Special attention should be paid to who can play the role of the facilitator (aka umpire, adjudicator, or controller). A facilitator should be chosen early in the study (by Step 3 if possible). He or she should participate in Study Team sessions that determine key factors and initiate quests for information (Steps 4, 5, and 6), and be mindful of how these will need to be addressed in subsequent steps. In particular, the facilitator must be well versed in details of the scenario (step 7) as credibility with the players will suffer if such details are readily available. And beyond just knowing the details of the scenario, the facilitator needs to know how details are threaded together; it may be necessary to amend the scenario on the fly, say with an spontaneous inject to get players back on track, and this inject must be consistent with other aspects of the scenario.
In general the Study Director should not assume a role as a facilitator. For one thing, during the conduct phase of the game (steps 10, 11, 12, and 13) the demands on the Study Director are great, and the facilitator must be free to interact continuously with the players. For another, the Study Director may be perceived by some players as having some bias, e.g., supporting the acquisition of some new equipment, or advocating some prototype doctrine. Note: whether such a bias exists is immaterial, it is the perceptionof the players that is critical in this regard. Thus the facilitator must always be perceived as unbiased by the players; indeed if there are players who want to take the Study Director to task over a perception of bias, the facilitator may have to side with those players, at least to the point of giving them a fair hearing.
Activity that may engage the Study Director during the Conduct phase include escorting VIPs, handling the media, interpreting or providing guidance from the Executive Team, and even critiquing the facilitator to ensure even-handedness is maintained. The Study Director may even wish to participate in discourse with the players while the game is under way. This is not necessarily desirable, but the Study Director may feel compelled to speak up on some point, perhaps to emphasize some material provided to him by the Executive Team. These competing demands on the Study Director mean that some other individual should provide the facilitation.
Videos from the Fred Friendly series of seminars illustrate how a facilitator should behave. These are hypothetical situations largely in non-military contexts, but the skills for a facilitator in war games are largely the same. A full set of videos is available showing excellent facilitation (enable pop-up windows to see the video player).
The primary abilities of a good facilitator are:
• To stimulate frank and open discourse.
• To ensure that all relevant points of view have been introduced.
• To see that interactions are adjudicated in a manner that all can accept.
• To avoid any perception among the players of facilitator bias.
• To detect and handle biases when they appear among the players.
• To engender confidence from the Executive Team that the war game has explored all reasonable outcomes in suitable depth, but without undue diversions due to biases and without unnecessary and wasteful digressions.
In some adjudications, there may be players who feel they were treated harshly. If players are seriously aggrieved, the facilitator may have to allow such players some latitude, e.g., to continue to "play under protest" with an opportunity to make their case at the end of the game.
In any game on compelling or controversial issues, emergence of biases will be inevitable; they will be blended together with legitmate and specialized knowledge and experience. The facilitator will have to find ways to distinguish between legitimate positions and those driven largely by biases. It is inevitable as players will use their personal backgrounds within the roles they play; these backgrounds are accompanied by attitudes and beliefs that developed over a player's career and which one cannot avoid. Player biases, when dealt with properly, often lead to valuable discourse. However, the biases exhibited by participants should never be used to embarrass or to attack them... well, within reason -- see comments below on using "good humour".
Abilities a facilitator may be able to finesse:
• The facilitator may not need extensive expertise in any specific topics the participants may pursue. For example, if there are extensive technical issues lurking within a seminar war game, the facilitator may have a panel of experts to call upon to assist in adjudication, or in discussing the consequences of some participant's actions or proposed actions.
• In some cases a facilitator who has too much expertise in some particular area of military competency, e.g., qualifications as a submarine commander, as a pilot, as a combat soldier, could be detrimental. He or she may be viewed by participants as coming into the game with his or her own biases (associated with the badges and insignia that are on the uniform), and they may feel a sense of hostility based on a perception of bias (even when no such bias is evident).
• The facilitator does need to be familiar with common concepts and jargon terms. Asking repeatedly for participants to explain terms that are already well known to the others will probably diminish the respect for the facilitator. However, many participants will appreciate a facilitator who challenges other participants to explain terms that are not familiar to all, or that are fuzzy or woolly (e.g., "effects based operations").
Additional competencies of a facilitator are:
• Keeping the participants on time and on the agreed-upon agenda. But a facilitator should maintain a reserve of time so participants can complete their thoughts while energy levels are still high and the debate is lively, by shaving a few minutes off a coffee or lunch break for example.
• Ensuring that debate remains professional and that participants are generally retaining their respect for others and their good humour (or regaining it quickly if they temporarily lose it).
• Keeping a clear record (although the Study Team may have others to do this, typically a scribe).
• Listening carefully and respectfully to the participants -- including an ability to ensure more reticent participants have their say, an ability to draw participants out when the point they are trying to make is still too obscure for the others, an ability to paraphrase a discussion for the sake of clarity or to promote further deliberation, and an ability to maintain a balance in participation.
• Detecting non-verbal cues from individual players who may have something to contribute, but who may be reluctant to speak (e.g., sensitive to cues in body language).
• Having the knowledge and skills that can encourage the group's creativity and not use behavior that may diminish or constrain it.
• Determining that a consensus has not or cannot be reached, and then working with the group to understand the reasons for remaining dissension.
• Maintaining a good sense of humour, and ensuring all participants find the experience rewarding.
A common misperception of the role of a facilitator is that the main objective is to help a group reach consensus. This is emphatically not so, or not entirely so. Once the important issues are on the table, and all relevant knowledge has been shared, a group may indeed reach consensus, and a good facilitator may expedite this. However, there are legitimate reasons that a group cannot reach consensus. For example, there may be knowledge gaps (typical in political and military problems) and one school of thought among the players may develop a set of assumptions to fill that gap. Another group of players may have their own assumptions that run counter to those of the first group, or they may be reluctant to make assumptions, preferring to live with ambiguity. Here the facilitator must work to determine who is in the various schools of thought and what may be the main sources of their disagreement. To suggest that there is some consensus when none has been reached would be intellectually dishonest. And it would be naïve to assume that every group will reach consensus on every problem.