da Vinci’s Compelling Traits

To increase intelligence and genius, Leanardo da Vinci identified seven basic traits/ skills/ strengths that one might aspire to build.  Even after one has mastered these traits, one must still shed the fear of failure as this stops many people from trying the first time.  As you’ll notice, da Vinci’s skills align well with the role of a facilitative leader.

da Vinci’s seven basic traits/ skills/ strengths are:

1. Curiosita—an insatiable thirst for knowledge

2. Dimostrzione—the ability to learn from experience

3. Sensazione—the discipline of continuing to hone one’s senses

4. Sfumato—the ability to cope with ambiguity

5. Arte/ Scienza—holistic thinking

6. Corporalita—what some people call sound mind and body

7. Connessione—the ability to see deeply into the connection between things

More can be found in a book named “Lessons from Leanardo” by Michael Gleb and Kim Kiser.

In the spirit of radical innovation, here are some well established “secrets”:

  1. Get intimate with your customers
  2. Make your own product obsolete
  3. Break the rules and be audacious
  4. Act small, think small—even nano small
  5. Celebrate failure—see Thomas Alva Edison’s objectives

Let us know what you think by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiative, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need.

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership-training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

Do not forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and detailed tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

Meeting and Workshop Risk Assessment


FAST meeting and workshop risk assessment derives from answering a series of questions about a project, its stakeholders, and meeting participants. Using historical data, calculating the area or areas of greatest risk, our meeting risk assessment method is based on project risk assessment work completed by F. Warren McFarlan and James McKenney of Harvard Business School.

Risk should be assessed for every major meeting or workshop using FAST or other interactive meeting design techniques.  The assessment should be performed as part of the facilitator’s preparation activity.

What is Risk?

Risk is typically assessed for projects at three levels:

Business — Project — Technique

Business risk is defined as the potential exposure to the business if the project is not completed or not completed on time.  Project risk is defined as the likelihood of a given project failing or grossly exceeding its estimates.  Technique risk is defined as the potential for failure or major problems using a specific technique or tool in a given situation.

Our FAST Risk Assessment tool provides a method of quantifying meeting and workshop risk.  FAST Risk Assessment evaluates the potential meeting or workshop risks of four components when conducting either planning, analysis, or design sessions:

Size — PoliticsComplexityDiversity

The Factors

Size is an indication of the overall project size measured by effort, scope, and quantity of meetings and workshops.  Size affects planning and coordinating the required information needed to support the project.  Questions include those covering work hours, duration, quantity of sessions, quantity of different types of sessions (ie, how many different agendas are required), and whether you are located at high-level planning or detailed design in your life-cycle.  The larger the project, the greater potential risk when holding group meetings or sessions.  You need to know that size can be a significant driver of risk and thus structure your sessions appropriately (such as assigning a more experienced session leader or a team of session leaders).

Complexity is an indication of the existing structure of the business and the volatility of the information required to support the deliverable.  Complexity measures how difficult it will be to specify, understand, and organize the information exchange.  Questions include those about the newness of the topic, whether the initiative is a replacement or new (ie, evergreen), engineering or process complexity, the extent of changes required for both internal and external customers, environmental changes required, and acceptance of the methods.  The more complex an existing system is or the newer a business is, the more difficult it is to specify its requirements.  Complexity and newness often generate incomplete or vague requirements.  Adjustments may include developing more thorough agendas or using prototyping for some of the requirements gathering.

Politics is an indication of the political and personality climate surrounding a project.  Highly political groups tend to cloud the issues at hand and make sessions more difficult.  Questions in this area include rating of the attitudes of customers (internal or external), management, and participants; commitment of upper management; level of controversy; past cooperation between customers and staff; amount of flexibility allowed the participants; and stability of the organizations involved.  Highly political organizations or unstable organizations (ie, numerous reorganizations) can make gathering requirements difficult (cutting through the controversies) or short-lived (the participants won’t assume ownership when finished).  This type of risk can often best be handled using FAST—but requires a politically savvy session leader and extensive planning in gaining management commitment and proper resources.

Diversity is an indicator of the nature and familiarity of the customer’s organization.  This factor looks at the participants ability to cooperate with each other and the logistics involved in coordinating everyone.  Questions include those about the quantity of departments participating, quantity of participants, the location of participants (geographical, domestic, and international), their prior experience working together (if any), and the application knowledge of both the participants and project team.  If an organization is cooperative and has few political axes to grind, yet is located around the country and the world, it will be extremely difficult preparing for the sessions as well as scheduling everyone for the workshops.  It becomes expensive to bring people from many locations to one location—especially if the estimated workshop duration is incorrect.  This type of risk calls for a more experienced session leader who has experience with logistics and workshop duration estimating.


Of the four areas, Size and Politics provide the most concern followed by Complexity then DiversityFAST Risk Assessment is not meant to discourage the use of workshops, rather to provide information for applied understanding of your precious resources.  Neither avoiding use of workshops nor ignoring the potential risks involved is the answer.  You should begin evaluating risk and assigning session leaders accordingly.  MG Rush Performance Learning provides a quantitative tool for evaluating meeting or workshop risk.  We developed it in conjunction with Dr. Howard Rubin (developer of ESTIMACS).  Please see your FAST alumni resources for an updated spread sheet that substantially speeds up your calculations and risk estimates.

Remember friends, nobody is smarter than everybody. For detailed support, see your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MGRush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

Documentor Support

Who are the Best Documentors?

Many people are unsure what a documentor should do and what characteristics are needed for a good documentor.  A good documentor should be easy to work with, willing to keep quiet (ie, follow the role of content neutrality), have good handwriting, understand the situational terminology, be willing to work for you during the session, and understand the purpose and deliverable of the structured meeting notes.

 Good documentors can be found typically in three places:

  1. Trained session leaders frequently make strong documentors.  Supporting one another is also a good way for new session leaders to get cross-training.
  2. Project members from other, especially related projects.  These people understand the terminology and how notes get used (eg, input to requirements or design specs).  They must be chosen carefully because they need to remain quiet and cannot become involved with the discussions.
  3. New hire trainees or interns provide a win-win opportunity.  These people tend to work hard at being good documentors.  They frequently have enough background in terminology that they do not get lost in the discussions.

Be careful when selecting and training documentors.  Remember, if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen!

How to Train Documentors?

The following steps provide a method for training documentors:

  1. Provide them a copy of your annotated agenda.  Walk through each of the agenda steps, their role, the volume of documentation you expect, and what to do with it.  Provide them with examples from prior workshops or deliverables to illustrate how their captured input will be used.  Examples can be from previous sessions or created by the session leader, preferably relying upon your metaphor.
  2. Documentors often feel intimidated when they see a bunch of templates and do not understand their purpose.  Explain the purpose of the deliverables from each question you intend to ask in the workshop.  Your FAST Reference Manual includes descriptions of the deliverables from each step in the workshop of the Cookbook Agendas.  Your note-taking tools should not get in the way of documentation.  Let them modify the format of note-taking if it is appropriate.
  3. Develop a picture of the final deliverable of the workshop.  You can use simple flow-chart or templates or arrows and icons to represent the final document structure.  This helps the documentor to move the note-taking out of the abstract into something concrete.
  4. Walk through the technique and methods with the documentor prior to the session to ensure that that their role is clearly understood—address any questions they have.
  5. Training does not end with the start of the workshop.  During the workshop, check with the documentor often to ensure that there are no problems and that the appropriate outputs are being properly documented.

For additional facilitative leadership support, see your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership training  session offered around the world (see http://www.mgrush.com/ for a current schedule).

How to Design a Meeting Agenda that Helps Create the Output (Deliverable) You Need


To design a new meeting or  workshop agenda that will effectively lead a group to its deliverable, use these steps. Following them will increase your meeting success. Before we begin, let us remember the definition of a solid structured meeting (eg, FAST) agenda:

Agenda Design Steps

Agenda Defined

An agenda is a series of steps that structure a group discussion during a meeting or workshop.  The FAST technique’s pre-built or cookbook agendas provide solid versions of known and proven information gathering, sharing, and decision-making methods. The modifications you apply to basic agendas will enable:

  1. A facilitator (ie, the session leader) to lead the discussion, with . . .
  2. Subject matter experts (who are experts about content but NOT experts about context or  meeting technique), who build understanding . . .
  3. That extracts required information (ie, the meeting output or deliverable including for example, decision-making or prioritization), thus
  4. Enabling other stakeholders (ie, project team) to use the information and decisions to support and further advance project objectives and organizational goals.

Methodological steps to create a new meeting or workshop agenda are:

  1. Identify the purpose, scope, and deliverables of the meeting—what are you building and what level of detail is required?
  2. Codify the deliverables—what is the specific content for the output of the workshop, what is the optimal sequence for gathering it, and who will use it after the meeting is complete?
  3. Identify known information—what is already known about the project, problem, or scope?
  4. Draft your likely steps—compose a series of steps from experience or analytical methods that would be used by other experts to make this decision, solve this problem, or develop the required information and consensual view.
  5. Review steps for logical flow—walk through the steps to confirm they will produce the desired results.
  6. Identify likely meeting participants—determine the most likely participants and identify their level of understanding about the business issues and the method you have drafted for them to develop the information during the the agenda steps.
  7. Identify any agenda steps that the participants cannot complete—modify or eliminate the steps that your specific participants may not understand, will not value, or are inappropriate for their level of experience.
  8. Identify what information is needed to fill the gaps from step number seven above, and determine how to get this additional information (eg, off-line)—what information or analysis is required to substitute for the missing information identified in step number seven above, that your meeting participants cannot complete?
  9. Detail the final agenda steps to capture required information for the open issues—build the appropriate activities to produce the information without making the participants perform unnecessary activities (eg, do NOT do team building if they already function together properly).
  10. Review—confirm steps number one and two above and then carefully review the detailed activities to confirm that they satisfy the purpose and provide the needed information without over challenging or intimidating your participants.
  11. Perform a walk-through, including documentation format or templates, with other business experts, executive sponsor, and project team members.
  12. Refine—make any changes identified in the walk-through and begin to build out your annotated agenda as suggested by the FAST technique.

Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

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