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Decision Facilitation: my definition

change-is-disruptiveI believe I coined the term ‘decision facilitation,’ at least in its present incarnation.  When I developed Buying Facilitation® in the early 90’s, I defined it as a ‘decision facilitation model used to neutrally (without bias) lead change through the appropriate avenues and levels of buy-in while avoiding disruption.’

I realize that the term has recently become part of our vocabulary in many contexts, and I’m so pleased. I’d like to offer my thinking behind the definition as I originally conceived of it.

In my definition, decision facilitation is a neutral navigation model that teaches people how to recognize and manage, without bias, all of the internal criteria they must first address, so they can maintain integrity through change. It’s much like a GPS system that leads a driver to their destination without bias re the destination.


In leadership, sales, coaching – any type of change management or influencing – change is required. But real change requires disruption – disruption that creates reactions and resistance aimed at maintaining the status quo. When change agents attempt to add to, or subtract from, the system will go to great lengths to maintain the status quo, hence limiting or delaying change and avoid change until then.

In other words, as outsiders, no matter how necessary, important, or valid our solutions, if the person or group can’t make the appropriate internal changes to reduce disruption, they will do nothing. And as outsiders, we can’t help them.

Because the leadership, sales, and coaching models ultimately focus on bringing in a new solution without providing a route through to the beliefs that created the problem, they don’t simultaneously teach the system how to  maintain their existent values and underlying criteria. In my opinion, that makes the current models inadequate.

With the Buying Facilitation® method, I’ve developed a decision facilitation system that takes the interaction out of the solution-placement arena at first, and uses a neutral navigator approach based on systems thinking to create change from the inside out.


One of the problems we all have, whether facilitating others’ decisions in coaching, or sales, or leadership, is that we often attempt to bias the outcome of the decision by using leading questions (”Don’t you think you may want to consider X?”) or posing questions that will focus in one direction (”Why are you only doing X when you could also be doing Y?”). Unfortunately, because we have had only conventional questions to use (I’ve developed Facilitative Questions that manage this), we unwittingly lead the decision where we would like it to go, thus ignoring the unique and often unconscious issues that need to be addressed, and inadvertently causing the system to resist the change.

I believe we can truly facilitate decision making as a precursor to change, and help others find their route with minimum bias. To do that, the decision facilitator would lead folks to enlist buy-in from the appropriate people, discover historic and possibly unconscious assumptions and actions, and to their ability to come to an agreement that would recognize and incorporate the underlying criteria (values and beliefs) that created the status quo. In other words, any change would have to incorporate the values of the system.

In sales, sellers can use decision facilitation to neutrally lead buyers through all of their behind-the-scenes, unconscious, decision issues, issues that are so complex and endemic to the underlying system that buyers (not to mention sellers) can’t even understand at first. Not decision issues around a solution, or a problem, or a need. But decision issues around change, around ensuring that departments can work together, and that users will be included, and that the tech team will survive after the change. It includes historic decisions that need to be reconfigured so anything new can have a place to fit. It includes relationship issues and old vendor issues. And, these decisions must be made BEFORE a buyer begins the adoption of a solution, or the system won’t even entertain the notion of a purchase.

That’s why I coined my term Buying Facilitation®: it’s about first facilitating all of the decisions that occur idiosyncratically, within the buyer’s system, that ultimately must be included before they can consider buying.

I am very pleased that there is now broad usage of  ‘decision facilitation’ and that a dialogue has begun about how to truly facilitate decisions. I believe it is time for us to take on a more spiritual, values-based role as sellers, leaders, and coaches: truly facilitate our customers and clients in making their very best decisions and ensure that as they change, they maintain the integrity of their values.


Related posts:

  1. Decision Facilitation: Influencing The Offline Decisions
  2. Buying Facilitation in the mainstream
  3. It’s the Buying Decision, Stupid

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More Stories By Sharon Drew Morgen

Sharon Drew Morgen is the visionary and thought leader behind Buying Facilitation® the new sales paradigm that focuses on helping buyers manage their buying decision. She is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity as well as 5 other books and hundreds of articles that explain different aspects of the decision facilitation model that teaches buyers how to buy.

Morgen dramatically shifts the buying decision tools from solution-focused to decision-support. Sales very competently manages the solution placement end of the decision, yet buyers have been left on their own while sellers are left waiting for a response, and hoping they can close. But no longer: Morgen actually gives sellers the tools to lead buyers through all of their internal, idiosyncratic decisions.

Morgen teaches Buying Facilitation® to global corporations, and she licenses the material with training companies seeking to add new skills to what they are already offering their clients. She has a new book coming out October 15, 2009 called Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it which defines what is happening within buyer’s cultures (systems) and explains how they make the decisions they make.

Morgen has focused on the servant-leader/decision facilitation aspect of sales since her first book came out in 1992, called Sales On The Line.
In all of her books, she unmasks the behind-the-scenes decisions that need to go on before buyers choose a solution, and gives sellers the tools to aid them.

In addition, Morgen changes the success rate of sales from the accepted 10% to 40%: the time it takes buyers to come up with their own answers is the length of the sales cycle, and her books – especially Dirty Little Secrets – teaches sellers how to guide the buyers through to all of their decisions, thereby shifting the sales cycle from a failed model that only manages half of the buying cycle, to a very competent Professional skill set.

Morgen lives in Austin TX, where she dances and works with children’s fund raising projects in her spare time.