A Facilitation Consultants Guide to Defining Your Services: 7 Popular Facilitation Services

Facilitative Consultant in a meeting

Written by Malia Josephine

January 17, 2022

In this blog learn how to describe the what, how, and final deliverables of your facilitative consultant services to potential clients.

“How do I describe to potential clients what I offer?”

It’s a question I’ve heard over and over again in my discovery calls (book one for free!) with facilitators from around the world. Professional facilitators often struggle to determine and define their services. 

But no worries, fellow facilitators. I’ve researched over 100 facilitation company’s websites and analysed the types of services they offer. These companies operate in diverse industries and disciplines, but all use facilitative approaches. Companies researched include large and small consulting firms, independent consultants, and freelancers. In this blog post I share my biggest findings from this research and summarize the spectrum of services you can provide to clients. 

My biggest findings 

All consulting firms have the same types of services

I found regardless of whatever niche a facilitation company specializes in they all provide essentially the same types of services. 

Services often build on other services 

Imagine you are at an al carte restaurant. You can get salad, chips, and dipping sauce all for a separate small price. Or you can get them all bundled together with a main meal. It’s similar in the consulting world. A client may just order an “appetizer” service such as a research report, a designed facilitator guide, or a training workshop.

But if a client wants a full transformation or for you to lead the implementation of a project they may go for a more complex and comprehensive service like an engagement plan or strategic initiative, which includes research, facilitation, training, and many other services. 

A lot of consulting firms suck as describing their services

I’ve seen some amazing service descriptions and I’ve seen a lot of bad service descriptions. The difference is in how comprehensive and detailed the descriptions are. Most facilitative consultants do well at describing what their service is, but they fall short with describing how they are going to conduct the service and what the final deliverables are.

To be fair and add nuance, a lot of facilitative consultants are working with clients on extremely complex and dynamic problems. The final deliverable often shifts as the scope changes. However, I can’t help but postulate that one reason why the majority of the business world doesn’t know what facilitative services are and how they add value is because so many consulting firms don’t describe the final deliverables and the tangible success metrics associated with that deliverable. 

Let’s get to the good stuff…What are the 7 most common facilitative consultant services? 

1. Research Services 
2. Assessment and Advisory Services 
3. Coaching and Training Services 
4. Design Services 
5. Facilitation Services 
6. Engagement Services 
7. Management and Strategy Services  

1. Research Services 

What it is

Research services can mean doing primary and secondary research on an issue, stakeholder’s interests, region or demographics, or solutions and best practices.

How it’s done  

Primary research can be done through interviews, surveys, participatory action, and focus groups. Secondary research can be done through online searches, studies, books, and print publications. 

Final Deliverable 

Oftentimes research informs another service that a facilitative consultant is providing to a client. The final deliverable will be a report with quantitative and qualitative data, interpretive thematic analysis and findings, and recommendations that informs something like an engagement, strategy, action, or management plan or initiative.  

Case Study - Research Services

Company: Enviroissues

Mission: EnviroIssues is a public involvement and community outreach consulting firm. 

Service Name: Research and Surveys 

Service Description:

The most effective public participation plans begin with research. Our thoughtful research design, quality participant screening and smart survey questions helps our clients understand stakeholder and public sentiment. Integrating research into public involvement and outreach efforts helps get to defensible conclusions and solutions that stick. Our in-house expertise includes telephone, intercept, mail and online surveys; custom panels; focus groups and stakeholder interviews. But we don’t stop there – we dive into data analysis to produce a research-driven roadmap that shows where you’ve been, where you are and where you need to go.

2. Assessment and Advisory Services 

Also known as Diagnostic and Review Services 

What it is 

You review and assess a company’s operations, systems, policies, leadership performance, organizational culture, power structures, etc. Examples: 

  • Quality Reviews
  • Board Development Assessments
  • Operational and Structural Assessments
  • Situational and Organizational Assessments 
  • Strategic Alignment Advisory Services 

How it’s done  

You conduct assessment services through document review, observations, surveys, interviews, and focus groups to inquire about the quality, effectiveness, and performance of whatever is being assessed. 

Final Deliverable

The final deliverable tends to be an advisory based report that identifies strengths, areas of improvements, and risks. In addition, the report includes recommendations and tools, methods, and strategies based on industry-leading research to inform future initiatives and action plans. 

Case Study - Assessment and Advisory Services

Company: SchoolWorks

Mission: An education consulting group with the mission of advancing all aspects of student learning and well-being by building the capacity of educators and educational institutions to assess, plan for, and achieve student success.

Service Name: Quality Reviews 

Service Description: 

We provide objective on-site Quality Reviews of academic programs conducted through document review, classroom observation, and interviews/focus groups. During our reviews, school practices are measured against SCHOOLWORKS® Quality Criteria – a research-based set of standards linked to positive student outcomes. Each review includes a verbal and written report that identifies strengths and areas of need to inform improvement planning.

 

3. Coaching and Training Services 

Why did we pair these two services together? We know that training and coaching services are very different services. We also know from our research that a lot of facilitative consultants offer these services together. They will train a group or leader and then use coaching methods to help an individual integrate the training material. 

What it is 

Training: Facilitative consultants offer training services to individual consumers, people like you and me, and to businesses and organizations. In the training participants learn about theory, techniques, and skills that will increase their performance. The time duration of trainings can be anywhere from hours, to days, to weeks, to even months long. 

Coaching: Similar to training, facilitative consultants can offer coaching services to individual consumers or to employees in a company. You can offer one-on-one and group coaching services. Coaching services are aimed at supporting people with behavior change. With training you teach people about a competency and with coaching you help people practice the skills to improve their performance in a competency.  Example: 

  • Leadership Development Training and Coaching 
  • Conflict Management Training and Coaching 
  • Systems Thinking Training and Coaching 

How it’s done  

Training: Most facilitative consultants have a predesigned training that focuses on their niche framework. A company or person will register for a pre-recorded training, online live training, or an in person training. Sometimes the facilitator will work with the organization to assess needs, goals, and specific issues to customize the training. 

Coaching: Every coach does it differently. But you could start with assessing and interviewing the client. Then you can co-create goals and action plans with the client. You may even conduct on-site shadowing and progress reviews of the client. Most coaching programs are personalized and work to create accountability systems that help clients apply new skills to their work environment.

Final Deliverable 

For training the final deliverable is usually the training and training material itself. For coaching, besides the actual coaching sessions the deliverable could be a final review assessment. 

Case Study - Coaching and Training Services

Company: Pollack Peace Building

Mission: Pollack Peacebuilding Systems is a conflict management consulting firm. 

Service Name: Conflict Resolution Training and Conflict Coaching 

Service Description:

We are a full-service workplace training and coaching firm that designs custom, interactive conflict resolution and communication training workshops for small and large work teams around the world.

Pollack Peacebuilding’s workplace conflict coaching programs are designed to improve both conflict management skills and communication skills for executives and employees. Most of our coaching programs and services are performed online via live, video conferencing. We offer both one-on-one coaching as well as group and team coaching formats.

4. Facilitation Services 

What it is 

Facilitation services are about providing an unbiased third party facilitator who will design and manage the process of an event to support group cohesion and effectiveness. You can design and facilitate any event, including meetings, retreats, workshops, focus groups, conferences, open houses, committees, etc… Types of facilitation services: 

  • Meeting Facilitation 
  • Team Facilitation 
  • Dialogue Facilitation
  • Workshop Facilitation 
  • Conference Facilitation 
  • Public Forum Facilitation 
  • Open Space Facilitation  

How it’s done  

You work with the client to assess things like their goals, expectations, interests, current challenges, the power dynamics of the group, and past actions. This can include individual interviews and focus groups to gather perspectives from all members of a team.

You then use your facilitation expertise to choose the appropriate methodologies to create the facilitator guide for the event, which you will either co-create with the client or develop by yourself. You then will facilitate the event using your facilitator guide and potentially document the meeting through note-taking on a flip chart or having a co-facilitator note-take. 

Final Deliverable 

The final deliverable for facilitation services tends to be an internal facilitator guide, an external event agenda, whatever supplies and material is needed for the event, and the facilitation of the event. In addition, either you or the client will conduct meeting documentation through note-taking or graphic recording (also known as visual facilitation) throughout the meeting.

Sometimes the client will want to do note-taking during the meeting. Sometimes note-taking also known as meeting documentation is your responsibility, so best to find another co-facilitator to help with note-taking because it can be a huge task! 

Case Study - Facilitation Services

Company: MSM Global Consulting

Mission: MSM Global Consulting offers a unique approach to organizational culture change by empowering organizations to achieve greater success through embracing equity, diversity and inclusivity.

Service Name: Dialogue Facilitation 

Service Description: 

MSM Global Consulting facilitates challenging dialogues around equity, diversity and inclusion for organizations. We recognize the importance of bringing people together to have honest, humanistic, and heartfelt conversations. In comparison to training, dialogue facilitation is about co-creating a shared experience for individuals of different backgrounds and perspectives to share and learn from one another. Dialogues can be incredibly healing for teams in conflict and empower participants to collectively identify next steps to grow together.

Example – Center at a large federal agency 

MSM Global conducted individual interviews with each member of the leadership team to identify their perspectives, concerns, needs, and expectations. We then designed and conducted a one-day offsite meeting to help the team engage in candid dialogue about their needs and challenges. We provided a structured approach to encourage the team to dream of the future vision of the center and prioritize actions to close the gap from the current state to the future vision. Following the retreat, MSM Global provided a report with key themes from the retreat, as well as the roadmap the team had developed to achieve its future vision.

5. Design Services 

What it is

Leading or assisting with designing a program, product or service, program or project, event agenda, facilitator guide, or organizational systems and processes. What you’ll notice with design services is that you can design anything. Examples: 

  • Event Design – Workshop, Meeting, Conference, Retreat Design
  • Public Participation Program/Plan Design
  • Dispute Resolution System Design
  • Conflict Management System Design
  • Organizational Design (This is part of a much larger field called Organizational Development) 
  • Design Sprint
  • Dialogue Application Design
  • Transformative Process Design 

How it’s done

Let’s start with the more simple and smaller design services like designing a meeting agenda or facilitator guide. 

First you will have a consultation meeting to assess the clients needs, expectations, what’s been done in the past, and what success would look like with completing this deliverable. After that initial meeting you will design the product and then have the client give feedback on it for further revision. If’s often that simple. 

Moving onto the more larger and intense services like organizational design, systems design, design sprints, or project and program design.

These services are highly contextual and all have different phases and methodologies. However, I’ll do my best to break it down into a simple formula.

First you work with the clients on reviewing and assessing their needs, capabilities, strengths, challenges, performance, market position etc. You then work with the client and their stakeholders on these items:

1)  Identify the problem or opportunity

2) Brainstorm and ideate design options

3) Evaluate the options and decide on an idea to prototype

4) Create a prototype version of the design  

Next steps could include creating an implementation plan for the design and adoption success metrics (see Management and Strategy Services below to learn more about the implementation process of a design). 

Final Deliverable 

Most design services will have a final deliverable like a report, presentation, design prototype, design implementation plan, or another creative medium that describes the design you have created for the client. Complex design services can also include final deliverables like new standard operating procedures, decision making frameworks, or process improvement strategies. 

Case Study - Design Services

Company: Navalent

Mission: Organizational design, leadership development and strategy consultants who partner with leaders for transformative organizational change.

Service Name: Organizational Design 

Service Description: 

Work with a veteran team of organizational design consultants who will help you dig past your business’s surface issues and provide you with the business transformation services, tools and insights to achieve long-term success.

A Critical, Deep Diagnostic Process

Gain deeper insight into your organization’s capabilities, strengths, challenges, current state of effectiveness and performance gaps with a thorough diagnostic assessment. Getting to the root causes of organizational issues, we will help you and your leadership team create a clear strategic mandate and define design criteria that your organization needs to meet, and achieve, its business objectives. 

The Answer is Sitting Next to You

The people best able to design your organization are your leaders.Using a facilitated, collaborative approach to organizational design that is customized to your business, our business consultants will guide you and your executive team to evaluate options, make critical choices & trade-offs, and align on a design that will drive business performance. Through a five-phase approach to organizational design, our business consultants will work with you to integrate all aspects of your business – your people, information, technology, processes and structure – enabling you to compete in your market at the highest level.

6. Engagement Services 

Also known as Participation, Involvement, Partnership Building, and Coalition Building Services 

What is it 

Engagement services are long-term complex projects that utilize participatory methodologies. Engagement services involve engaging stakeholders such as communities, employees, teams, the public, public-private partnerships, coalitions, service agencies, etc. Facilitative consultants create a long-term comprehensive engagement plan which includes multiple types of participatory events and strategies.

The participatory strategies utilized will be determined by the goal of the client’s project. The goal of any engagement project runs on spectrum of involvement: 1) Informing Stakeholders, 2) Consulting Stakeholders, 3) Partnering with Stakeholders, 4) Creating Co-Ownership with Stakeholders (Influenced by Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation). Examples: 

  • Community Engagement 
  • Employee Engagement 
  • Stakeholder Engagement 
  • Team Engagement 
  • Campaign Engagement 
  • Public Participation 
  • Public Involvement
  • Coalition Building
  • Partnership Building 

How it’s done  

Engagement services involve many subservices including research, design, facilitation, training, advisory, and strategy services. You will often conduct existing conditions research that identifies political dynamics, stakeholders demographics, and historical records.

You then design and facilitate things like surveys, interviews, focus groups, online platforms, open houses, public forums, and other participatory based events. You often are gathering huge amounts of meeting documentation from all your events and analysing and interpreting that data to write up an engagement findings report. You can also deliver training programs and strategy sessions aimed at building capacity, skills, and knowledge about participatory engagement to the stakeholders involved. 

Final Deliverable 

In most cases the final deliverables will include a findings presentation that synthesizes the qualitative and quantitative data found from the engagement efforts, a recommendations report that informs the clients project, and frameworks and criteria matrixs that will help the client make decisions based on the engagement findings.

Case Study - Engagement Services

Company: Dialogue Partners

Mission: Dialogue Partners is a nationally-recognized public engagement consultancy. 

Service Name: Build Process for Engagement 

Service Description: 

We work hand-in-hand with you to architect end-to-end public engagement processes that work for your organization and its stakeholders. Our values-based approach unpacks what is most important and supports finding common ground– whether budgets, land use, environment, healthcare, energy, education or anything else. We set the stage for real, honest conversations.

Example – Developing a new community- driven health care model

Dialogue Partners worked with Health Directors, front-line staff and community members to implement the engagement process in a number of ways:

  • Conducted interviews with Health Care providers, Directors and key stakeholders to create the engagement approach
  • Developed, designed and delivered a 2-day community engagement training program for staff and community members to build capacity, skills and knowledge
  • Developed a comprehensive, multi-year engagement plan to guide the conversation
  • Created the tools and materials for the project. These included postcards, flyers, deliberative workbooks, storytelling guides, Guiding Principles that included connecting the teachings of the 7 Grandfathers to the conversation, Photovoice and more.
  • Delivered 2 sessions of 2-day Facilitation training for community members and staff
  • 3 separate deliveries of co-facilitation of multiple conversations with community members and NSTC staff
  • Coaching, mentoring and support to community-based facilitators
  • Training of NSTC staff for data gathering, coding and analysis of data
  • Advice and strategy on linking the engagement process with the health care system redesign process

7. Management and Strategy Services 

Why did we pair these two services together? Because they are a part of the same type of consulting. “Management consulting is an overarching term that encompasses the practice of third parties providing expert advice or guidance to a company’s leadership to improve its overall performance. Strategy consulting falls under that umbrella. It’s a subset of management consulting where consultants provide industry-specific insights and actionable strategies to deal with individual business and management challenges.” – Hubspot

What it is 

Management and strategy services are all about creating a structured approach to leading organizations to a desired future goal. The value proposition to the client is that these services increase coordination of effective and efficient performance or culture in an organization. You would work with the client to design and implement a management plan that leads to strategy, process, innovation, conflict, cultural, or operational change. Management and strategy services can be short-term and long-term projects. Examples:  

  • Change Management 
  • Conflict Management 
  • Strategy Management 
  • Portfolio & Process Management
  • Organizational Change and Development 
  • Strategic Planning 
  • Operational Planning 
  • Scenario Planning 

 How it’s done 

How you do these services depends on the scope of the deliverable and complexity of the client’s organization. A one day strategic planning session is very different from a six month change management plan. In addition, a lot of facilitative consultants follow proprietary models, so each consultant’s process is different. However, in general some or all of the following phases below may be conducted when offering a management or strategy service: 

Phase One – Consultation 

Initial meeting with client to identify problem or opportunity and how they expect your service will help them reach their goal. 

Phase Two – Assessment and/or Impact Analysis

For a service like a one day strategic planning session this could be a conversation with the client where you talk about team dynamics, historical context, and specific deliverables. For complex services like change management this could be an organization wide assessment. The point of an assessment is to identify all the stakeholders involved in the change, gather their perspectives about the change, and involve them in defining the problem or opportunity. This phase could also include conducting an impact analysis which looks at potential benefits and consequences of implementing the change.

Phase Three – Facilitate and Design

You then facilitate meetings and events using change methodologies that compliment the client’s context. The goal of these meetings and events is to support the client in designing their strategic plan, action plan, communication plan, and/or change plan. This includes identifying key performance metrics, project scope and timeline, project stakeholders, and an execution plan for the change or strategy.

Phase Four – Execute Plan

The execution of the plan could involve creating and carrying out an engagement plan to inform, consult, or partner with stakeholders as the change or strategy unfolds. It can involve supporting leadership and the organization with cultivating change competencies through training and coaching. Lastly, throughout the implementation of the plan you may take on measuring change or strategy success through the agreed upon metrics.

Final Deliverable

The final deliverable is the process that leads to the design and/or implementation of the strategic and management plan. 

Case Study - Management and Strategy Services

Company: The Wunderlin Company 

Mission: Helping organizations and individuals identify and implement change

Service Name: Strategic Planning 

Service Description: 

A strategic planning process forges a rigor & rhythm to setting and achieving goals.

Annual strategic planning gives leadership space to create an intentional, long-term vision and accountability. The process actively involves leaders in defining, agreeing to, and committing resources toward achieving a compelling future.

The Wunderlin Company uses a process-based approach to help you develop your strategic plan and work with leaders to implement it. We engage the right people, as early as possible so that key stakeholders have an opportunity for input. Our goal is to help you align and prioritize resources. It helps the organization get focused on three to five strategies for driving the organization forward. It is a road map of what to do…and what not to do.

A strategic planning process will:

  • Define your purpose – What is your organization’s unique reason for being?
  • Name your values – What principles define how your organization does its work?
  • State your vision – What future do you want 5 years from now?
  • Choose your strategy – This is your statement of intent. For a given area, how will you move toward the vision in the next 3 years?
  • Set goals – For each strategy area, what is your concrete and measurable outcome? This is the ruler you’ll use to measure progress.
  • Recommend initiatives – What are this year’s actions in support of the strategic plan? These will be included in annual operational and budgeting work.
  • Develop a communications plan – What actions are necessary to communicate the strategy to stakeholders?
  • Plan for evolution – What is your organizational development plan? What changes might happen as you move toward it?
  • Create a Proforma – With the CFO, align the strategic plan and funding.

The Wunderlin Company are experts in helping your stakeholders focus their knowledge, attention, experience, and passion on achieving your organization’s desired future. Businesses, educational organizations, and not for profits all experience tremendous benefits from employing a Strategic Planning process as part of annual planning. We draw on our experience as operating executives to create involving, stimulating, and rigorous processes in which leaders first define their vision for the future and then articulate measurable goals, strategies, and tactics to achieve that vision.

Takeaway 

We add value! And facilitators can communicate that value more clearly by: 

  • Describing what our service is in a clear and descriptive way 
  • How we are going to conduct the service by describing all potential tools and methods we may use 
  • Sharing what the final deliverables of the service could be 
  • Bonus points if you add a Case Study example. They are powerful because they ground your offering into a practical real story.  

 

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