36 hours in the life of a Process Designer and Facilitator

Hi! My name is Marc and I studied Digital Business at Hyper Island (big up). Today I’m a Freelance Process Designer & Facilitator, based in Amsterdam! I usually compare my role to that of a personal trainer: Say you want to build more strength in the gym. I can’t do the training for you, right? But I can think of which exercise you need to do when, to attain your own goal! 

Among other things, I help groups with taking important decisions or coming up with new ideas on how to progress from a business or organizational perspective. I don’t think about what the outcome is, instead I facilitate them in taking the decision themselves.

But more and more I’m helping groups change in how they work together as a team, and how they think about work – or what I think is organizational culture. For example I’m showing them that having fun and working very hard goes hand in hand. The former even supports the latter!

Thursday 11:00

I start the day by reading a couple of articles that I wanted to read for some time. Both the Guardian’s Mindfulness Conspiracy, and Vice’s Radical Plan to Save the Planet by Working Less inspired me. I’m actually trying out a four-day work week!

Thursday 13:00

Amelie and I are having a call! She’s a former classmate from DB17 (represent!), and we haven’t really spoken since graduation. Recently she launched a podcast about process – together with the best facilitator I have ever experienced. It’s called Processpodden, check it out! And apart from Amelie’s love for chocolate, process is what we mostly discuss. 

Thursday 15:00

The conversation with Amelie inspired me to work on two articles that I’m writing. The first one is a theoretical and practical how-to guide to ask the right questions. The second one about the importance of process: how work has changed since the last hundred years, but the rules about how we work together haven’t. Time for a change! 

Thursday 17:00

Next, I’m meeting Pebbles Lin (also Hyper Island alumni), and Pavel Kovalski. Friday they’re hosting an event called What Do Machines Dream Of?. A while ago I hosted an event called Humanizing Organizations, and Pavel liked how I facilitated it. Since I don’t know them that well, and since my role as facilitator can be very vague, I try to clarify the expectations. What am I going to do and how are we going to work together?

Friday 09:30
After some final preparations, Pebbles and Pavel kick-off the event by sharing why they organised it. Today, four artists and designers will give a presentation, thirty people have joined us, and together we’ll have some facilitated discussions (that’s where I come in).

I believe that if there’s thirty participants in the room that are interested, they probably have an interesting view, and information to share as well! Feeling the trust in the group, I create what I call ‘authentic engagement’ where participants are not only listening – they are sitting on the tip of their chair, partaking in a dialogue that can become personal – I think how we can create as much value as possible for all participants in the short amount that we have. Therefore I’m hosting the Q&A sessions different than normal events. 

For example: after one presentation all participants partner up with somebody else and share what they found most interesting, after they share what they talked about with the whole group. Another way is by letting the speaker ask three questions to the audience instead. Or I let participants team up with each other to come up with more provocative questions.

Friday 15:00

As a facilitator, it’s important that all participants feel engaged, and therefore I want them to feel equal, for which we need to create a safe environment where everyone can share what they think. 

To close the day, and to continue to develop the group we’re doing a check-out. All thirty participants sit in a circle and answer one by one the two questions: “I came in expecting …” and “I leave feeling …” I feel grateful for their answers.

Friday 16:00 

Together with Pebbles and Pavel we sit down and reflect by answering for ourselves the questions “What did I like most?” and “What can I focus more on tomorrow”. Tomorrow we can apply what we’ve learned today!

Good reads

  • Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux: about a new type of organisations
  • Liberating Structures is a very clear way of structuring process, with a handy toolbox
  • My articles about Understanding Process Design or The Importance of Psychological Safety