A colleague preparing for a job interview, asked me: “How can the engagement of an internal facilitator for project teams be justified?”.
I enjoyed answering this question and I like to share it with my LinkedIn contacts. My answers are based on my experience as an internal facilitator for innovation project teams during my time with Unilever, and with my company MCCIM, on delivering Project Management Facilitator training at Barry Callebaut (Belgium).
The task of a facilitator is to facilitate the project team using the Project Management processes the team needs to deliver their project, like: facilitate kick-off workshops, risk management workshops, stakeholder management workshops and facilitate teambuilding workshops.
Here we go. The 6 benefits are:
For the project leader:
1. A facilitator has knowledge of and experience in using specific facilitation techniques to help project teams achieve their goals. Project leaders may not have knowledge of those tools and techniques.
2. An internal facilitator knows the culture and the people in the company, which helps to deliver high quality team meetings. A facilitator is objective at all times. The facilitator does not influence the project content and has no opinion about the project. This helps the facilitator to guide the process of team workshops, allowing the project leader to focus on the content of the project. The facilitator will 1) help the project leader to guide the team with the right Project Management methods, and 2) take care of the practicalities, including: meeting preparation, agenda, equipment, ground rules, opening and setting the stage, moving between themes of the agenda, summarizing and closing, and 3) take care of team dynamics; bringing in all views, facilitating divergences, conflicts and building consensus.
3. A facilitator can help the project leaders to be the project leader, by positioning them as a project leader: facilitating them to contribute their views, express opinions and make decisions. This will raise the quality of project leaders in the company.
4. A facilitator can help the project leaders to become better project leaders by coaching them as an objective coach. A facilitator can earn the trust of all the project leaders and become a kind of ‘project doctor’; be a reliable, objective and trustworthy helper in the company.
For the organization:
5. A facilitator applies the same set of tools throughout the organization so that these become a standard for project leaders and teams in the whole organization. The facilitator can contribute to the development of a basic set of rules for how the project management operates in a company, including requirements, scope definition, risk management, etc. including common project vocabulary and language so that the meanings of all project related communications are clear to everyone in the company.
6. A internal facilitator is involved in facilitating many projects giving an overall view of all the projects and programs in the company. This gives the opportunity to observe objectively the issues and problems project leaders/teams might have, for example:
a. Team members suffer from excessive project burden because of too many projects
b. Too junior project leaders on large projects
c. Noticing trends, like re-occuring risks from a series of risk assessment meetings
The facilitator can be the “eyes and ears” for the management and aggregate issues to the management board advising to develop solutions for a systemic approach. In that way a facilitator can become the spokesmen for all the project management community, by seeing the trends happening, assuring that communication about them is open and facilitating the professionalization of Project Management in the company.
You can contact me if you are interested in training Project Management Facilitators in your company.