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Review: The Facilitator's Toolkit

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22nd Dec 2005
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Title: The Facilitator's Toolkit (Second Edition)
Authors: Maggie Havergal and John Edmonstone
Publisher: Gower
ISBN: 0-566-08565-8
Price: £75.00
Reviewer: Tim Levey

It used to be much simpler in the 'command and control' business environment. The man at the top decided what had to be done and the managers then told the workers what they had to do. By and large the workers did what they were told. Otherwise the workers got the union involved, at which point it did then get complicated.

At some point a business consultant was introduced. Before long there were consultants for everything from Accounting Systems to 'Zen in the Workplace'. One of them will have found from walking around the shop floor that the workers did actually have some good ideas as to how to improve a business. The howls of derision from the top only stopped once they realised that their competitors were beating them because they worked better as a team. There followed some half-hearted attempts by the bosses to hold team meetings, which did not take long to turn into another lecture from the top. Finally it is suggested that the person chairing the meeting needs to be neutral and non-judgemental.

BINGO! The facilitator is born. As the facilitator's art develops, it is found that more tools are needed than a flipchart and coloured pens. Different situations call for different approaches. What you use to diffuse a conflict is different from what is needed in a brainstorming session.

And accountants need structure! So welcome to the second edition of The Facilitators Toolkit, which is split into four sections. Part one is a general overview of facilitation, explaining what it does and does not cover. The toolkit itself is in part two and represents a comprehensive collection of resources for the new or experienced facilitator. In general, one page is given to each of the 100 or so alternative tools, which go from the basics such as SWOT and PEST to the more unusual such as:

+ 'Fish Bowl Discussions', where only those sitting in the middle can be part of the discussion
+ 'A Christmas Carol', looking at the past, present and future
+ 'Unfinished Sentences' where people finish of a sentence such as 'I could do my job better if''..'.
These are all set out clearly, but without going into too much detail.

Part three is about putting the toolkit to use and goes through a number of case studies, while part four goes through a few end of day summaries.

For someone wanting to specialise more in this area, this is a great book, possibly one of the few that you will need. And, given the price of £75 for this hardback edition, you would need to be sure of using the book regularly to justify purchasing it.

With the majority of the books of facilitation being American in origin, such as James and Justice's 'Facilitator's Fieldbook', it was refreshing to see that this was written for the UK audience, so none of the tools proposed should be too frightening!

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