Learning and Development – Consultant and Facilitator Roles

20151104_145237We have outlined four roles that need to be played in the area of learning and development in organizations. All of these roles are defined and positioned to try and reduce some of the OUCH! in learning and development. This post will focus on the last two of these roles and the ‘mantras’ connected to them.

The Designer and Educator roles are more or less behind the scenes when it comes to learning and development. The Consultant and Facilitator roles play out directly with the people we are working with; the participants and learners that are the main focus of the learning and development initiative.




More Interaction


Be Early

Build Internal Capacity


Be A Model

Keep in mind that all of these roles have a focus on learning and development initiatives with the intent of changing behavior. Initiatives that take place over an extended time frame and with a focus on context. In addition the expert and learning content are seen as secondary in helping behavior change.

In some ways the role of Consultant is similar to the Educator role however the focus of the Consultant role is more specific to the group you are working with. We are however educating the group (and group leadership) regarding extended time frame designs with a focus on context. This is necessary due to the very stable left loop in the interaction model shaping how learning is typically thought about for larger numbers in organizations.

The ‘mantra’ for the Consultant role is ‘build internal capacity’. This means building internal capacity to own the PROCESS of learning and development, not just building internal capacity for the specific behavior change desired. The reason for this is that building internal capacity for the PROCESS helps to sustain the interactions needed to change behavior. Internal capacity enables the primary focus of the learning initiative to be on the extended time frame and context.  Without a focus on building internal capacity the primary focus too easily shifts to the expert or learning content and these two areas, while important, are not the primary variables affecting behavior change.

Like the Educator role the Consultant role can be challenging; primarily because you are trying to change that very stable left loop regarding learning in organizations. Personally however I find the Consultant role less challenging and this has to do with two key things:

  1. It is easier to make sense of ‘different’ learning designs when you can be more specific.
  2. The people you are working with want to build internal capacity.

In my experience, when I have been able to interact with people about the rationale for extended time frame, context focused learning designs agreement, support and engagement has been very common.  This is why the Designer and Educator roles come first and why they are so important.  When it comes time to play the Consultant role, you need to have the rationale, the ‘business case’ for Building Internal Capacity. One thing I have found quite valuable in these discussions are the interaction model and positioning behavior change as changes in the left loop which need numerous different interactions over time.  As well I have found the following two graphics of value.

L and D 1

This graphic represents a simple distribution of how we often perceive participant orientation towards their learning in learning and development initiatives.

At the left are the highly self managed learners, those that take ownership for their own learning, go beyond the content and are both wonderful and challenging as participants. they are learning ‘high performers’. In the middle are the compliant and opportunistic learners that do what is asked of them in learning initiatives, are engaged and participate effectively. On the left are those that are typically reliant on someone else for their learning. They shift the accountability for their learning to the facilitator, the learning content, the process etc. Almost no learning design is effective enough for this group.

So the question becomes, who do want to design for and what happens when you work to build internal capacity?

L and D 2

What I have found is that when you design for the highly self managed learners with the intent of developing internal capacity, there is actually a lot more of this group than often thought to be! Interestingly we often design learning initiatives with so much concern for that group on the right that the design never really gives the group on the left a chance to engage and influence like they will if given the opportunity.

In the Consultant role when I use the interaction model and these two graphics the people I am working with seem to quite easily and enthusiastically engage. Pre and post ‘event’ processes are not a problem but part of a process that makes sense and is seen as a sensible alternative to the OUCH! of content focused events as the only way to do things.

This brings us to the last role of the four; Facilitator and the mantra Be A Model. If you have played the other roles as effectively as you can the Facilitator role tends to be quite comfortable to play.  There is quite a shift though in the way the Facilitator role is often thought of from the perspective of content focused events, where the facilitator is typically positioned as the expert.  This can be a tough shift sometimes; again the left loop regarding what a facilitator typically is defined as is quite stable.

To Be A Model in the Facilitator role means you truly realize you are facilitating a learning process, where the roles preceding the Facilitator role actually have more impact in changing behavior than the Facilitator role does.

What is fascinating is that all those skills we have developed that make us ‘amazing’ in the current role of facilitator still get to be applied, but those skills are more in the service of the 3 preceding roles. We will be looking at this a little more in the next post, with a focus on what role learning events play in extended time frame and context focused learning designs.

For now, have a good look back at the 4 roles we have been focusing on.  How can you develop and play, support, ask for, demand, influence those roles. I really think we all have a part to play. It may not be easy but it does take an awful lot of OUCH! out of learning and development.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: