Dramatic facilitation

training adds a new dimension and provides an effective complement to more
traditional development initiatives, says Anne Chisholm, senior specialist at
District Audit

perceived value of facilitation skills is increasing as more organisations are
now exposing managers to situations where they need to be skilled at helping
others to reach a decision or resolve a specific issue.

organisation is a case in point. I am part of the added value unit of the
central region of District Audit. We undertake value for money projects in
local government and the health service, as opposed to the accounting audits. I
work mainly in the health sector, co-ordinating audits on services and working
alongside managers and clinicians to develop action plans for improvement.

my role, and that of my colleagues, is changing as we take more responsibility
for facilitating the improvement process.


skills have become so important in the unit that a one-day facilitation skills
workshop was commissioned for all 60 staff. This was delivered in a local hotel
and followed a non-training day where a range of departmental issues were

facilitation skills workshop was delivered by Steps Role Play, a company which
specialises in drama-based training.

I had previously undertaken some more traditional facilitation skills training,
I was curious to see how they would approach it.

made it a fun session right from the start, with an introductory, ice-breaking
role play designed to highlight the issues we would be covering.

then role-played a parish council meeting. One role player was supposed to be
facilitating the meeting, trying to achieve a particular outcome and the other
three were playing very awkward people.

he needed help, the facilitator would freeze-frame the action and turn to the
audience and ask what he should do. We would give him some advice and the
scenario would continue with him putting our advice into action so that we
could see the outcome.

was a very interesting approach and it prompted a discussion of what we felt
were the essentials of good facilitation.

then split into three different groups, each with around 20 people, and rotated
through three different sessions: Banana, Orange and Apple.


was a very interactive session. We began by working in pairs, with one person
talking and the other not listening or paying attention, to see how that felt.

we looked at energy levels and we had to draw out a playing card from a deck
and act out a particular energy level according to the card selected. If it was
a two, your energy was really low, but if it was a 10 you had to be full of

aim of these elements was to illustrate how the differences in your attention
and energy level can affect your performance as a facilitator.

also dealt with physical preparation, such as breathing exercises and mental
alertness, and we covered issues such as clarifying your role and controlling
your emotions.


the Orange session, we looked at our own conflict management styles and how we
would approach people who were overly aggressive or too compromising.

Steps team played the different styles, with us advising the facilitators how
to proceed. The aim was to show how the process of facilitation changes
depending on the participants involved and how the facilitator has to choose
between telling the group what to do, making suggestions or leaving them to get
on with it themselves.


the Apple session, we participated in “live” facilitation exercises. In the
first, two of the Steps team were role playing neighbours having a dispute and
we had to intervene and try to diffuse the situation.

was interesting to watch because the situation kept escalating and calming down
again depending on the different facilitation styles that different people

second role play exercise involved us trying to facilitate between two
employees in a leisure centre who were resisting attempts at modernisation
because they did not see the need for change. The challenge was to influence
them but not to dominate.

each group had been through all three sessions, we reconvened for a review
where we highlighted the learning points and how we might apply them.


play brought facilitation to life

workshop was extremely good at raising awareness of the concept of facilitation
and it covered a broad approach to the issues you need to consider, from the
practical side of preparation to clarity about your role, awareness of
different styles, the approaches you might take and the impact you might have.

was very effective in highlighting the key skills – observing, listening,
reading body language, understanding behaviour and responding appropriately –
and it showed that all of these can be improved through practice.

training proved a very enjoyable and effective medium. You see the reality of a
situation much more clearly than on a traditional training course. The Steps
team showed that, with the best will in the world, anyone trying to do their
own role plays will never be as convincing as professionals.

in mind that we represented a mixed bag of experience levels, it is commendable
that Steps devised a format that brought the issue alive for everybody. They
are very enthusiastic and made it fun for everyone. We all participated fully
and I don’t know anyone who didn’t enjoy it.

workshop brought another dimension to facilitation and I think it would work
very effectively as a standalone introduction or as a practical complement to
other more traditional courses.

skills workshop designed and delivered by Steps Role Play, Unit 13.2.2 The
Leathermarket, Weston Street, London SE1 3ER Tel: 020-7403 9000  www.stepsroleplay.co.uk

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