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What is "neutral" facilitation? Facilitation where the person leading the process focuses on the process and does not direct the content to a predetermined place (the way it is supposed to be). Ideally when an organization uses a process to determine an outcome (i.e. strategic direction, decision making, etc.), leveraging the participants' experience, insights, and thoughts make the process powerful and effective. A great benefit of the process is by contributing to the outcome, participants gain buy-in to the solution, therefore making it easier for them to become champions of the change.
Well meaning companies will use a facilitated process because of the reported benefits stated above. However where their intentions may go awry is when an internal person who has a vested interest in the outcome leads the process (the facilitator is not "neutral"). The unintended consequence of the non-neutral facilitator is that participants may feel the outcome was inevitable based on the active direction of the facilitator, and their input was just "going through the motions."  With the outcome being "tainted," buy-in becomes difficult; morale may drop as employees feel helpless and used.
Use of a facilitator that has no stake in the outcome (neutral) can help mitigate the problems stated above. Confidence in the process, as well as in the facilitator, is important for the leader of the group hosting the facilitation. Because the outcome may go where no one predicts, the leader has the opportunity to demonstrate confidence in his/her staff by trusting the process. This can be somewhat uncomfortable for a leader in the beginning, however with time and experience with the process, the outcomes will generally be worth the initial discomfort.
If you have a desire for a facilitator or want to learn more about the facilitation process, please contact Richard Best (click here to email) for more information.