Brief review: Nimble — Off script but still on track

Repost from Medium:

The title is a bit of a bait and switch. But we’ll come back to that. At the core of it, it is a useful handbook for those new to facilitation — and there are even a few things for experienced practitioners.

As Rebecca Sutherns says early on in the book:

“Facing the unexpected is the norm — a reflection of the fact that we are dealing with humans, not robots — and it’s what makes this job exciting.”

Spot on – and:

“Your facilitated session needs to accomplish more than the value each individual could have generated by working for the same amount of time.”


Find the book on Goodreads

So what’s the bait and switch?

The cover says ‘Nimble — off script but still on track’ yet the book that follows is mostly about thinking and planning ahead (scripting) and only a little bit about how to adapt to the unexpected.

As Louis Pasteur once observed:

“…le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés”

[Meaning, fortune favours the well-prepared].

Sutherns builds this out further:

“Thoughtful preparation can preclude or limit the need for facilitation agility. 83% of people understand that accidents are largely preventable, even if they are not intentional.” … “Preparation is preventative.”

To this end the book sets out a useful reference model that can help you think through the challenges ahead of a facilitation session: People, Purpose, Place, Process — and across time: before, during and after. And with that it is also stacked with examples and personal reflections helping bring it all alive.

If you’re starting your facilitation journey — or looking for a quick refresher on basics — then this is a welcome addition to the facilitation reference shelf.

What other book(s) would you add?

P.S. Advanced practitioner edition?

And if there is an advanced practitioners edition in the works, I’d love to find some of these topics in it: a brief exploration of the agile movement in the context of ‘nimble’; more about the difference it can make to be two facilitators rather than one (and the value of working with a ‘critical friend’); some thoughts on the power and principles one can draw on from improv — and last but not least; a lot more about how to best gather constructive feedback to enable continuous learning.