Group Facilitation Techniques and Methods
Listed alphabetically below are some of the best group facilitation techniques to help your team achieve their goal. They are useful to aid idea generation, raise energy and help make group decisions.
Action planning is vital for team success. It is a simple and effective technique for gaining commitment for action. It works by carefully recording each action item, as follows:
•‘What’ the action point is
•‘When’ the action is to be scheduled and the estimated completion date
•‘Who’ is assigned against the action
•Progress against the action (leave blank initially)
Brainstorming is an ideal tool for generating a large quantity of ideas within the group. However, for effective brainstorming sessions:
• Ideas should flow freely
• Aim for quantity, not quality of ideas
• Record every idea clearly
• Do not criticise or evaluate ideas in the session
• Consider an independent facilitator to the group
In addition, the facilitator should also encourage the team to come up with several ‘off the wall’ or ‘wacky’ ideas. These can often stimulate the ideal solution.
Energisers are ideal to raise personal energy levels within the group. Use these, where necessary, at appropriate intervals throughout the day, to re-vitalise the group. You can build up your repertoire of energisers by reviewing training manuals, sharing ideas with colleagues and thinking up your own.
The key principles of using energisers are:
• They should be fun and uplifting
• Make them short e.g. five minutes
• Conduct them with sufficient space
• To be mindful of any potential health and safety hazards e.g. no chairs or equipment in the way
• They are not physically too demanding and that everyone in the group will be able to participate
Using a flip-chart during a team meeting can provide a creative, yet structured, working environment and bring focus to the group. Here are a few tips for effective flip-chart use:
• Place the flip-chart at the front of the group
• Ensure you have plenty of flip-chart paper to hand
• Stand to the side of the flip-chart to ensure everyone can see
The ‘Go Wild’ facilitation method involves writing down 20 ideas beginning with the phrase ‘wouldn’t it be good if…’
As a result, the group is encouraged to come up with better and more imaginative solutions. To begin with, the statements might be obvious and predictable, but will become increasingly creative and ‘wild’ as you go on.
First, the facilitator or meeting leader should get the group to establish some ‘ground rules’ or a ‘team code’ for group working. Do this at an early stage of the group coming together.
In addition, key principles for setting these ground rules are that they:
• Establish an acceptable code of behaviour
• Provide a frame of reference for group members to challenge constructively
Getting the group to review what they have learnt and gained out of the meeting will help facilitate higher performance. This only takes five to ten minutes. Start by asking three simple questions:
• What did we do that worked well?
• Did anything not work well?
• Should we do anything differently next time?
Ice Breakers are ideal to get people interacting early on in the meeting and are particularly helpful for new groups coming together. In addition, they help take the group members mind off the meeting content, whilst concentrating on working with each other in a light-hearted way. Furthermore, the icebreaker activity will make each group member feel included, and provide a bridge into the meeting itself.
Meta-planning is a simple technique that encourages individuals to express their thoughts on the issue under discussion. In summary, it involves writing key words onto Post-it notes and then collectively placing and arranging them into sub-groups on a flip-chart or wall space.
This technique allows groups to use Brainstorming to generate a long list of ideas. Following this, it is important to narrow down these ideas into a manageable size, for realistic consideration. A selection process involving the whole group then picks the best ideas, to save time.
Here is a summary of the process:
• Once the Brainstorming has been completed, the group reviews the list to clarify and merge similar ideas/options
Ranking is a decision-making technique that helps the group select the most appropriate and relevant idea. Firstly, you can use brainstorming to generate the quantity of ideas you are looking for. Then the group must determine a selection criterion to use, to guide their personal decision-making process, against a numerical scale.
For example, each person might apply a one to six rating, where six is their preferred choice. Finally, the scores of each participant are then added together to determine the most appropriate and relevant idea.
If the group is stuck, you could try ‘Reverse Brainstorming’. Essentially, his facilitation method looks at the problem you are trying to resolve from a different angle. In summary, it considers the reverse of the problem you are trying to resolve at the time.
For example, the group might look at ‘how to improve business communication’. The reverse of this is ‘how to make business communication worse’. Then, once you have the negative list, ‘flip’ each idea to turn it into a positive.
As a result, Reverse Brainstorming can produce some thought-provoking ideas on improving issues.
This simple technique aims to raise participation levels or to help define a problem. Then each person in the group is asked to state their views on the issue under discussion, without being interrupted by anyone else in the group.
As a result, the facilitator is then able to get the group to summarise these ideas and views, before the group moves on.
There are many different problem-solving processes available, but essentially, most stages follow this structure:
• Define the problem
• Present the background
• Generate ideas
• Group ideas
• Choose the idea/s
• Check commitment
Three star rating is a helpful visual group decision-making technique using coloured stickers (all the same colour and star shaped). Start by giving each participant three stars to award against their preferred option or options. The participant then distributes, or splits the stars as they wish. As a result, you have a visual record of the preferred option.
This is an ideal method of group working, particularly at the earlier stages of a meeting. It helps encourage easy participation and break down any initial barriers. As a result, it is also a good way of helping individuals define the issue the group is working on.
Discussions should last about five to ten minutes before bringing the pairs back together to discuss the issue as one group.
In conclusion, many of the group working techniques above are useful at specific stages of the problem-solving/decision-making process. These tips will help you facilitate the team’s progress in achieving their goal or outcome.