How do you go about designing a robust yet flexible facilitation process? Hopefully you’re not just cobbling together a few random activities, like brainstorming and using dot stickers to vote on the best ideas, and hoping this will do. In case you need some structure and process, in this episode we’re going to explore the FIDO process and help put some bite into your facilitation!
Bob Dick wrote the second edition of Helping groups to be effective: skills, processes and concepts for group facilitation back in 1991. It is still for sale on his website and John has a well-worn copy on his bookshelf. John has fond memories attending Bob’s lectures when he was undertaking some postgrad studies back in the 90s. And Denise learnt about action research doing an online course run by Bob! In his book, Bob describes a metaprocess for process design, which John has used many, many times. It talks about four elements: feelings, information, decisions and outcomes. Hence the acronym of FIDO.
The underlying assumption is that positive feelings allow the interchange of information, which if useful and understood, help those present to make more effective decisions. If these have the required commitment of those involved, and are able to be achieved and evaluated, then the desired outcomes are more likely to be achieved. The diagram below shows the prerequisites for each step in greater detail.
We like to think of the framework as a ladder that we can walk up and down. What is not immediately obvious from that diagram is that when we are designing an activity, we start from the bottom up. We firstly need to clearly define the outcomes, which may be broken down into ultimate ones, intermediate ones and immediate ones. We then define the required decisions to be made by the participants for the outcomes to be achieved. Then we can determine what information is required by the participants to make the required decisions. Additionally, we can be clear about the feelings we’re hoping to create or those negative ones that we might need to deal with during the process.
When we are facilitating the event, we work our way down the ladder. We help the group elicit and exchange information, so everyone is well informed about the background. It is important to check that all the participants not only have the required information, and that they understand it. We can then help them make decisions that will then produce the desired outcomes. We can check in to see how people are feeling, and deal with negative ones whenever necessary. Sometimes we would do this at the beginning of the process if we know that tensions are running high. Other times we would check in with participants during the process. Most often we check in towards the end of the process when the decisions have been made. It is important to determine that no negative feelings have been aroused and that the participants feel suitably positive about the decisions. Sometimes this is an iterative process, which is repeated until sufficient people are sufficiently happy with the outcome.
The second diagram shows how we work our way up the FIDO model, and then back down, dealing with emotions whenever necessary. This reminds us of Bennett’s hierarchy, which we covered in an earlier episode, where you can design an activity by going down the staircase and then evaluate it by going up the stairs.
What we both like most about the FIDO model is that it identifies feelings as an integral part of the process. So often in our Western culture we act as if emotions are not important, and worse, that they impede effective decision making. Instead, they’re an integral part and can help improve the quality of the decisions we make.
And just as an aside, that is also why we like the ORID discussion process because it too highlights the need to reflect on feelings. We’ve done an episode on that as well, if you’re interested.
But back to FIDO—it’s a useful metaprocess to help improve the effectiveness of our facilitation. To learn all the ins and outs, we suggest you buy the book, as it contains that and many other useful approaches.
Well, you’ve heard our thoughts, now we would like to hear yours! Add a comment below the blog post and tell us about your experiences with using the FIDO process or similar, including any tips and further ideas about it. We do not want this to be just a one-way conversation—join in by sharing your thoughts and ideas with us! And a special hat tip to Bob Dick, as we know he follows our work here at Enablers of change. He’s a deep thinker who has made immeasurable contributions to the facilitation discipline, plus he is a lovely, humble guy. Thank you Bob!
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All the best until we meet again!
P.S. Bob lovingly recreated the graphics used in this blog post, so that we’d have lovely crisp images. Plus he updated the FIDO design process one, to make the steps clearer.
Dick, R. (1991). Helping groups to be effective: skills, processes and concepts for group facilitation (2nd ed.). Chapel Hill, Queensland: Interchange.