Critical Incidents:

What Would You Do, and Why?

A Day with Sandy Schuman

November 2, 2005
9:00 am - 4:30 pm
Community At Work
1 Tubbs Street, San Francisco

Invitation from Community At Work

What can you do to prepare for the unanticipated?  How can you act in the face of the unexpected?  How can you “think on your feet?” This workshop is for experienced facilitators and organizational consultants who are willing to talk about “critical incidents.”  I'd like to use these incidents to examine how and why we might react differently to a given situation and bring into focus the principles and values that guide our practice.  I will bring along my own critical incidents and, in addition, ask you to identify your own:

Can you think of a situation that challenged you as a group facilitator?  … that resulted in your learning something fundamental about the practice of group facilitation?  … that caused you to feel proud that you did the right thing … or made you wonder if you had?

By examining these incidents as a group we can gain insights from each other regarding the principles and values that underlie our practice as well as specific techniques that can be used to address particular situations.

In this workshop you will:

-        Examine your own values regarding group facilitation and the consistency of your behaviors with those values.

-        Explain your behaviors with respect to the values and ethics that define group facilitation.

-        Use the critical incident technique to explore the integration of theory and practice.

These objectives are pertinent to group facilitators who have had sufficient experience to internalize the issues and can reflect on how best to communicate values and ethics to others through training curriculum design and delivery.

The Meaning of Wilderness and The Uncomfortable Participant are brief examples of situations that were critical incidents for me.

For more information about the workshop please contact me at or 518-229-8345.

To register for the workshop or obtain information about the location please contact Duane Berger at or 415-641-9773.

Someone asked: Could you tell me more about the content of the session, i.e. a session outline and what would I leave with?

Sandy responded: The structure I use for critical incidents is fairly simple. I describe a real group facilitation situation in which I have been involved.  When I get to a point where there was a challenge (a procedural or ethical issue, problematic behavior, or something else that gave me pause) I interrupt my description and ask, "what would you do, and why." Some of my critical incidents involve a number of such "interruptions" as the situation unfolds.

Typically a number of people respond, describing the action they would take and the reasons for same. This provides a concrete basis for exploring different perspectives and reconciling "espoused theory" and "theory in use." Sometimes there are spin-off discussions on related topics. Presentation and discussion of a critical incident might take anywhere from one-half to two hours, depending on the complexity of the case.

As an aid to identifying underlying issues I usually suggest that participants refer to the Statement of Values and Code of Ethics for Group Facilitators and ask them to identify the specific values and ethics that come into play.

While I will be prepared to present a number of critical incidents, participants may bring their own for the group to explore.

I will grant that this is not a typical workshop with a list of different topics; it is an emergent, generative design.