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Facilitated nightmares

Facilitated nightmares

Believe it or not, organisations are still spending money on 'facilitators' to develop leadership and team skills.

Believe it or not, organisations are still spending money on "facilitators" to develop leadership and team skills, affect change in corporate culture, introduce new policies and procedures, and encourage innovation and "blue-sky thinking". Place a roomful of employees in the care of a facilitator and miracles will happen. Mediocre managers become super leaders, voiceless wallflowers are empowered and blank sheets of butcher's paper are transformed into billion-dollar ideas. Hardly. Most hapless souls forced to endure the interminable platitudes, condescension and wackery of facilitators wonder what they have done to deserve such unremitting torture.

Well may the United Nations frown on waterboarding, but what about facilitated workshops? Persons of a human-resources persuasion aside, it is doubtful that anyone has ever had a positive encounter with a facilitator. And yet, today, having stared economic Armageddon in the eye, companies that are rationing tea bags think nothing of paying facilitators about $5000 to $10,000 for a day's work.

An organisation with too much time and money on its hands recently engaged a facilitator to familiarise a group of bemused managers with a "suite" of new proprietary "tools" to manage aggrieved and problem employees. As the quite possibly crazed woman spoke her first loopy words, the roomful of managers resigned themselves to waving goodbye to several hours of their lives. The more experienced among them had the foresight to bring their buzzword bingo cards, and they were amply rewarded. Out the gems came, one after the other: empowerment, pro-active, synergies, leveraging, optimisation, low-hanging fruit, going forward and the obligatory elephant in the room. Bingo!

But then came the most dreaded point of any encounter with a facilitator: role playing. The managers were asked to turn to the person on their right and act the part of an aggrieved employee; their colleagues, armed with their new techniques, then dealt with the grievance. The facilitator, clipboard in hand, watched over her charges, nodding meaningfully at every opportunity.

Each of the managers, despite the assault on their dignity and intelligence, complied with the role playing. Only afterwards did they complain among themselves what a waste of time it was. Naturally, the facilitator's report was more glowing in its conclusions.

So here's the mystery: why do people put up with this nonsense? Why didn't the managers, all seasoned operators, simply walk out? As long as facilitators and their ilk are humoured, they will keep coming back, wasting scarce corporate dollars and valuable employee time. Make facilitators yesterday's fad: say "No".

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Tags managementhuman resources

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