At the moment, I am at an NTL (National Training Laboratory) course on Group Process Consultation. We are learning about how to use this technique to help groups guide themselves to be more effective in their group processes.
It is different than pure “facilitation” in that the Group Process Consultant (GPC) doesn’t do any of the up front work for the group (no standing at the flipchart, no developing ground rules, no notetaking). Instead the GPC’s work is focused helping the group perform those tasks itself. The Group Process Consultant will observe the group’s work and intervene periodically to notice and mirror back to the group some information and ideas about how the group is going about its task and what kind of group “maintenance” is needed for the participants to feel engaged and satisfied with the process. This particular technique is designed to reduce the group’s dependence over time on external help (like a facilitator) to achieve its goals. To me, it seems a little like being a group “psychologist.”
In our opening day yesterday we spoke about how the course would be multi-leveled all the time. We would be working at the cognitive level by talking about theoretical models, methodologies, etc. We would be exploring the behavioural level through noticing what we are learning and practicing as a GPC. And we would be talking about the personal level and trying to understand as a Group Process Consultant “what I bring to the table”. So how can I be aware of myself in a process, how can I manage my assumptions, and notice how I react to things and how that might affect the group. Chuck Phillips, the course’s trainer, explained that in Group Process Consultation, “The delivery of the process is the delivery of ourselves. We are the process intervention.” So we are also trying to understand our own mental models and make sure they don’t get in the way of our work for a group.
We also don’t want anything to get in the way of learning this week; even our learning environment is set up to help this. We are in a room with 20 soft chairs on wheels (which we use to scoot around into different discussion groups), but no tables. The trainer noted that when there are tables, people tend to hide behind them, or use them as a barrier between themselves and what is going on in the room. We can’t have that, so no tables.
That might be an interesting feature of one of the rooms in the Learnscape we would like to develop at work. It would be nice to have a space to use where nothing is a barrier to process. A small exception might be made, however, for … footstools.