How to Manage Breakout Sessions (or, 3 Minute Sub Team Productivity WOW)
July 12, 2012 12 Comments
Breakout sessions or sub team efforts enable teams to capture more information in less time and to also overcome the monotony of relying too much on narrative Brainstorming. With strong active listening, the session leader (aka, facilitator) may take up to one-half of the total talk time by setting up context and providing thorough reflection of participant input. With ten participants in an eight-hour session, each participant probably contributes less than thirty minutes of individual airtime, unless you spice up your meetings with breakout sessions.
Additionally, and a very strong benefit of breakout session, all members (especially quiet ones) are given permission to speak freely as their voice now defends their sub team’s position, not necessarily their lone voice.
Here are important considerations for managing face-to-face breakout sessions:
- In advance, have sub team assignments predetermined or at least determine the method for determining who is in which group.
- Do something more creative and appropriate than the seating arrangements (ie, “this half of the room”).
- Consider quick yet creative methods such as alpha sorting their names, birthplaces, birth dates, favorite ice cream, etc.
- Consider cutting Sunday comics into three strips and have everyone that draws the same comic form a team together or drawing from a basket of playing cards.
- Appoint a CEO for each sub team, namely the Chief Easel Operator. Assign their workspace and have it already provisioned with an easel, paper, markers, etc. The CEO is not responsible for scribing but for administering the supplies and providing a single point of contact for the facilitator when they check-in for a status update:
- Remind scribesto capture verbatim inputs, more is better.
- Remind scribes to capture content in black or dark blue marker that will be visible for presentation to the other sub teams.
- Remind scribes to be neutral, only contributing their own ideas at the end if those ideas have not been volunteered.
- Publish your assignment or questions to be discussed on a screen or in a handout. Be crystal clear with your instructions and the format you expect each sub team to complete or build.
- Keep the question or instructions posted (eg, on easel or with a projector) or print out and distribute to each sub team since teams frequently gather outside the main workshop room.
- Give them a precise amount of time or deadline and monitor them closely for progress and questions. Three minutes is optimal. It is truly amazing what a group of people can accomplish in three minutes with clear instructions.
- When they return with their contributions, you have already built consensus. Now you need to reconcile the voice of a few sub teams rather than the voice of many individuals.
- Other approaches to appointing sub teams may include birth dates (eg, months or days); birth position (eg, last child); latitude or longitude of home, office, or birthplace; mountain peaks, constellations, cutup cartoon strips (eg, Dilbert® . . . ), etc. Thematically strive to align with the project naming conventions.
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).
- The Role of Session Leader (facilitativeleadership.wordpress.com)
- How to Facilitate Virtual Meetings: Teleconference and VideoPresence (Part 2 of 3 – During/ Real Time) (facilitativeleadership.wordpress.com)
- Future Facilitative Leadership Factors (facilitativeleadership.wordpress.com)
- How to Facilitate a Consensual Sphere of Concern, Influence, and Control Using the Bookend Method (facilitativeleadership.wordpress.com)
- How to Get a Promising Meeting to Fail (facilitativeleadership.wordpress.com)
- How to Analyze Brainstorming Input (continued) (facilitativeleadership.wordpress.com)
- Five Ways to Facilitate Quiet People and Get Them to Participate More Fully (facilitativeleadership.wordpress.com)
- How to Facilitate Virtual Meetings: Teleconference and VideoPresence (Part 3 of 3 – Conclusion) (facilitativeleadership.wordpress.com)
- The best medicine is… (runningandriley.wordpress.com)