Musing on Facilitation

by GaneshChidambarakrishnan

Posted on December 17, 2015 at 9:00 PM

It was deja vu for me to get back to manufacturing shop floor and work with people on shop floor improvement projects last week. I was deeply touched by the workmen's deep hunger to learn and their active participation to make things better. Given the right context, how a simple activity of cleaning one's machine can energise people. (It energised me, even though it wasn't my machine). Frameworks such as 5S, TPM, Six Sigma tools etc help structure and share knowledge for easy action. But for meaningful action, it is important to integrate these frameworks and take up action that is relevant for the given work context (and not get caught in the silos of the framework per se). Badri's* "Cleaning with Meaning" was one such master stroke. {* S. BadriNarayana, Managing Director, Flame Tao Knoware)

When I was struggling with my half baked Hindi to communicate to people in the small group setting, it was heartening to see how the group received my language with care - that I made an effort to speak in Hindi was by itself sufficient - I found the group walking many steps forward to receive what I had to offer (on a different note, going by what I heard, I realise my Hindi was not all that bad!)

Creating the human context for the activity is critical. The initial activities to help the group connect to themselves and to others at a human level was defining point of the intervention. While I have done many LSIP (Large Scale Integration Process) events many times before, doing it in the shop floor and integrating that with activities in their respective gemba was an experience in itself. More than micro planning the event and getting the plan executed to perfection, it is more important to hold the space & energy and let people find solutions to the emergent here & now. When people are energised, the faults are not seen. At other times, the faults get magnified. I experienced both these in myself.

Very often, the purported goal of any such initiatives is about waste/ cost reduction or productivity improvement. But, I think that is only an intended consequence. The key is energising and exciting people to the possibilities and focusing the importance on to them. Once this happens, improvement happens by itself. By corollary, pushing for improvement can sap the energy; this may give short term results, but eventually stagnates/ dies down.

I guess the difference between the two is very subtle. For the former, what is required is a fairly high degree of faith in the process and a nail biting patience (I bet!) from the sponsoring manager. I have often been told when I teach yoga that the nature of the teacher's presence would impact the experience of the practitioners - and I have often experienced the truth in this. I realise, this is true in any space that one holds. The event also triggered some ideas of "Zero Instruction Training" in me - More about this, as this thought takes root and plays out for itself.

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