After my experience a few weeks ago where the group I was facilitating had a very tough time with the loose structure I placed on the meeting, I went to Los Angeles last week to do work with a different group and felt better that my co-facilitator had developed a detailed and structured agenda.
Of course, this time the group bristled against the structure and demanded that they have more open conversation! Couple of lessons from the facilitator's perspective:
1. In tough conversations there is almost always push back against the process. This means that as a facilitator, you can't be too tied to your process, because if you meet the resistance with too much resistance you can end up creating a new dynamic that prevents the work from being done. On the other hand, be clear about how the process affects the outcome. In this meeting we changed our process significantly in response to the group's desires, but we still held our ground when it came to having each individual share during important parts of the conversation, because we knew we needed more voices in the room.
2. It's easier to move from more structure to less on the fly, than it is to move from less to more.