The more complicated the task, the greater the range of different stakeholders and/or workshop participants, the more highly charged the atmosphere, and the greater the time pressure, the more a project manager becomes overwhelmed. It often only takes one of the above factors to trigger this feeling – let alone two or more!
Simple moderation techniques are perfect tools when challenges are simple. However, most of these have their limits because they are not adapted to the task in hand, nor can these tools be combined for use in a process management context. We wouldn't attempt to cut our lawn with a hedge trimmer, for example, so why should we apply the same tools across the board, irrespective of the task in hand?
This can lead to decisions being made, whose consequences were estimated to be small yet whose impact turns out to be severe. Sometimes, decisions are not even made, or certain people are excluded. This is of limited benefit to both quality and the requirements of the project. If we also add the latest research findings or the 'groupthink' phenomenon (Janis) into the equation, we shouldn't be surprised at some of the consequences.
This also concerns the steering committee when decisions are requested of them, as well as the team manager, when he implements work packages.
The project manager has always used meetings or workshops as a tool to support his many tasks, such as defining requirements, planning and coordinating the project, to name but a few.
The workshop facilitator plays an essential role in the tasks mentioned here.
The workshop facilitator is an additional role. Either internal or external, and often attached to the PMO, the facilitator is obliged to act 100% independently of the outcome and required to remain flexible throughout the whole process.
In the case of smaller projects or uncomplicated tasks, it definitely makes sense for the project manager to be equipped with certain extra skills, such as simplifying decision-making or people skills. In all other cases, this position should be filled by a qualified specialist whose role it is to support the project manager.
From the outside, facilitation sometimes seems to work like magic, whereby it is often referred to as a magic wand. However, if the magic wand is to do its job properly, the facilitator needs to be fully versed on the matter at hand and base his work on systemic principles.