Makin’ it work


Oxford Dictionaries:

Facilitate (verb)

Make (an action or process) easy or easier.

The overuse of this word is rampant in the non-profit world. You want to get something done – you don’t use your own logic and resources  to actually solve the problem you hire someone to facilitate it for you. You don’t chair a meeting – you facilitate the meeting. You don’t get things done – you facilitate the process. You have yourself so far backed into the corner with looping, elliptical thinking that you need a facilitator to lead you back out again.

I associate facilitate not with making things easier but adding additional layers of complexity and complication to situations that could be solved by making the hard  decisions. To facilitate has taken the place of using common sense and it really needs to be shelved. To facilitate is a euphemism meaning “we-don’t-really-know-what-we’re-doing” but if we use this sophisticated-sounding word, it appears as though we do know. It is one of those words that sound brisk, efficient and hospital-clean. By using the verb facilitate you are giving the impression (to the untutored) that something is actually being done when in fact everything stays exactly the same. It’s the semantic equivalent of a Task Force or study undertaken by the government to make it look to the electorate as if something is being done about a very serious problem. If you get to the point where you need someone to facilitate things for you, then you really have a problem.




One thought on “Makin’ it work

  1. An interesting post. I remember meetings before the idea of facilitation was commonplace. The aim then was to help leaders involve people rather than dominate, shelve irrelevant discussions for later by agreement to help the group focus on what they were trying to achieve and generally ‘make things easier’. Imagine a coaching session where your boss didn’t lead the meeting alone, but had a separate facilitator nudging and correcting them, and an independent time keeper – that was how things worked at my workplace at the time. Most bosses would probably benefit from that now and again. I wouldn’t go back to the pre-facilitation world, but you’re right that another step on is long overdue.

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