Burt Bertram, Ed. D.

As professional group facilitator, I am not a vested stakeholder. My entire focus is on helping the group (organization, business, association, board or team) improve the way it communicates, identifies issues, makes decisions, solves problems, and resolves conflict. I approach each facilitation project by listening very carefully...and asking many clarifying questions.

I want to ensure that:

1)    I have a full appreciation for the current issues and challenges affecting the group and
2) We agree on a description of the desired outcome - how the group will be improved as a result of my assistance.
My role as a facilitator often involves assisting client organizations around one or more of the topics listed below.

Meetings & Retreats
From time-to-time, it is in the best interests of nearly every organization, department, team, workgroup, board or group to step back from "business-as-usual" and spend a day or two reflecting on itself. Most meetings or retreats are created to address at least three important dimensions. Organizations determine which of these broad dimensions are most - and - least important for any given meeting. The meeting is then designed to reflect the desired emphasis. The best retreats are a blending of all three dimensions.

•  Review of Business Issues: Business issues include opportunities to review/update plans; set/redefine priorities; update/expand goals; introduce new policies; procedures, products or people; resolve difficult issues; clarify roles and expectations; identify issues that are frustrating progress or profitability and many others.
•  Build Relationships: A good off-site meeting should provide both structured relationship building activities as well as informal time where people can connect and learn about each other. Every relationship built or strengthened during the retreat will pay positive dividends to the group during the coming year.
•  Energize, Motivate, and Celebrate: Enjoyment, fun and celebration should be a part of every retreat. Play is important to adults - and too often overlooked.

It is the role of facilitator to help the organization determine the desired outcome of the meeting/retreat and then to design and implement (facilitate) a process that will produce the desired results. Often times this involves the gathering of pre-meeting data/ perceptions (via survey, focus groups or individual interviews) from the intended participants and/or from external stakeholders for presentation during the meeting. Additionally the facilitator should assist with the post-meeting evaluation in an effort to determine what organizers of the meeting as well as participants found most - least valuable and to recommend next steps.

Planning & Goal Settings
Planning means different things to different endeavors and organizations. For some, traditional long range planning is both possible and necessary. In other, more highly fluid endeavors, "long range planning" has shrunk to rolling 3-6 month plans. What remains constant is that without an honest assessment of the current realities and the anticipated challenges, quality planning will be very difficult.

Good planning is based on good data. The honest perspectives of internal stakeholders (owners, executives, managers, and employees) as well as the perceptions of important external stakeholders (clients/customers, partners, suppliers, etc.) must be obtained. This information is compiled in the form of a SWOT Analysis...the Strengths - Weaknesses - Opportunities -Threats of the organization.

Then, through a series of meetings and discussions the hard truths, the implications, and the opportunities identified through the SWOT become apparent. Ultimately, goals are set in response to six strategic questions:

1) What are the current realities affecting the organization?
2) What is the current status of the organization?
3) Where is the organization headed?
4) Where should the organization be headed?
5) What actions are necessary to move the organization forward?
6) How can actions be implemented?

Team Building
The Team Building process begins with an assessment of the strengths and liabilities of the teamwork climate in the organization. The assessment involves a comprehensive identification of the stresses, work habits, teamwork practices, and interpersonal issues currently affecting the organization. The intent of this assessment is to identify the real strengths and the real issues (not to find fault, point fingers or find a scapegoat), so that appropriate interventions can be designed to address the core concerns. Data from the assessment is compiled and analyzed by the consultant. Trends and issues are identified. To the extent possible, all personal identifying information is removed.

Findings from the assessment are most useful when presented to every member of the work group during a meeting. During this report-out meeting, an Action Plan for improving the functioning of the organization can be collaboratively developed. Trust and honesty are demonstrated. Buy-in to the teamwork improvement plan is maximized.

In coordination with a Teamwork Improvement Steering Group (formal team leader and representative supervisors and line staff) a series of team building interventions are designed and implemented. Interventions may include; management consultation, individual coaching, facilitated team meetings, conflict mediation and skill training seminars. Each intervention is designed to be an empowering experience that communicates confidence that positive change is occurring. The Team Building process is effective when "ownership" for the success of the effort is offered to every member of the team and accepted by most.

•  Group Facilitation
Meetings & Retreats
- Planning & Goal Setting
- Team Building
  •  Conflict Resolution
Burt Bertram Website