Process Vs. Product in Team Building
By Larry Lipman
The Process is the responsibility of the facilitator.
The Product is the responsibility of the group.
The main task of the facilitator is to help the group increase its effectiveness by improving its process.
The fundamental assumption of the facilitator is this: If we can improve group process, we can improve the group's ability to solve problems and make decisions.
I think facilitators, particularly new ones, get hung up sometimes thinking that they are responsible for the outcome of a group's efforts. If you are operating as a true facilitator, your job starts and ends with the development and maintenance of a healthy facilitative process appropriate to the product the group desires. Process refers to how a group works together. Their product could be the solution to a problem, a plan of action, a deeper more effective working relationship between group members, etc. But whatever their product, the group is responsible for delivering it, not you.
In fact, if a facilitator is an expert in the group's content, he or she must guard against the temptation to intervene in that content. This might distract the group process and lose the facilitator’s all important neutrality.
Suppose you are facilitating a group that is interested in improving customer service. Discussions around creating and implementing ideas to get more feedback from customers, improving the relating skills of front-line employees, improving systems to provide faster more efficient service, etc. are all discussions about content.
Your job is to listen to this conversation for how group members are relating and working together. In this exchange, you might notice that one gives answers without acknowledging others, that people talk over one another, that incorrect assumptions are being made, that resulting faulty inferences are drawn, that the body language of certain individuals is speaking louder than words, yet it is never put into words. These are examples of process that constitute fertile terrain on which you can intervene to help the group improve their communication process, problem-solving process, decision-making process, etc. Any of which have the potential of making the group more effective.
The next time you are involved in a meeting, observe and distinguish between elements of the meeting that are content OR process.