
Have the higher-ups already decided on the outcome and expect the DFer to manufacture consent? (not a situation for DF) Discover constraints on outcomes.

Time limits: Explain that dynamically facilitated meetings may require four sessions to reach breakthrough solutions. Establish meeting time limits.

The facilitator must not own the problem.

2. Introducing the process to the group

[Explain the following:]
Dynamic Facilitation is a unique approach to helping participants of a group to solve problems and seemingly impossible-to-solve problems. The process evokes everyone’s creativity.

Unlike in traditional facilitation, the dynamic facilitator (DFer) does not follow a preset agenda or persuade participants to stick to the topic. Instead, participants are invited to share what concerns them the most related to why the meeting was convened. The group chooses the important issues. The process is like working on a puzzle, in which each individual piece contributes to the larger picture, which becomes clearer and clearer until a breakthrough solution is achieved.

DF helps the group realize solutions through a choice-creating discussion instead of decision-making. Choice-creating respects each contribution, which is not judged for its merit or relevance by the group. Everyone trusts that what is said fits like a piece of the puzzle. Decisions happen through shifts of mind and heart.

The DFer can only listen to one person speak at a time, and requests that everyone take turns, although no order is required. The DFer will listen to each person fully before proceeding to the next person.

Unique perspectives are always welcome and important. In the beginning, it may seem like the group is not on track, and far from reaching a decision. But participants will discover how this approach eventually results in breakthrough solutions that everyone supports.

3. Set up

[Do the following:]
Invite participants to sit in a semi circle facing the DFer.

Set up four flip charts. Plan for taping or pinning completed pages on walls or boards. If such space is not available, just flip pages.

[Explain the purpose of the flip charts:]
The DFer will record what each participant contributes. The recording will serve as a map of the group dialogue. The recording also ensures that the DFer and group acknowledges what the participant says. Sometimes the words recorded will not be the same words spoken, but what the DFer understands is said. In this case, the DFer will ask the participant if what was recorded is what the participant really meant. Sometimes participants need help to articulate what they are feeling. Sometimes participants need the DFer to respond to what is said with curiosity and guess what is really being said.

The contributions generally fall into four categories:
1. Problems that need to be addressed or further investigated – the Problem Statement chart
2. Proposed solutions – the Solutions chart
3. Concerns about the proposed solutions – the Concerns chart
4. General information about the problems, solutions and concerns – the Data chart

There is no order to contributions to the charts. But each entry will be numbered. The DFer will record in sentences or complete phrases.

The DFer will transcribe contents of the charts and provide hand-outs to participants at the beginning of the next meeting.

4. Jumping in

If participants don’t know each other, share names, etc. Otherwise, begin with a check in.

Discuss time limits for the meeting. Reserve time for the DFer to review the meeting’s progress, create Outcomes and Bookmarks, and participants to share how the meeting went.

DFer asks opening question: What do you want to talk about today?

Work with the first person who responds. Draw out the response and frame the issue as a question, such as “How can we…” Rephrase “why” questions into “how” questions; “how” looks for solutions while “why” looks for analysis.

Record the question and ask the participant if he/she has any ideas on how to address the issue, such as, “If it were up to you, what would your solution be?” Record the solution.

Do not modify any previous recorded statements, but do record similar solutions, problem statements, etc. with a new twist.

Respond to the next person, who might share about the solution. If the statement is a judgment or criticism, reframe it as a concern. Protect each participant from criticism and judgment, which shames and silences.

If one side of an issue is being addressed, ask if anyone may be feeling another perspective. If some participants are not speaking, invite them to speak and draw out what they say.

Hold the participants’ attention and discourage cross-talk.

Discourage brainstorming (anything that comes to mind) and elicit what feels genuine.

If the contributions are expressed with intensity between participants, physically step in the middle of the exchange and invite each person to take turns so that what is said can be considered by the group and recorded.

Reflect what is said by repeating, paraphrasing, articulating feelings, and responding from curiosity and guessing what is being said: whatever seems appropriate

Ask a discovery question to extend what was said, such as “You’ve said two things here, which do you prefer?” or “What do you really want?”

Allow pregnant silence for participants to process what has been said.

Follow the energy of the group.

If you don’t understand, ask for clarity.

Phrase questions to encourage creativity, such as “What are some of the ways we might…?”

5. Meeting stages

Purging: Characterized by “purging” of feelings, opinions, solutions, what “should be.” The DFer draws participants out and helps them feel heard.

Transition: Characterized by feeling overwhelmed by all the shared concerns, solutions, etc. Characterized by creative tension as well. DFer must allow pregnant silences and refrain from steering the process. If helpful, offer a recap of what has been said. Participants begin to focus on “what is” rather than “what should be.”

Mission-building: Shifts occur and participants discover the “real” problems. Problems shift from “impossible” to a “challenge.” The DFer must continue to refrain from managing the process by forcing a formal agreement or consensus, by voting, a show of hands, or other forms of agree/disagree. But the DFer can check in to verify if the group has shared understandings or breakthroughs. If someone has been holding back or disagrees with an expressed understanding, the DFer continues to listen to this “divergence.” Sometimes breakthroughs arrive in a new problem statement that everyone accepts (convergence).

Closure: The DFer informs the group that the allotted time is approaching, which helps the group self-manage the time. The DFer reviews the charts and elicits help from the group to create one or two more charts: Outcomes and/or Bookmarks. Outcomes are major convergences and breakthroughs. Bookmarks acknowledge the group’s process, summarizes the discussion, and points to where the group plans to start at the next meeting.

Invite participants to collect in a circle, if time has been allotted, to express their feelings about how the meeting went.

The DFer transcribes and harvests the information from the charts for the next meeting. Minor editing and grouping of items makes the information more readable.


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