Considerations on How to Facilitate between Europeans and Asians


An alumnus wrote about preparing for an executive workshop between Europeans and Asians between two different companies. The deliverable intends to capture a strategy document of their alliance to work with each other in their supply chain. Specifically the alumnus inquired about anything in particular to avoid or encourage.

Specific Solution

Speak with the participants to confirm their explicit expectations and then manage accordingly. When conducting confidential, one-on-one interviews, participants will speak more openly about “anything in particular to avoid or encourage.”

General Considerations

  1. Icebreakers: Consider ice breaker activities that allow participants to share some of their social values, such as asking about a favorite childhood memory or describing their favorite holiday (ie, vacation) destination and activities.
  2. Names: Since an effective facilitator will not use people’s names, rather substitute open hands and eye contact to draw in participation and to pass the talking stick. During breaks and social times, or when discussing administrivia such as evening plans, strive to use people’s last names and titles, including respect toward academic and medical titles. During private introductions, handshakes are a reasonable default standard, perhaps with a slight bow—avoid hugging, arm humping, and shoulder thwacking as too much physical contact.
  3. Protocol: Emphasize the difference in roles. For example, we treat our parent different than we treat our children. We may treat customers different from suppliers. During the workshop, emphasize leaving titles and roles on the other side of the threshold so that everyone has permission to speak freely. When the Joint Chiefs meet, they may wear sweaters over their military stars, so that four-star generals do not claim superiority over three-star generals in a workshop environment. If the armed forces can encourage equality of voice, so can we.
  4. Punctuality: Punctuality is important. Keep your stated promises about when to start, including after breaks and meals. If not, your broken promise will frustrate participants and cause some to challenge the integrity of the session leader. If the session leader claims punctuality but permits delayed starting time, they may be seen as someone who cannot be trusted. Be sure to use FAST timers to get people to return from breaks and start on time. If necessary, offer a ten-minute break every fifty minutes, but start on time.
  5. Rhetoric: Avoid slang, colloquialisms, and American jargon. It is not uncommon for Europeans and Asians to speak in English and understand each other better than an American. While facilitating and providing reflection, stick closely to verbatim words and expressions rather than “interpreting.” If the participants felt there was a better term or expression, they would have used it the first time. Unless the participant asks for language assistance, be patient and avoid volunteering content, unless asked.
  6. Breakout Groups: Use breakout group frequently during the agenda, especially during the ideation step within brainstorming. Carefully plan your groups in advance, based on knowledge you obtain during interviews, and be certain to appoint a CEO (ie, chief easel officer) for each group. Strive to creatively assign group titles or names that harmonize with the theme of the workshop (eg, star constellations). Simply calling out 1,2, 3 indicates that the activity was not important enough to plan further. Understand methodologically that some times it is appropriate to create homogenous groups (ie, think alike) and other times it may be advantageous to create heterogeneous groups (ie, embrace pluralism).


Be certain to secure pre-meeting buy-in about the purpose, scope, and deliverables from the workshop. Ideally, explain your agenda through a metaphor or analogy. Next, assure that the method will engage the participants and not drag on and bore them. If you keep them engaged and focused, you will clearly have made it easier for them to build and decide. Do not discount the importance of a formal review and wrap-up. Plan on an approach the group accepts in advance to manage action steps or roles and responsibilities. Invest some time in the FAST Guardian of Change so that they agree on their primary messaging to other executives and stakeholders at the conclusion of the workshop. Moreover, be sure to obtain some feedback on your performance, so that you may continuously improve your talents as an effective, facilitative leader.

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).

How to Facilitate Alignment


Building consensus around proper alignment helps groups identify gaps, omissions, overkill, and to confirm appropriateness and balance.

Building consensus around alignment can be very challenging, especially if you facilitate exclusively in the narrative world (ie, written words). The FAST method suggests the use of icons (see PowerBalls) that are appropriate and powerful.
Create a matrix of the options (eg, actions) and the targets (eg, goals). Common items that may be aligned include the comparison of strategies to objectives.Alignment consists of four steps. The steps are:

  1. Here you manage the matrix with a linear approach, but be careful to always ask the open-ended question, “To what extent does ‘x’ (ie, option, action, or strategy) support ‘y’ (ie, target, goal, or objective) ?”
  2. Having defined the PowerBalls (preferably with a wall mount or projected explanation that is available throughout for group use—see prior post), label each cell with either a high, low, or moderate PowerBall symbol, indicating the extent to which the option supports the target.
  3. After completing the grid, ask the group to confirm completeness. Add anything missing or modify as required (eg, change or calibrate an option).

Note: The solid balls indicate high, the empty circles indicate low, and the half-filled balls indicate moderate.

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 MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

How to Facilitate Quick and Simple Prioritization Using a PowerBall Method


To help a group quickly and simply prioritize.


Apply the Pareto Principle (aka 80-20 Rule) to help a group deselect and to eliminate as many options as possible so the group can stay focused on the most important or attractive options.


Be aware that the optimal approach suggests that you prioritize the criteria, not the options directly.


The following steps should be read with an understanding that some of the material and examples used to support prioritization and other approaches discussed elsewhere on this blog site and in the FAST curriculum.

  • Establish the purpose of what the team is doing (ie, Purpose of _______ is to . . .    So that . . .)
  • Build a list of options (eg, Brainstorming). Set the list of options aside.
  • Build a list of criteria (be prepared to define each “criterion”).
  • Look at the criteria to see if any options are in violation. For example, if Sally is allergic to flowers, then “buying her flowers” is probably an option that should be eliminated.
  • Consider asking the participants if they can live with the remaining options. If someone objects, then eliminate that particular option.
  • Once they can live with the remaining options, you have consensus.
  • To improve the quality of the decision, unveil the visual support for PowerBalls and the accompanying definitions, and prioritize the criteria.
  • Find the option(s) that best align with the most important or mandatory criteria.

The definitions shown here work in almost all situations, namely:

  • 5 or a solid ball means high “Pay any price.
  • 1 or an empty circle means low or “Want it free, not willing to pay extra for it.”
  • 3 or a half-filled ball means moderate or all the other stuff  between high and low, meaning we are “willing to pay a reasonable price” without being forced to define “reasonable.”

Separate the most/ least important criteria. Code the remaining as moderate by default, without discussion. Attempt to force fit one-third of the candidates as each high, low, and moderate—but be flexible. Appeal to the high criteria and isolate the option(s) that best satisfy the prioritized criteria. To further optimize or guide discussion (if required), appeal to some of the fuzzy factors that may be difficult to measure objectively.

When you need help creating a robust definition of something that may be argumentative, turn to the Definition Tool for support

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your 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).

Daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify the skills of a facilitative leader.

Responsibility Matrix, Agenda Design, and Parking Lot Management

Borrowing an idea from one of our favorite blogsters, Martin Webster, Esq., and coupling it with our original material and American spelling, we offer you a reminder about three popular posts from our 2011 series.

  1. Transform Your Responsibility Matrix into a GANTT Chart — Frequently we don’t get much actual “work” done in a business meeting, rather we learn, decide, and agree on activities that need to be completed after the meeting. There is no better instruction set anywhere on HOW TO facilitate consensual understanding about roles and responsibilities than this tool that we built from the sweat and tears of experience.
  2. How to Design an Agenda — Twelve simple steps are provided to help you design an agenda beginning with the meeting purpose and ending with refinement of the agenda based on input you  should receive in advance from your executive sponsor, project team, and meeting participants.
  3. How to Manage the Parking Lot and Wrap-up Meetings — Again we find that many readers are seeking better ways to convert meeting discussion into action. The result from many productive meetings can be summed up with four words: “WHO DOES WHAT & WHEN.
  4. As a bonus, the Project Manager Hut asking us to contribute our content on “How to Build Stakeholder Analysis.” After all, it’s all about ‘satis-delighting’ our stakeholders.

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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