#44 How to master facilitation and achieve great group outcomes with Dr. Morgan Jones.

Proudly brought to you in association with S A Partners, a world-leading business transformation consultancy.


Dr Morgan Jones is a Business Transformation expert who has focused his career on studying and helping organisations achieve sustainable results.

I am so pleased to have Dr Morgan Jones on the show to discuss an essential skill in leading an excellence journey within an organisation. The skill of facilitation. Morgan is the author of Sponsor Success, 4+1 and the new book Mastering Facilitation, A Guide for Assisting Teams and Achieving Great Outcomes. Let's get into the episode. Morgan, thank you so much for joining us today.

Proudly brought to you in association with S A Partners, a world-leading business transformation consultancy.


Morgan started working in the Royal Personnel Navy and then in the Merchant Navy. He was involved with some old ships, worked in dry docks and tried to make things better and safer. He didn't get involved in lean and six sigma until he studied manufacturing at university. That's where he got to grips with actually applying it in the real world.

Elements of best practice in the Navy

Morgan speaks about creating people in your team who could step up in an emergency if a leader was injured. Morgan also believes in the inspiring but straightforward purpose of the Navy: to serve and protect. Could you relate everything that you do back to this purpose? So simple, yet powerful. Standardising things also became important because when under stress, people could still follow instructions and be safe.

He speaks about the massive cultural shift with increasing diversity in the Navy. A history with thousands of years to overcome was a challenge to achieve. Morgan believes that this comes down to challenging the mindset.

Mastering facilitation

When did Morgan realise the importance of facilitation and the power that this can create?

Morgan was part of a team session facilitated by an outsider, and it was chaos. His manager arrived partway through the session with a poster with four written points on it. Morgan watched him turn the mess into a three-hour session where everyone felt engaged, listened to, and could contribute and debate in healthy ways. Morgan was so fascinated, watching that facilitation in action. His boss kept everyone in the team focussed on the purpose. What's the purpose? Why are we here? What are we trying to focus on now? The boss didn't notice his way of naturally engaging others, keeping everyone focused but empowering them at the same time.

After watching his boss in facilitation, Morgan got involved, initially becoming the Kaizen

facilitator. He wasn't given a structure that helped him. He wanted to get all the great minds thinking, leverage their strengths to get to the right outcome and ensure everybody was feeling and buying into the solution. He then worked for a company and would facilitate all of the leadership team events, challenging their thinking. After several sessions, the CEO asked Morgan to teach the team the facilitation process. Morgan thought, of course, but when he started thinking about teaching facilitation, he realised he had no structure. So he broke his ideas right down into a fundamental process with clear steps and the skills needed. It took seven years of writing and editing, building upon the draft, etc., for the book to mature.

The book is suitable for people who are starting off and also for those more experienced.

The first section of the book: Facilitation fundamentals.

The start piece

The start piece is all about setting the context and defining the purpose. So sometimes, you may have a purpose already described. Sometimes you need to get everybody to buy into that. So you understand how much of a challenge it will be to work with current mindsets. Is this going to be new? Does anybody know anything about it? Could this be confrontational? Make sure that you have the data actually to run the session. You would end the start piece with the 'end in mind'.

The end in mind

What is the desired outcome for the session and get everybody to buy into it. What does finished or good look like at the end? Write that out big and bold, and make sure everyone is crystal clear. This gives you the purpose of the session. And then follow the process because it's pretty easy to get distracted and go running down rabbit holes.

Think of facilitation as a process

So start with the end in mind, and think of facilitation as a process. Then, break the session down into chunks. Don't be so disciplined. Instead, keep the focus on the essential tasks, and keep the audience engaged.

Understand your role

Don't try and do everything yourself: ask someone to help keep time and help scribe. The important thing is, when you're the facilitator, you're not the content expert. Your role is not to be the functional expert. If you need to be a content expert, you need to be a participant and ask somebody else to facilitate. So the facilitator needs to guide the team to get to the right outcome that everyone buys into.

The tools during the session

You have to work out what tools will help you get to the outcome, which is a prioritised solution. How much time and effort do you have to put in? Is it a day? Well, how much of a robust solution do you want? And this is where sometimes cutting it short can have a detrimental effect.

The follow-up

After the end of the workshop, make sure any actions noted, e.g. a brainstorm, a risk matrix or recommendations, actually get done. Otherwise, it's just a talking session. So it's really to make sure what does good look like the end? The end in mind is documenting and doing something with it. It would be best to determine who will take ownership of actions and when they will be done by. That's really what the end in mind looks like: people are actually doing something due to the workshop. It's not just an email!