Unlearning one’s way towards being a more effective Process Facilitator


Recently, I had the good fortune of completing the Advanced Facilitation Programme organised by the Institute for Adult Learning and led by Prabu Naidu and Janice Lua.  At the Oral Assessment, I conveyed to Prabu and Janice how I marvel at the ingenuity of the diagrammatic depiction of the FNS (Facilitators Network Singapore) 4D Facilitation Model.  Amazingly, beyond the key stages from D1 to D4, the model comprehensively and succinctly encapsulates the cornerstone, underlying precepts and navigational guideposts for effective process facilitation, all into a single diagram!

FNS 4D Facilitation Model

Unlearning one’s way toward being a more effective Process Facilitator

Why is D4 as important as D1 to D3?

Under the FNS 4D framework, there is certainly very much to learn and acquire in terms of Knowledge-Skills-Attitudes in D1 to D3, which in the main delve into the “doing” part of facilitation.  In a world where “busy-ness” has become a “badge of honour”, “doing things” trump “thinking” and “reflection”.   Why? Because “doing” and “keeping busy” are highly visible and earn the much sought-after external affirmation and acclamation.  Who has ever heard of a student or staff being applauded, let alone rewarded for devoting time for self-reflection?  More likely, such persons would be stereotyped as unproductive loafers or skivers.

But I commend the wisdom of incorporating D4 in the model, without which, the virtuous cycle of learning, doing, reflecting and unlearning will not be complete and the quest toward becoming a better facilitator will be stymied.  While D1 to D3 dwell on the “doing”, D4 dwells on the equally important but oft-neglected “being” part of self-development – Discover New Learning.

I’m equally grateful that Prabu and Janice did not compromise on D4.  Throughout the classes, they diligently and patiently dedicated significant time for us to share self-reflection and to receive feedback.  Each practice was followed by self-critique then feedback from “sponsors”, designated observers, peer learners and finally the trainers/coaches.

Indeed, I found it such a novelty that the peer feedback on the QLASS Observation Form was presented as a “gift” from our peer learners.  That not only underscores the great value attached to candid feedback but serves as a potent catalyst for mindset change in how one perceives and receives feedback, especially feedback on areas where one falls short or should totally stop doing.

How Unlearning is as important if not more important than Learning? D4 helped me do exactly that!

Having been trained as an engineer and served as a National Service battalion commander, I’m steeped in problem-solving, planning and preparation, with an uncompromising zeal to accomplish any mission tasked to me.

Unlearning one’s way toward being a more effective Process Facilitator

Prima facie, these may sound like positive traits for effective process facilitation.  However, everything can be double-edged, i.e., an asset or liability, an enabler or derailer.  Too much of the good thing can become a bad thing.   In practicing any craft, including process facilitation, being au fait (French word for having a good or detailed knowledge of) with the best practices, multiple tools and techniques are necessary but not sufficient.  What sets apart a master facilitator is the one who rises above the dogma and structured technical knowledge to mastery of facilitation as an art that is dynamic and fluid in nature.  The science of facilitation can be taught but the art of facilitation can only be caught through real life practices, making mistakes and humbly receiving feedback from people who care enough to point out our blind spots and shortcomings.

Changing one’s mindsets require Unlearning and Humility

In Kungfu Panda, Master Oogway, the elderly tortoise sage, enlightened Master Shifu, the red panda headmaster of the Jade Palace with this nugget of profound wisdom:

Your mind is like this water, my friend. When it is agitated, it becomes difficult to see.
But if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear.”

Unlearning one’s way toward being a more effective Process Facilitator

Indeed, we are all “prisoners of our past experiences”.  For me personally, through the self-reflections and feedback, attaining effectiveness as a process facilitator necessitates me to unlearn and let go of the following:

  1. Unlearn the engineer’s instinct to problem-solve and to be prescriptive, this attribute run counter to being an effective Process Facilitator.
  2. Resist the urgency to fix or “save” others or the situation; instead, allow dialogue without fixing, advising or correcting.
  3. My previous corporate responsibilities necessitated me to be highly proactive and diligent in planning and preparatory work. However, when it comes to facilitation, “over-preparedness” may cause me to become close-minded and become blinded to the underlying interests of stakeholders that I fail to embrace the “fluid readiness” to adapt with different facilitation methods not in my original design plan in response to new emergent situation or the need of the sponsor or participants.
  4. To put aside my past corporate leader’s hat and not to “direct from the front” when facilitating, but to lead in a non-judgmental, non-evaluative manner.
  5. Restrain from wanting to provide content input and not to evaluate any output from the stakeholders; only then can I uphold neutrality as an effective process facilitator.
  6. Not to fall in love with a particular “favourite” technique (for us it was The World Cafe), otherwise one would end up with the “tail wagging the dog”; I need to let it go no matter how much time or resources I had already committed to it once I realise that there are new emergent conditions that show the method may not be as effective in realising the 3O’s (Objective-Output-Outcome) of the meeting.
  7. To shift my mindset from “ownership” to that of “stewardship”. In my zeal to complete the session on time, I have unwittingly breached the trust of the participating stakeholders.  I became blindsided to their knowledge and information gaps that inhibited their effective contribution to the output desired.  Thanks to the “gift” of feedback, I’m enlightened that as a process facilitator, I should only “own” the process but not the output and outcome. Let the stakeholders be the rightful owners of the latter 2 O’s (Output and Outcome). As the process facilitator I should just be a good steward or custodian of the output and outcome.


It is all too tempting to be seen to be “doing” and on the move all the time.  However, what I learned from the AFP workshop is the importance of pressing the “pause” button to review and reflect.

Unlearning one’s way toward being a more effective Process Facilitator

There is great wisdom in having D4 as one of the 4 key stages in the FNS 4D Facilitation Model.  It is well worth one’s time investment for reflections, self-critique and to diligently take in all the feedback especially those not too pleasant to our ears, from all stakeholders.   I would advocate that even for practitioners, to make it an automatic default drill after every facilitation session.  For me, as far as is possible, I would always have a co-facilitator in the sessions I facilitate.  He/she shall be my mirror and to keep me in check on any blindspots during the process.

Mastering all the multiple techniques and tools for process facilitation will only hone me on the outside. It is only when I do deep, honest reflection, embracing all the feedback and critique, that I can be transformed from the inside out to truly become a highly effective process facilitator.


After his retirement, Ronald continued to equip himself through various training programmes. He particularly pursues those that will enable him to help others strengthen relationships of all forms.  Besides AFP, he is an accredited mediator under Singapore Mediation Centre.

If you desire to be a process facilitator, check out our SPOT on FacilitationTM and Virtual Facilitation WorkshopTM at our website www.fns.sg or contact us at admin@fns.sg for more information.