How to Facilitate Building Perceptual Maps

Illustrative Perceptual Map


To help a team compare and prioritize its options using visual display support in a directional, perhaps less precise, manner.


To stimulate discussion and solicit supporting views about both why options should be placed in specified areas and which options may demand more or less urgent attention and care.

Method One

After you have helped the team build their options (eg, actions to take), consider arraying them along the Payoff Matrix dimensions that include: 1) Ease of implementation, and 2) Impact of the solution.

  • If you have dozens of options, consider using a large wall display.
  • You may want to use Post-It® notes because discussion will lead to moving around (relocating) some of the options.
  • Be careful to know how to illustrate and define “High” and “Low” and to the extent possible, draw from your personal metaphor or analogy (Agenda discussion point in the FAST curriculum).
  • Use active listening and challenge frequently to discover evidence that can be used to support beliefs and claims.
  • The illustration below is called a “Two-by-Two” although it can be simply modified by adding a moderate dimension, making it what others call a “Nine-Block Diagram” (or “9 Block Diagram”) shown at the bottom.
  • In Six Sigma, comparisons are made of the CTQs (Critical to Quality) with the improvement or weighting factors.

Illustrative and Generic Payoff Matrix

Method Two

You can also facilitate building a perceptual map by creating the following:

  • Identify two dimensions that most affect the decision or situation.
  • Typically array from low to high but be prepared to define what is meant by “Low” or “High” (see PowerBalls).
  • If you need to use a third dimension, such as quantity, then consider varying the size of the symbol by cutting the Post-It notes so that width, height, or shape equates to the third dimension.
  • You might consider using different colored Post-It notes that relate to a third dimension such as large, medium, and small.
  • The alternative shown next is the Nine-Block Diagram that provides an additional, third sector of information contrasted to the Two-by-Two up above.

Nine Block Diagram

 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).

How to Facilitate Building Force-Field Analysis


This facilitative tool modifies and strengthens the comparative approach called “pros & cons.”  It helps groups prioritize and identify opportunities for improvement, especially with project teams.  Force-fields help groups organize their thinking and encourage thoughtful exploration.  Once the forces are identified, the group can analyze their impact, leading to ideas and actions that reinforce the positive and mitigate the negative forces.


This exercise begins by identifying the objectives, or CTQs (Critical to Quality), or targets.  Next, for each objective or discrete variable (typically provided in a list, slide, or hand out), ask the following questions:

  • What is hindering us from reaching this target (negative)?
  • What is helping us move toward this target (positive)?

Given that you have created two new lists (ie, positive and negative forces), adapt the Peter Senge philosophy that it is easier to remove obstacles (the hindrances) than to push harder (supportive forces).  Focus discussion on what we can do different to overcome the hindrances or obstacles, but focus the discussion on one at a time. For each hindrance there should be more than one action that could be offered or considered.

Once the actions have been identified and agreed upon, it may be necessary to prioritize them.  If so, use the FAST technique’s PowerBall or Perceptual Mapping tool to accelerate consensual prioritization.


See how the first list of objectives generates two lists (ie, support and hindrances) that are then consolidated into one action list, as shown in the following diagram:

Become Part of the Solution, Improve 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 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.

Related articles

Aspiring to Be Unconsciously Competent

The Four Stages of Consciousness and Competence

As we progress and increase our abilities, we may note an evolution of competency, illustrated in the chart above.  First, note that consciousness precedes competence.  We do not achieve a consistent level of success until we have developed consciousness about what is required.  Secondly, we discover that the amount of time between each of the stages decreases as we make progress.  Let’s look at each of the stages and the aphorisms offered up by John Maxwell that capture the sentiment of each stage.

Unconsciously Incompetent

Before we undertake a complex activity, we slumber through an area of unconscious incompetent.  We may linger in this stage for decades.  Look at the amount of time it takes to discover the difference between well-run and poorly run meetings.  In this stupor, you “do not know what you do not know.” You both lack knowledge and skills, and are unaware of your incapacity.

 Consciously Incompetent

Yet another stage remains before we become competent, and here we develop increased consciousness.  During this stage we also develop aspirations and hopes. We begin to envision ourselves as competent, and contributory.  You may also exist in this state for a long time, depending on your determination to learn and the real extent to which you accept your incompetence.  Most importantly, your consciousness enables you to observe and identify the characteristics of competency, typically in others as you begin to “know what you don’t know.”

Consciously Competent

Cast into the role of facilitator, we find ourselves slipping into and out of competency.  We can make our competency more steady-state by taking formal training, practicing, and participating with others who aspire to be better.  Developing competence will occur much faster than developing consciousness.  The practice and training help, but so does the increase in consciousness. We “grow and know and it starts to show.”

 Unconsciously Competent

With lots of practice and experience, you reach a point where you no longer have to think about what you are doing.  You become competent without the significant effort that characterizes the state of conscious competence.  In fact, we will drift in and out of unconscious competence, based on the skills we master quickly.  It takes little time to become unconsciously competent, only practice. Here we are called upon “because of what we know.”  Eventually we know that it feels right and we do it.

Howell (1982) originally describes the four stages:

Unconscious incompetence – this is the stage where you are not even aware that you do not have a particular competence. Conscious incompetence – this is when you know that you want to learn how to do something but you are incompetent at doing it. Conscious competence – this is when you can achieve this particular task but you are very conscious about everything you do. Unconscious competence – this is when you finally master it and you do not even think about what you have such as when you have learned to ride a bike very successfully”
– (Howell, 1982, p.29-33)

Remember, consciousness precedes competence, and superb competence does not take much time, but it does take practice.  Hope you are getting your fair share of challenges, and don’t forget about our FAST and FAST+ Advanced classes for the opportunity for more practice and feedback.

See also:

Howell, W.S. (1982). The empathic communicator. University of Minnesota: Wadsworth Publishing Company

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)

Facilitative Tools That Help Build Team Charters and Project Plans

Valuable time can be realized for the benefit of each project lead by facilitating them to build the activities and details required to reach their project objectives.  For consensual ownership, modern leaders facilitate the development of their team charters, including work breakdown structure (WBS).  The facilitative Tools that you can use are listed below in italics.

Team Charter

Facilitative tools to generate the step-by-step deliverables (Tools shown in italics):

  1. Business case or purpose: Purpose Is To . . . So That
  2. Project scope or boundaries: Is Not/ Is  (alternatively—Context Diagram)
  3. Triple Constraints: Flexibility Matrix
  4. Success criteria: SMART Criteria/ Categorizing with Common Purpose
  5. Opportunity assessment: Situation Analysis (proprietary and quantitative SWOT)
  6. Project plan activities (high-level): Roles and Responsibilities (eg, RASI)
  7. Team selection: Interviewing Controls/ Managing Expectations

Project Plan

Projects Intended For Results

The work breakdown structure and project controls surrounding it, include facilitative approaches that support consensually agreed upon work breakdown:

  1. Target audience/ other affected stakeholders: Brainstorming
  2. WBS (work breakdown structure):
    Moving from WHAT (ie, abstract) to HOW (ie, concrete)
  3. Detailed measure of success:  Success Measures
  4. Project plan activities (detailed-level):
    Roles and Responsibilities
  5. Budget, timeline, and resource alignment: Alignment
  6. Stage gates and milestones: After Action Review
  7. Risk assessment and guidelines:
    Project Risk Assessment
  8. Communications Plan: Guardian of Change
  9. Open issues management: Parking Lot Management
  10. Issue escalation procedure: Issue Log

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).


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,735 other followers