10 Books on Facilitation (with 11 Quotes)

Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 11.27.11 AMHere are my top 11 recommendations on books related to facilitation:

Great meetings!: How to facilitate like a pro. Kelsey, D., & Plumb, P. (1997). A good intro. “The facilitator impacts and guides the process but does not give input on the content of a meeting – that comes from the participants.” –Kelsey and Plumb

The Bonfire Collection: A Complete Reference Guide to Facilitation and Change. Briggs, B. (2014).  I’m happy to be one of the 31 facilitators from around the world that contributed to this book! “In the hands of a competent facilitator, a well-designed process sets the stage and supports the group as it explores options, navigates conflict and reaches decisions.”  -Beatrice Briggs

The Art of Facilitation: How to create group synergy. Hunter, D., Bailey, A., & Taylor, B. (1995). Another good introduction to facilitation that has one of my favorite quotes defining facilitation: “Effective group facilitation is an artful dance requiring rigorous discipline. The role of the facilitator offers an opportunity to dance with life on the edge of the sword, to be present and aware, to be with and for people in a way that cuts through to what enhances and facilitates life. A facilitator is a peaceful warrior.” -Hunter, Bailey & Tailor

Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. Kaner, S., & Lind, L. (1996). One of the first books I read on facilitation that gives a helpful framework for thinking about meetings and various strategies to serve groups. Another good introduction to the topic. “The facilitator’s job is to support everyone to do their best thinking and practice. To do this, the facilitator encourages full participation, promotes mutual understanding and cultivates shared responsibility. By supporting everyone to do their best thinking, a facilitator enables group members to search for inclusive solutions and build sustainable agreements” – Kaner

The Skilled Facilitator. Schwarz, R. (2002). Here’s the book to read if you want to go deeper. A comprehensive book covering in detail a framework for ground rules, when and how to intervene and much more. One of my favorites. “Group facilitation is a process in which a person whose selection is acceptable to all the members of the group, who is substantively neutral, and who has no substantive decision-making authority diagnoses and intervenes to help a group improve how it identifies and solves problems and makes decisions, to increase the group’s effectiveness.” –Schwarz

Making Questions Work: A guide to what and how to ask for facilitators, consultants, managers, coaches, and educators. Strachan, D. (2007). An excellent overview on asking questions, an important skill facilitators bring to groups. Here’s a link to my review. “The right questions for the right people at the right time are at the heart of healthy group process – a top priority in effective and dynamic facilitation.” -Strachan

Retreats That Work: Designing and conducting effective offsites for groups and organizations. Liteman, M., Campbell, S., Liteman, J., & Sugar, S. (2006). Great suggestions for planning effective retreats, with plenty of suggestions for activities to facilitate. Here’s a link to my review. “It’s critical that the facilitator be neutral…the facilitator must focus on how participants are working together to achieve their goals.” – Liteman, Campell & Liteman

Visual Meetings: How graphics, sticky notes, & idea mapping can transform group productivity. Sibbet, D. (2010). Lots of great best practices for incorporating visuals into your meetings. “Engagement explodes in meetings when people are listened to and acknowledged by having what they say recorded in an interactive, graphic way.” -Sibbet

Advanced Facilitation Strategies: Tools & techniques to master difficult situations. Bens, I. (2005). This book looks at specific challenging situations and how to best handle them. “One who contributes structure and process to interactions so groups are able to function effectively and make high-quality decisions. A helper and enabler whose goal is to support others as they achieve exceptional performance” – Bens

Process Consultation Revisited: Building the helping relationship. Schein, E. H. (1999). How do we best help? This book is less about facilitation and more about understanding the process, which is within the facilitator’s realm. “Dialog can be thought of as a form of conversation that makes it possible, even likely, for participants to become aware of some of the hidden and tacit assumptions that derive from our cultural learning, our language, and our psychological makeup.” -Schein

Bonfire. Briggs, B (2013) (Selection of articles on facilitation from the International Institute and Change). Lots of great articles that will someday be a book, including a few I wrote. “A facilitator is the custodian of the consensus process, a servant-leader whose purpose is to help the group make the best decisions possible.” – Briggs

There’s also lots of good resources on the International Association of Facilitators website, of which I’m a member and a Certified Professional Facilitator. I also created a series of one-page articles on my Resources page you’re welcome to download. I welcome any other suggestions you have for books you found valuable on the topic of facilitation. Enjoy your reading and good luck as you put your ideas into practice. After you do so, find time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t so you can refine your approach next time.

The quote I’ll leave you with is another one I like that relates to faciltation: “The Master doesn’t talk, he acts. 
When his work is done, 
the people say, “Amazing: 
we did it, all by ourselves!”
 -Tao Te Ching

About Ron Milam

Ron Milam, MSOD, works to transform the Pacific Coast into a sustainable region through leadership and organization development for collaborative change initiatives. Since 2005, Ron has served over 150 clients as an organization and network development practitioner.
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