Wednesday, July 15, 2009

7 Dimensions: Principal Skills of Change Facilitators

Some months ago, Nils Atle Krokeide, Bernd Weber and I sat together and tried to define what are the general skills of a change facilitator. This is what we came up with:

Dimension 1: Ability to Grasp Clients’ Needs


Key Aspects:
The ability to grasp or understand a client’s needs is the precondition for the design and redesign of the change process. The skilled change facilitator is aware of the fact that that the client’s needs will rarely be fully revealed nor fully known neither by the client nor by the facilitator. The Client-Facilitator System must be able to perceive these needs as fully as possible and to formulate and to document these needs as they are developing. This is the basis for the initial proposal to the client. The facilitated system understands that needs will continually be uncovered, revealed and developed during the change process and requires regular adjustments (contracting).

Related Skills:
  • Empathy
  • Ability to understand context specific culture
  • Analysis of the need system, e.g. stakeholder needs, functional needs, basic individual needs, business needs,
  • Identification of compatibility, contradictions and potential conflicts
  • Interview techniques e.g. systemic questioning
  • Tools for documentations and monitoring of changing needs
  • Informal and formal information gathering
  • Sensitivity for the clash of intra-organizational cultures, traditions and rituals.

Dimension 2: Contracting Process

Key Aspects:

The traditional understanding of consultancy sees “contracting” as one step in the consultancy process which ends with a signature. The Change-Facilitator understands that contracting includes the whole process of creating, maintaining and changing the professional relationship between facilitator and client. In this light contracting starts with the first contact and ends only with the facilitation process. CONTRACTING turns out to be “The full assignment management process”, combining project and relationship management.

Related Skills:
  • Have an ear for the (changing) client’s needs, budgeting, conflict management, analysis of documentation, intercultural communication, differentiation of roles (customer/process owner/client/key actors, etc.), dealing with role complexity, proposal writing, structure of contracts, differentiate and facilitate the formal and the informal contracting (informal shifting of contracts, formal re-definition of contracts, intermediate and final contracts).
  • Contract context analysis
  • Contract structure, examples of real contracts
  • Frame contract, intervention contracts and TORs
  • (Self-) monitoring of contract development
  • Sales and negotiation strategies

Dimension 3: Dealing with Complexity

Key Aspects:

The concept of complexity in change facilitation is based on system theory applied to the social field. Whereas in everyday contexts the polarity is seen as being SIMPLE vs. COMPLICATED, COMPLEXITY is a BEHAVIOUR that can be observed also in simple systems. In complex systems the relation between cause and effect (= the system’s behaviour) is non-linear. Logical analysis of social systems such as organizations is not enough. Complex systems tend to show chaotic behaviour. That is one reason why they are not easily manageable. The systemic approach is holistic and proved to be successful for dealing with complex systems.
Complexity may, for example, grow by increasing diversity in the stakeholder system, by growing amount and intensity of interconnections (feedback-loops) between the elements of the system, but also by growing uncertainty by changing roles or increasing role-mix of individual actors etc.

Experienced facilitators know: “People do not resist change, systems do.”

Related Skills:
  • Identification of logical and non-logical aspects of group and organization behaviour.
  • The principles of occidental logical thinking. Hierarchy as the social construction that manages may create and manage complicated systems, but fails with regard to complex behaviour of real social systems
  • Examples for non-logical thinking traditions (e.g. occidental: dialectics, Gestalt-Theory and oriental: Yin-Yang thinking)
  • Complex behaviour of organizations and institutions: functional complexity
  • Intra-individual complexity
  • Dealing with and separating different levels of complexity in change (Ralph Stacey and David Snowden models).
  • Intervention design and implementation that uses logical and non-logical strategies


Dimension 4: Design of Change Interventions

Key Aspects:

Change in organizations happens simultaneously at different levels: individuals change their beliefs, skills and attitudes; they have to let go of old habits and welcome new ones. Teams establish new rules, processes and relationships. The organization as a whole might change culture, structure and leadership models. The skilled change facilitator is able to think multi-dimensionally and to translate the client’s needs into a sequence of interventions that has to be designed with care, creativity and respect which addresses these different levels of change.

Related Skills of a Change Facilitator:
  • Systems thinking
  • Ability to communicate at different hierarchical levels (shop floor to board room)
  • Broad knowledge of change facilitation intervention techniques
  • Flexibility in design and redesign
  • Methods for co-creating intervention designs together with clients and for getting their ownership
  • Project management skills
  • Conceptualization and drafting skills
  • Ability to use different graphical and presentation software
  • Creating a change facilitation plan


Dimension 5: Implementation of Change Processes


Key Aspects:
In change processes, roles are not stable. As a consequence, change facilitators are the implementers of change strategies. Although the client is the owner of the change process, they hold us accountable for success or failure. This contradiction is a fact. The facilitator may initiate, plan, organise and carry out specific interventions such as training courses, expert consultations, coaching, facilitation of workshops, design of communication strategies, steering of the process, trust building, creating and supporting communities of practice, and much more. The classical division between process and expert consultant has been replaced by a holistic role model of the change facilitator, who is a true multi-artist.

Related Skills:
  • Training skills (online and face-to-face)
  • Facilitation skills (online and face-to-face; classical and whole systems change)
  • Coaching skills (online and face-to-face)
  • Expert consulting skills and knowledge (online and face-to-face)
  • Project management skills
  • Conflict management and mediation skills
  • Ability to recognize own strengths and weaknesses and flexibility to assemble the right team to do the job
  • High frustration tolerance within an environment characterised by uncertainty, low transparency and open or hidden power struggles
  • Broad spectrum of change models and intervention methods, including paradox interventions
  • Facilitation of interventions for personal development
  • Ability to tailor-make new interventions that respond to the client system’s situation and facilitate experiential learning
  • Ability to hold time and space – allowing the right things to emerge (whatever happens is the right thing...)
  • Ability to consequently apply the minimum intervention principle - do one thing less


Dimension 6: Roles and attitudes

Key Aspects:
The skilled facilitator is able to differentiate behaviour, role, function and position in organizations. In everyday communications in organizations, these concepts are used in a clouded way. When the organization starts to change, this might prove not to be functional any longer.

Facilitators are able to perceive and to communicate which role mixes are assigned to them by the client and to negotiate change of roles according to the systemic needs. This process requires a set of attitudes which are accessible for the facilitator all the time: being a servant, humbleness, ability to be a warrior and a healer, reliability, persistency, being a continuous learner and curiosity.

Related Skills:
  • Self-reflection and insight of one’s own changeability
  • Determination to stay the course
  • Goal and success orientation
  • Empathy
  • Ability to identify and communicate the difference between behaviour, role, function and position in organizational change processes


Dimension 7: Change models

Key Aspects:
Presently there exist a variety of change models starting from Kurt Lewin’s classical unfreeze-change-freeze model up to recent models such as Theory U of Otto Scharmer, etc. The skilled change facilitator is aware of the fact that “THE correct model” does not exist.

Related Skills:
  • To identify the change models that lies in fact behind the client’s interventions realized before the contracting the facilitator
  • The ability to decide what kind of change models which will support change interventions in different situations and contexts of the client’s system.

5 comments:

  1. Hi Holger,

    A well-thought-out, interesting and though-provoking list of propositions. I look forward to studying these in more detail from an informal coalitions perspective. Many thanks, Chris

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  2. Hi Holger - an interesting framework - I'm sure some will use it for creating 'job descriptions' for change management roles. I would suggest opening this up in a Wiki format and take additional suggestions.

    Also, I would add to Dimension 7 the following:
    - Metamodelling and the ability to deconstruct existing models.
    - The ability to recognise the constraints of using existing models
    - Knowledge of change management processes and stories from pre-industrialised cultures.

    Elsewhere, I'd look at adding:
    - The ability to project a consistent mood and sense of enthusiasm
    - Storytelling skills (crafting/designing, testing and telling stories)


    steve@storytelling.co.za

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  3. Bernd Weber /Vienna-AustriaJuly 17, 2009 at 6:41 PM

    Hi

    I think it is a good idea to continue developping the 7 dimensions and develop a more comprehensive Skill-list. By the way: the self-limitation to 7 is not due to any facts but due to the limits of our memory. And its magics.
    I agree that Meta-modelling and deconstruction of existing models(metaphors) and story-telling are important skills and should be included.
    Steves other contributions should also be thought about. But we should stay grounded with the skills, and not move to much towards abstract intellectual "energy".

    And I would extend/modify "CM-stories from pre-industrialised culture" to "other cultures than the actual western mainstream corp culture"

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  4. Well.. points out post. Thank for sharing this info article.

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  5. Hi Holger
    Very interesting post. I work in mediation and conflict management and at root what we, as mediators, are doing is to help both individuals and groups manage change in their relationship and environment more effectively and more creatively. Questioning skills, impartiality, no-blame approach all seem to fit with the facilitation of change.

    Thanks for an interesting post.

    Alan

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