Josef W. Seifert – the founder of MODERATIO – developed SIX STEPS® - The framework for facilitation with the "facilitation cycle” as the key tool of the approach.
The SixSteps facilitation is used today on the one hand for working in activities like quality circles, employee groups - in short, CIP (continuous improvement process) work - and also when conducting workshops, taskforce meetings, discussions, and online meetings. Depending on the given circumstances, a complete ”facilitation cycle” can take days or it can be completed within as little as one hour.
Moderation is a frequently used expression: Moderation in TV might be the most common example. But what does this term really mean? And what does it mean in combination with vocational training, personnel development, corporate and organizational development?
The expression “moderation” or more common in English "facilitation" is a primal word of human beings which had various meanings at different times. A look back in history shows the use of “moderation” as a Greek measure (man is the measure of all things), the sense of proportion of the Romans, the temperance of the monks, the medieval measures of the judges, moderate sovereigns, the average citizen and finally as the excessive chatterbox of our days. Moderation has always been associated with measurement, being moderate, tempering (see Ziegler 1992). This is also valid for nowadays. The expression “moderation” is used today mainly in the fields of entertainment and information (infotainment) as well as in the context of learning and problem solving in organizations.
In the field of entertainment, for example during a radio broadcast, the target is to synthesize the communication according to specific broadcasting-dramaturgical criterions to achieve an exciting, amusing, informative and entertaining broadcast unit (Troesser 1986, S. 293), or, casually speaking, the target is to inform the people and/or make the time fly.
In the field of information, for example in the context of congresses, the target is to build rhetorical bridges between the single parts of the event and to increase its epistemological value with the help of questions, provocations and things like that.
In the context of learning, moderation/facilitation is a teaching method which helps the learners to work in groups on a certain knowledge field (or a single aspect of it). The teacher or trainer takes the role of a facilitator who helps the group to structure the knowledge without dominating the content.
In the field of problem-solving however, the aim is to help the affected person to solve a common problem with the help of group discussions. The following text deals with this field.
In modern organisations an essential tool for problem-solving is the discussion in groups, which is used to discuss the problem and work out decisions to solve the problem.
As decisions are most acceptable if all persons involved can identify with them, it is essential that the discussions are inspired and vivid, everybody gets the chance to speak and can give her/his views. In order to avoid immoderate chatter or even disputations, the discussion has to be tempered, curbed or moderated.
The more a single member of a group is involved as regards content and “convinced of an issue” the more difficult it will be to be neutral, to compare different opinions and so to temper herself/himself and moderate the discussion or to facilitate. Therefore, ideally a neutral third person will be chosen to moderate the members of the group and to give structure to the discussion. This person is called facilitator. We are talking about facilitation in the context of group discussions especially if the facilitator works with the so called “SixSteps Facilitation”.
In the sixties, the consultants of the “Quickborn Team” and its successors developed a special method to structure group discussions. The result was the so-called “Metaplan Methode” and the “ModerationsMethode”.
Subsequently many consultants and trainers developed and sold lots of modifications. Mostly those variations were called “Moderationsmethode”. (1) Today you can hardly overview the large range of offers under this headline. Even the presentation of this subject in the relevant literature differs very much. If you want to find out which theories have become relevant in daily practice, you can consult the standard reference works of facilitation literature. Certainly “Visualisation, Presentation, Facilitation” (see publishing company GABAL) - with meanwhile more than 500.000 books sold – is one of them. The method presented in this book is based on the classic “ModerationsMethode”. Additionally, you will find a structural model called “Facilitation Cycle” which will help you to give structure to a complete facilitation, and some more methods to work out topics.
This very special way of structuring group discussions “composed” by MODERATIO and taught for many years now is called "SixSteps Facilitation". These are its seven main characteristics:
Your facilitation will be most successful if all characteristics are integrated and combined.
1. Specific seating order / room layout
When structuring discussions according to the SixSteps Facilitation in a workshop(3) we always work without any tables in an open circle of chairs. The advantages are:
It is important that the participants don’t sit behind each other like in a cinema or next to each other like in a classic conference situation, but are turned to each other. Small support tables between the chairs, however, might be useful.
2. Special media and tools
Facilitation requires special media and tools(2).
The use of those media and tools allows one to work with special techniques like, for example, the well-known card query.
3. Work according to the SixSteps Facilitation
The SixSteps Facilitation is a structure model (see Seifert 2004, p. 98) for a complete facilitation. It divides the working time of the group into the steps “Introduction/Orientation”, “Gathering Topics”, “Selecting a Topic”, “Handling the Topic”, “Planning Measures” and “Conclusion” and so it clearly structures the work.
4. Process-supportive visualisation
Facilitation needs good visualisation. The results, as well as the progress of the common work, are committed to paper. What’s the purpose?
Well, in a usual conversation the auditor can receive and understand a maximum of 8 bit/sec. The speaker, however, is able to produce 60 bit/sec. This means that speaking for informative purpose must be extremely redundant (Lay 1978, p. 150). As most of us, however, are not able to bear that in mind especially during (sometimes heated) group discussions, the information has to be concentrated and visualized to make the spoken word permanently available.
It would be preferable to keep the visualisations permanently visible for all participants in the discussion. Therefore, the use of media which allow one to display only single visualisations, only makes sense if it is easily possible to switch between visualisations which have already been finished and those being worked on. The use of the already mentioned media pin-board and flip-chart are classic.(2) A more modern approach is the use of eScreen and eBoard in combination with the software SixSteps® (https://www.sixsteps.com).
5. Work with special methods for problem structuring
For structuring and visualisation of group work, the SixSteps Facilitation offers special methods for each step of the problem-solving work. The range is from “orientation flip” in step 1 to “conclusion flash light” in step 6.(5) These methods help the facilitator to draw the attention of the whole group to the current issue during the whole working process.
6. Particular basic mind set
“Principally you can say that it has a positive effect on the performance of discussion groups if the facilitator understands herself/himself as specialist for methods and processes and not as specialist for contents of a discussion“ (Myhsok 1993, p. 98). This is already reflected in the meaning of the word and the role the facilitator has to play. In other words: “It is her/his profession to have no opinion.” In daily practice, however, different situations may arise, and often it is not easy to keep to the neutral role of the facilitator:
Case A: The facilitator is the (external) neutral third person
This is the optimum casting. The facilitator can easily take the facilitator’s attitude, as she/he has no vested interests in the outcome.
Case B: The facilitator is the problem owner
In this case the compromise would be a double role. The facilitator has to also take over also the role of a participant as “primus inter pares”. A visible sign could be to stand up in the role of the facilitator and to sit down in the role of the participant (see Seifert 1999a, p. 22 ff). Regarding content, she/he must act as an especially constructive group member and respect all contributions equally, those of the group members as well as her/his own. The more controversial the subject is and the more she/he is involved, the more difficult it will become to play these two roles and the more reasonable it would be to search for a neutral third person, the “classic” facilitator.
Case C: The facilitator also has a consulting function
Facilitation and consulting do not fundamentally exclude each other. In the role of consultant you can act as a facilitator, too. However, the facilitator must not be biased in favour of her/his own point of view. She/He also has to play a double role, like in case B.
7. Use of a special questioning technique
If you want to be neutral in regard to content and steer the working process of a group at the same time, you cannot take a “wise guy” or a “tell you how” attitude, but you should always ask questions. Thus, it is essential for each facilitator to know professional questioning techniques very well. (see Seifert 1999a, p.88 ff). The SixSteps Facilitation contains three complementary methods:
These questioning techniques help the facilitator to take the required specific mind set, to keep out of contents and instead make available the ideas, the knowledge … of the group members for their common working process (see more in MODERATIO Notice No. 16 on www.moderatio.com).
I wish you further effective meetings!
Yours, Josef W. Seifert
© MODERATIO 2015 // Bibliography see PDF below