Back-seat facilitation – further questions

For those of you came in late; I went to (another) meeting that was going nowhere slowly because of unacknowledged needs, and I wrote my usual supercilious and hand-wringing style post on “infantile disorders and the ethics of back-seat facilitation.” I asked for feedback, and got some brilliant stuff (this blog has a small but very very clever bunch of regular commenters).

And, via my personal email account, I just got this, from someone who is staggeringly intelligent and so approachable. I only wish we lived closer, so I could bask in her wisdom more.

The questions are possibly, ‘how do you tell whether the facilitator would welcome some help?’ ‘how do do you tell whether the group as a whole would welcome your help’ and ‘in what circumstances would you pitch in regardless?’
Sometimes a group has an unconscious ‘agreement’ not to succeed and there is an unconscious collusion between a poor facilitator and a passive/argumentative/disruptive group that makes sure that no business gets done. Usually this is because the task is impossible/difficult/wearying or the group do not have the capacity to achieve it, or the task makes everyone so anxious they cannot speak about it etc etc. Intervening into this will bring the group’s collective anger raining down on your head as you become an alternative scapegoat or you will find yourself politely blocked and ignored. On the other hand, you may have a group that is struggling with a lack of experience, a few disruptive folk or another basically surmountable problem. Provided the facilitator doesn’t take offence and you offer help tactfully, then there is a good chance that ‘back-seat-facilitation’ will work and the group as a whole will learn from experience.

So my question would be – what was going on in the group’s that could accept your back-seat facilitation that was different from the one that you walked from?
My “success” was a specific suggestion that went (publically) to the chair of the very big meeting that had just been talked at for 80 minutes.  The chair and others thought it was a good idea. My two more recent failures came because a) a very selfish and stupid technocrat (not that I judge people who obstruct my Patently Brilliant Suggestions, oh no…) and the latter I don’t think anyone could have fixed – the parasite load was too high (see previous brackets).

About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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