Facilitated Dialogue

Facilitated Dialogue and Team Development

What is a “facilitated team development process”?

Dialogue is a process that brings human intelligence together to create unforeseen results. It is different than debate, mediation or negotiation. It is a process whereby individuals from different backgrounds and perspectives seek to explore together a subject or issue through speaking and listening to each other without the need or expectation of persuading or converting others to one’s own point of view. The strength of dialogue is that it enables the full exploration of issues or topics without the necessity of suppressing or overcoming differing or conflicting points of view. It brings about common understandings through the expression of diversity not by the suppression of it.

Dialogue can form a powerful foundation for the resolution of conflict by creating opportunities for exploring new meanings and shared realities. This is also a particularly useful approach for turning chaos into collective creativity or simply be in an open-minded space where there is possibility of exploring all sorts of things.

What is a “facilitated team development process”?

A “facilitated team development process” is a meeting of a group of people who wish to resolve work-related issues or enhance working relationships. There are no games or gimmicks in this approach to team building. The emphasis is instead, on creating focused, courageous dialogue that helps the group move to action and resolution.

How does it work?

A facilitator is selected to manage the process. The facilitator interviews each individual on the team and asks each person the same questions. The individual interviews last about one hour. The focus of the questions is primarily on the team itself and also allows for perceptions of the organizational context. The team members are told at the outset of the interview that the data is anonymous (no names) but not confidential, as we will likely use it in the session. A meeting date is set, the process is held, and the facilitator follows up afterwards. In some cases more than one session is necessary.

What happens at the session?

The group sits in a circle and discusses what is happening in the workplace and any current conflicts. Each person is given an opportunity to speak openly and candidly. Each is invited to describe what has been happening, its impact on them and what they would like to see happen in the future.

In other words, individuals are invited to “check things out” with one another – that is to check their assumptions about what works, what does not work and how to make improvements. Many perceptions, which could be causing disagreements and frustrations, are brought to light.

What types of situations are most appropriate?

Work situations that benefit from this team development process are those where conflicts keeps arising, where old issues have not been resolved, where decision making seems impossible, or where recent events have damaged relationships.

How do I determine suitability?

  • Is there a conflict, and or just a factual dispute?
  • Are there several people impacted by the conflict?
  • Are there more than a few people contributing to the dispute?
  • Are there hidden causes of the conflict?
  • Do you want to restore the workplace, rather than punish someone?
  • Does the problem involve feelings or emotions?
  • Would you like everyone in the group to contribute to the solution?

Who should participate in the session?

Any person, who contributes to the effective working of the group or who is impacted by a situation or conflict should attend. This can include employees, managers, executives and other stakeholders.

How long does a facilitated team development process last?

The length depends on the nature of the situation and the number of participants. The facilitator will be able to assess the time needed after some initial interviews. A session usually lasts two days or more.

The facilitator’s role is to help the group discuss issues and consider solutions while keeping the conversation on track. At the end of the session the facilitator will help the group work out the details of how things can be improved, usually in the form of an agreement.