Effective Risk Facilitation: Understanding Styles


Risk Doctor Briefing

Dr David Hillson, PMI Fellow, HonFAPM, FIRM

The Risk Doctor Partnership

United Kingdom


When a facilitator is leading a group in a facilitated workshop or meeting, he or she can adopt a range of facilitation styles. These vary by the amount of control exercised by the facilitator compared with the degree of control allowed for the group. On one extreme, the facilitator has almost complete control over what happens in the workshop or meeting. By contrast, at the other extreme the group has near-total control of proceedings. Between these extremes lie various shared positions in which the balance of control differs between facilitator and group.

Although the range of possible facilitation styles is continuous, we can distinguish three zones:

  • Directive/Reactive. The facilitator takes the lead to direct the workshop, while the group follows the facilitator reactively. In Directive mode, the facilitator is in charge, leading from the front, telling people what to do.
  • Collaborative. Facilitator and group work together to achieve the best outcomes from the workshop or meeting. In this mode they act as partners, with the facilitator standing alongside others and acting as a member of the group.
  • Supportive/Proactive. The group takes the lead proactively, setting the agenda and driving the workshop, with the facilitator in a supportive role. Here the facilitator is more like a helpful friend, standing behind the group, advising and helping them when necessary.

The risk facilitator can use a range of different styles, but when is each style appropriate in a facilitated risk workshop?


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About the Author

Dr. David Hillson

The Risk Doctor
United Kingdom

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Dr David Hillson CMgr FRSA FIRM FCMI HonFAPM PMI-Fellow is The Risk Doctor (www.risk-doctor.com).  As an international risk consultant, David is recognised as a leading thinker and expert practitioner in risk management. He consults, writes and speaks widely on the topic and he has made several innovative contributions to the field. David’s motto is “Understand profoundly so you can explain simply”, ensuring that his work represents both sound thinking and practical application.

David Hillson has over 25 years’ experience in risk consulting and he has worked in more than 40 countries, providing support to clients in every major industry sector, including construction, mining, telecommunications, pharmaceutical, financial services, transport, fast-moving consumer goods, energy, IT, defence and government. David’s input includes strategic direction to organisations facing major risk challenges, as well as tactical advice on achieving value and competitive advantage from effectively managing risk.

David’s contributions to the risk discipline over many years have been recognised by a range of awards, including “Risk Personality of the Year” in 2010-11. He received both the PMI Fellow award and the PMI Distinguished Contribution Award from the Project Management Institute (PMI®) for his work in developing risk management. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the UK Association for Project Management (APM), where he has actively led risk developments for nearly 20 years. David Hillson is an active Fellow of the Institute of Risk Management (IRM), and he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) to contribute to its Risk Commission. He is also a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and a Member of the Institute of Directors (IOD).

Dr Hillson can be contacted at [email protected].

To see other works previously published in the PM World Journal by Dr David Hillson, visit his author showcase at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-david-hillson/