The continuous improvement facilitator is a critical role in the success of your collaboration partnership.  As I previously discussed this role will increase the likelihood of success by providing the guidance and the encouragement to follow the procedures while the continuous improvement program is in its early and most fragile stage.  Previously I discussed the role of the fire starter as a critical ingredient to starting a new initiative.  In this discussion I have moved past the fire starter role into the execution and acceptance of the new initiative, in this case the collaboration partnership and the methods to nurture and grow the initiative.  Let me say though that the fire starter will play a critical role in incorporation of the continuous improvement facilitator to support the nurturing of the new collaboration partnership and the infant continuous improvement program.

First I should list some of the personality and experience requirements of the facilitator.  The facilitator must have experience in team building across a broad cross functional organization in order to build the team across the broad group of collaboration partners.  The experience from building the team across a large cross functional organization is the closest experience to the organization and relationships that will be part of the collaboration partnerships.  This experience is necessary because building a team across the varied interests and cultures of your collaboration partners requires patience, determination and imagination to encourage and develop the team.

Second the facilitator must have demonstrated success in building a continuous improvement program across a broad cross functional organization.  This experience is necessary because again it is the closest approximation to the type of effort and requirements for building a successful continuous improvement team across the broad range of cultures and potentially conflicting  objectives and practices that will be found in your collaboration partnerships.  This type of experience demonstrates the expertise of the facilitator in helping the team understand and commit to the mutual benefits of the partnerships.  This type of experience also demonstrates the expertise of the facilitator in helping the team prioritize objectives that may deliver benefits in a sequence that benefits other partners first.  It is important that the facilitator helps the team understand that delivery of another’s objectives first may provide a greater overall benefit to the partnership. 

Third the facilitator must have experience in working across all levels of an organization’s hierarchy.  This experience is important to demonstrate the expertise in communication and and influencing the direction and priorities of all levels from the senior leadership to the front line employee.  While the majority of time will be devoted to working with the continuous improvement team and a majority of that team should be made up of front line employees, the facilitator must also have the demonstrated expertise in communicating and even influencing the senior leadership across the collaboration partnerships. 

This type of facilitator expertise while new for your collaboration partnership improvement team is related to the experiences I mention above.  The initialization and development of this continuous improvement team will be difficult to successfully deliver and the additional cost of the facilitator will pay dividends in the success.  Don’t try to save a few dollars in this area that will wind up costing a great more due to missteps and miscalculations in prioritization and team development.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have your started or are you in the midst of an institutional change initiative?  What are the key traits you have identified as required to support the initiative?  Have you contemplated the name or phrase for the person leading your initiative?