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The role of the Facilitator
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The Role of the Facilitator in Operational Reliability

Author : José Durán


Nowadays the Operational Reliability improvement process emphasises the need for team work. RCM, RBI, RCFA, TPM, etc. - all of these techniques need teamwork on a long term basis. In this article you may find some useful hints about how to implement improved teamwork. These hints are based on personal experience acquired in big projects, so they can not be guaranteed to be 100 % "fail-safe" rules.


Nature: Cross-functional, highly proactive, and self-motivated team. Integrated by Maintenance personnel, Operations personnel, and Specialists (invited by special requirements). These people will have to be highly familiar with the subjects that they are examining. The team will be directed by a facilitator who may or may not come from one of these departments.

Performance improvement requires contributions in attitudes, organization, knowledge, cultural patterns and results.


To become involved in continuous improvement of the company's activities. These may be grouped into two types of work:
  • Reactive Activities: Root Cause Analysis
  • Proactive Activities: Reliability Centered Maintenance, Risk Based Inspection, etc.

Previous Activities:

These analyses allow us to set an implementation plan so that we can use the techniques named above.
  • Lost Opportunities Analysis: i.e. before Root Cause Analysis (RCA)
  • Criticality Analysis: i.e. before Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), Risk Based Inspection (RBI).

Activities to perform:

  1. Establish the work teams. Select personnel of the right profile according to the nature of the project. Select a "backup" person for each team member. It is important to avoid problems related with vacations, transfer, etc. of the team members.
  2. Prepare an inventory of the systems or opportunities to analyze.
  3. Perform criticality and/or lost opportunities analyses.
  4. Prepare an implementation plan for the techniques to be used.
  5. Estimate the possible impact on the company associated with each system/opportunity.
  6. Select the systems/opportunities with the greatest impact and the best chances of success.
  7. Define the work objectives. Define clearly the systems functions and/or the nature of the opportunities.
  8. Prepare the activity schedule. The nature of this schedule depends on the team, and limits/needs of the team. The program may include weekly, daily or two-weekly meetings, or full time dedication (i.e. per system).
  9. The work program will have to include all activities required until the team's recommendations are fully implemented. BE CAREFUL NOT TO FALL INTO THE TRAP OF "PAPER" SOLUTIONS ONLY !!!!.
  10. Prepare a contingency plan to avoid any delays due to foreseeable events, i.e. vacation, sickness of the team member.
  11. Obtain consensus from management on the previous points.
  12. Begin the analysis. Start off with a simple but concise documentation of the previous points.
  13. Complete the analysis.
  14. Suggest solutions.
  15. Evaluate the economic feasibility of the suggested solutions.
  16. Document the whole process, summarise and present it to management.
  17. Implement the suggestions proposed and justified by the work team.
  18. Track the implementation and its results.
  19. Verify whether the results are applicable to other areas of the company.
  20. Perform a workshop to analyze how the total process is working, make any necessary corrections. CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT IS REACHED HERE.

Facilitator's Role

The facilitator is the team leader. He will have to facilitate the implementation of any philosophies and techniques to be used, making the most of the different skills of the personnel who work in the teams. Facilitators will have to be competent in the following areas:
  1. Techniques/tools to use
  2. Analysis
  3. Managing meetings
  4. Time keeping
  5. Administration, logistics
  6. Communications
The typical functions of the facilitator include:
  • Organising and directing all the activities involved in the project.
  • Planning, scheduling and leading meetings. Ensuring that every scheduled meeting happens. He must, therefore identify alternatives to resolve any problems with any team member.
  • Selecting the level, defining the borders and the work scope for the analysis, aw well as considering the impact, the duration and the resources required for the project.
  • Ensuring that all team members understand the process being followed.
  • Ensuring that the process is correctly applied in the right order; avoid taking short cuts that affect the process integrity.
  • Ensuring that the project is completed according to the plan, within reason.
  • Co-ordinating all support material required by the team (drawings, diagrams, etc.), as well as, keeping documentation and sharing it with the team.
  • Acting as the focal point of communications of the team, centralizing the information related to the work. Keeping management aware of the plan and team progress, generating high quality reports.
  • Acting as the technical expert that clarifies any doubts about the process or methodology being followed that may be expressed by the team.
  • Documenting the data generated if it is needed.
  • Researching deeply on the subject of the project and be prepared not to accept incomplete information. In many cases verify the information generated in the meetings. So, he/she must have enough judgement to know if specialists are needed.
  • Ensuring that solutions are more than just technical reports, but are also practical and implementable.
  • Recognizing the training needs of the team members and providing appropriate training when it is required.
  • Ensuring a consensus style of decision making.
  • Encouraging the team.
  • Managing any problems that may arise: interpersonal conflict, interruptions, etc.

What type of person makes a good Facilitator?

Facilitators are key people in successful projects. Better results are possible when facilitators are involved on a full time rather than part time basis. A good facilitator has broad knowledge of the assets. He/she must have reasonable knowledge of the process, but should not necessarily be an expert.

Based on ensuring long-term commitment to the project, the use of facilitators that are internal to the company and on a full time basis is recommended.

About the Meetings:

  • The team must have common objectives, good knowledge of the methodology, and an action plan/program.
  • Special care must be taken with specialists invited to the meetings in order to provide them with enough and clear information before and after the meeting.
  • The work session must not be longer than 90 minutes. 15 minute breaks should be held during sessions (if sessions longer than 90 min. are planned).
  • Remember that the meetings are social events and should be pleasant events (these projects sometimes last years).
  • If it is not possible for all the team to attend, specialist sessions could be held, making sure that operations representatives participate.
  • The facilitator should prepare an agenda, including the objectives to be achieved in the meeting, at the end of the meeting, achievement of those objectives should be checked.
  • A meeting should never end without fixing the date and time of the next meeting.
  • The meeting should never seek to allocate blame.
  • Avoid making disparaging comments about team member opinions. The team should solve its internal problems without external interference.
  • The facilitator will have to encourage the participation of all team members in an enthusiastic way.
  • The meeting time should be used in an intelligent and effective way.
  • The key information should be validated before taking further steps.
  • Work based on facts and not on suppositions.
  • Work on solutions for problems instead problems for solutions.
  • Assigned activities which are not completed cause serious problems. The facilitator should find ways to make sure that the responsible team member does the required work.
  • Defer complex problems until enough information is known about them.


  • Communication is the vital element in this kind of big project.
  • The facilitator could channel communications.
  • Communication should cover the whole organization.
  • The facilitator should be a good salesman of the project and its results, so that resources are allocated for it.
  • Notice boards with information about the project and results achieved are an invaluable help.
  • A graph with results obtained (eg. $$ Vs. Time) could be useful.

About the author:

José Durán is an Electrical engineer with a Masters Degree in Maintenance Engineering. In recent years he has been working as a consulting engineer in Operational Reliability for oil companies in Venezuela and Colombia. He has performed consulting, training and facilitation in areas including: Reliability Centered Maintenance, Industrial Risk Management, Maintenance Optimization, Maintenance Project Management, etc. He has covered different fields within the oil industry including extraction, pumping and oil refining, as well as ancillary services such as power generation, gas injection, etc.

For more information please contact him at:
Fax: 58-74-446159

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Revised: Thursday, 08-Oct-2015 11:52:08 AEDT
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