The success of a ship’s voyage lies on the captain’s shoulders and how well the passengers and crew are managed. Passengers get on the ship knowing where they want to go but not how to navigate the ship to its destination. This is where the captain comes in. The captain understands how to navigate through a storm that might arise, knows the route to take and ensures that everyone on board is comfortable throughout the journey.
This is exactly what a facilitator is expected to do during an elicitation event: help stakeholders resolve any issues that crop up and run through the agenda to achieve the event’s objectives, thereby guiding stakeholders to their desired outcome.
While a cruise ship captain is responsible for the vessel, its crew and the passengers, a facilitator is responsible for the outcome of the requirements elicitation event. Still, there are many similarities between a ship captain and an event facilitator:
1. A ship captain uses navigational aids to determine the ship’s speed and location to pilot it and avoid hazards. In the same vein, a facilitator uses aids (an agenda, whiteboards, etc.) to steer the event in the desired direction while avoiding hazards (conflicts and clashes between stakeholders).
2. A ship captain ensures that maritime protocols and regulations are followed. In the same manner, a facilitator sets ground rules which the meeting’s participants are expected to abide by.
3. In the same way that a captain is responsible for the safety and comfort of the passengers and crew members, a facilitator is responsible for ensuring that the participants are comfortable and safe in an environment where their ideas and contributions will be respected.
While there are clear similarities between the two roles, there are also key differences between a ship captain and an event facilitator. While the captain is the final authority on decisions, the facilitator’s role is to ease the decision-making process and assist stakeholders in arriving at a decision.
When I give up trying to impress the group, I become very impressive. Let go in order to achieve. The wise facilitator speaks rarely and briefly, teaching more through being than doing - The Tao Te Ching
In a nutshell, facilitation requires a business analyst to carry out the activities indicated in the diagram below:
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