A Path Less Taken
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A Path Less Taken

Photo by Edi Libedinsky on Unsplash

Facilitation: The Fine Art of Noticing

  • Facilitation
  • Coaching
  • Teaching
  • Mentoring

Why Call Facilitation the Fine Art of Noticing?

I have chosen this title in part because it’s a way to honor my Dad, who was good at noticing the little things that might pass most of us by. For him, his ability to notice, quite literally, the tiniest of things (very small insects, fungi, pine needles, etc.), was particularly true when it came to the natural world, where he had not only a vast amount of knowledge about flora and fauna, but also a boundless curiosity. And he was always eager to share his interest in and knowledge about the wonders of that natural world. Since he was a teacher who worked with young children (mostly fourth and fifth graders), he had lots of of opportunities to do just that — to share those insights with his students.

What Facilitation Looks Like in Practice

Now let’s turn our attention to what it looks like for us to act as facilitators in the wild. And a good place to start is with some definitions of these four terms:

  • Meeting. A gathering of two or more people convened for the purpose of achieving a common goal through interaction.
  • Facilitator. A person who seeks to make a meeting worthwhile for attendees, by asking clarifying questions and making sure the design for and direction of the meeting align with the outcomes that attendees wish to achieve.
  • Facilitation. A set of practices and techniques that enable groups of people to identify topics of interest, decide which topics are most important to talk about right away, and make decisions based on the discussion.
  • Powerful Questions. An approach to seeking clarification in a group setting, which helps open the door to conversation, action, and discovery.

Facilitation in a Meeting Context

When in a meeting, we tend to be aware of a lack of facilitation, meaning that we notice when the meeting seems to have no agenda or goals, for instance. When an experienced facilitator is present, and assuming that the meeting is going smoothly, it’s easy to forget that the facilitator is there, especially a facilitator who understands what effective facilitation looks like in practice. So let’s move on to that topic next — what effective facilitation looks like.

  • A facilitator manages the method of the meeting, not the content of the meeting.
  • A facilitator focuses on how decisions are made, not on what decisions are made.

What are Some Examples of Things That Facilitators Do?

For this section, I’ll reference some advice provided by Martin Alaimo in his book Agile Team Facilitator: A Coach’s Path Towards Enterprise Agility.

Powerful Questions

While recognizing that there are many techniques that can help us be effective facilitators, one of the most vital of those is having an arsenal of powerful questions.

  • What are some other options that we can think of?
  • Can we explore that further — what else comes to mind?
  • What do we think about the proposal?
  • What do we think will happen if we do what is being proposed?
  • What do we think will happen if we don’t do what is being proposed?
  • What needs to be clarified?
  • What concerns us the most?
  • What other resources can help us make a decision?
  • How do we envision the desired end state?
  • How would we summarize the key points from our conversation thus far?
  • What do we think an actionable plan might look like?
  • What lessons have we learned from this?
  • What will we do?
  • When will we do it?



This collection is for anyone who is looking for Lean-Agile content on a range of topics, with a particular focus on techniques that help with coaching and facilitation.

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Philip Rogers

I’m an Agile practitioner at TextNow — I love to work with Agile teams to help them collaborate and deliver, and have fun while doing it.