When it comes to meetings, the difficulty comes in separating task and process. In many areas of the corporate world, managers concentrate on process because they know thatif the process is working well then everything will go well. Yet in meetings, managers tend to focus on the task. Indeed, in meetings, much of what people say refines the task and elicits sub-elements, such as activities.
Yet this doesn’t constitute process. These two elements of any meeting or project – task and process – are symbiotically connected but fundamentally different. It’s impossible to deploy process without an appropriate task – and process is needed to tackle difficult issues (tasks).
This is where effective facilitation can help. Without a formal facilitator, the group needs to manage both task and process simultaneously. This can lead to the group failing to differentiate between task and process and also failing to recognize – and accept – the need for process.
There are task issues – the responsibility of the task leader – and process methods (the facilitator’s responsibility). Of course, the facilitator – who audits the quality of process – should always have an ally in the room in the form of the person who’s responsible for the event’s success: the task leader.
As each task is defined, that task’s objective is identified. This is linked to an appropriate (facilitation) process – a combination of tools, techniques and format – to achieve this objective. So, because facilitators work with processes rather than tasks, they help the group deliver the task outcomes.
The task leader’s and facilitator’s roles should never merge. If this happens, the result is ‘falipulation’, where the group is manipulated via facilitation to come up with the results that the task leader/ facilitator wanted rather than those the group would have produced had it been free to do so.
So, process is the means of production. It’s neither the product nor the raw materials but uses raw materials (of ideas and thoughts). Process is the means of addressing the task and finding ways to make headway. It takes raw materials (ideas and thoughts) and turns them into a finished product (decisions and solutions) with the minimum of waste (effort) through the maximization of the resources (people’s time) available.
That’s why it’s always a waste when people sit in a meeting and have no effective means to contribute. They know they’re not adding value. And as such, valuable resources are being wasted.
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