Three New FAST Tips to Help You Before, During, and After Your Meetings


Materials not found in prior FAST Reference Manuals that can augment your own Facilitator’s Handbook are provided below. If you have not compiled your personal handbook or archive folder, do so now. Consider keeping prior annotated agendas, a master glossary, handouts and slides, and evaluation summaries. Continuously improve your annotated agendas and emphasize detailed support for the steps you frequently facilitate in workshops and meetings; such as brainstorming, requirements gathering, decision making, prioritization, and so on. Reflect on the organizational culture as to when a certain tools works best, or fails. Your handbook ought be dynamic, useful, and powerful.

Before Meetings

As part of your pre-read, or selectively used to support your meeting ground rules, here are some specific Participant Behavior guidelines you may want to use (listed alphabetically):

  • Caution with voice inflections that may indicate disdain or an otherwise counterproductive attitude
  • Commit to decisions that are made
  • Let each person speak without interruption
  • Share in accepting post-meeting assignments
  • Stay on topic and agenda, begin and end on time
  • Stay until the end of the meeting and stay in the room
  • Welcome conflict but separate issues from personalities

During Meetings

Especially when time constrained, encourage participants to share their message as if they were delivering results to someone’s voicemail   An alternative way for some to visualize this mandate encourages responses that would fit on a single 4 * 6 notecard. Have them use the notecard as the scripting for the voicemail, capturing the main points. Encourage them to get to the answer or main point with the second sentence.

After Meetings

Meeting Evaluation Tool

Meeting Evaluation Tool

Our curriculum shares some variants of a Plus-Delta and a more robust annotated evaluation template that assesses the effectiveness of the meeting and your own performance. An approach that fits between the two is shown below. It provides numerical feedback but relies on three questions and optional, anecdotal feedback. The questions shown are solid, but also illustrative. Do not hesitate to substitute questions that more valuable for you, relying on a similar format. With this format, you can print two per sheet, reducing the ‘visual burden’ on your participants as well.

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 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’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.

Substitute for these 15 Vague Verbs an Effective Facilitator Should Avoid


As you improve your meeting leadership skills, constantly endeavor to listen to yourself. We know about the importance of NOT NEVER EVER using the term “I” after the Introduction has been completed. After all, it is not about you, it is about them. It is OK to use the plural and integrative first person however, including ‘we’ and ‘us.’

There are some additional words, here focused on verbs, which lend themselves to being DUMB. Remember DUMB stands for Dull, Ubiquitous, Myopic, and Broad—in other words, vague. Because the terms below are vague, participants can interpret them based on their individual meaning and perspective—the opposite of consensual understanding.

Keep in mind the following should be directed at participants and do not represent actions that are undertaken by the facilitator. These terms are typically put in the form of a challenge, such as an action plan for the participants. Monitor your choice of using the following words and note the supporting rationale:

Avoid Vague, Abstract, and DUMB Verbs

Avoid Vague, Abstract, and DUMB Verbs

  1. Administer—Really? How are you going to do that?
  2. Assure—What is the action that provides the assurance?
  3. Consult—Here we have a contronym. Are you giving or receiving something?
  4. Develop—This requires an entire life cycle of discrete activities.
  5. Ensure—Given the many things we have no control over, how will you do this?
  6. Establish—An early process in most life cycles, requiring multiple steps or activities. What are they?
  7. Expedite—Simply substitute HOW are you going to do this?
  8. Follow-up—FAST provides three tools for doing this, each with multiple activities that are stipulated separately.
  9. Implement—Another life cycle term that begs for clear detail.
  10. Investigate—A life cycle by itself that will require multiple activities.
  11. Manage—Probably the most abused of all terms (outside of consult). Twelve people will interpret what ‘manage’ means, a few dozen different ways.
  12. Monitor—Classic. Sound good, but HOW are you going to do this?
  13. Observe—Face-to-face? Secondary information? Third-hand hearsay?
  14. Perform—Do you mean act? If so, what action will be taken?

We do not expect you to memorize these terms, so strive to understand the logic. Verbs to avoid are not only vague, they are abstract. Participant-friendly terms are more active and tend towards the concrete. For example, it is easier to visualize someone “telling” someone else, rather than “collaborating.”

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 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’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.

If You Want More Productive Meetings, Do Not Fail During Your Meeting to . . .


No one wants another meeting, especially a non-productive session. To ensure that your meetings are anticipated, respected, and more productive than the meeting your participants came from or the meeting they are headed to next, do the following, at minimum (listed chronologically):

Avoid Meeting Obstacles

Avoid Meeting Obstacles

  • Start on Time
    Do not penalize people who are on time by waiting for people who are late. Few irritants get a meeting started poorly than a wavering start time. Ask participants to notify you in advance if they might be late. If they arrive late, do NOT consume others’ time by reviewing what has transpired. If an update is required, pair them off with someone else and ask them to go in the hallway to provide an update.
  • Document
    If it was not documented then it did not happen. Meetings without documentation suggest that nothing worthwhile happened. Optimally, add context and rationale for why topics are covered or decisions make. Take any decision to a steering team or decision review board and their first challenge will be “Why?” Carefully leave a paper trail for the reasons.
  • Time Sensitivity
    While participants should typically share a few laughs, real meeting success is judged by finishing on time, or better yet, ahead of schedule. Be careful about taking on strategic issues during a brief meeting, they should be logged and set aside for a longer forum. Do not allow participants to go into too much detail, that others find irrelevant. They can build and provide concrete details on their own. Remember too, that ‘standing’ meetings (ie, meetings held regularly at the same time every week) were originally intended for participants to stand and not sit. Standing meetings get done a lot faster.
  • Agenda Control
    Stay vigilant about following the agenda. In other words, stay in scope. Many meetings are consumed with arguments about the project, the organization, or other issues beyond the control and scope of the participants. Participants that talk about what they want gives rise to the concept of people “who have their own agenda.” Stick to your agenda and monitor progress carefully.
  • Visual Support
    Stimulate participants and discussion with the proper use of easels and supplementary visuals. Do not however rely on a deck of slides. People can read and challenge slide decks on their own, they do not need a meeting for that. Build slides that share causal links and supplement with visuals that stimulate. A visually dynamic meeting offers ‘sex appeal’ compared to others.
  • Secure Feedback
    Get audible agreement, beginning with ground rules. Document decision points, preferably on large-scale poster size paper or white boards. As you build consensus, emphasize that consensus implies a quality decision that ALL participants can support, but NOT one that necessarily makes everyone happy. Consensus is something they can live with, and not disrupt in the hallways after the meeting.
  • Careful Review
    Upon conclusion, carefully review and confirm that everyone understands next steps. If the meeting changes nothing, it was not needed. Make the change or assignments visible and consider using a RASI chart for support. If follow-up meeting(s) are required, confirm future dates, times, and locations. Most importantly, conclude on time, or preferably, early. Before they depart, secure additional feedback on what you could have done to make the meeting even more successful. For solid and anonymous feedback, use our Post-it© note approach combined with the t-Chart called Plus-Delta for more meaningful input than is typically provided in public, when participants may not want to “embarrass” you with their criticism.

By following the suggestions above you can circumvent the three most common complaints about meetings, namely:

  1. Disorganized (ie, uncertain output or outcome)
  2. Length (ie, wasted time)
  3. Predetermined decisions (meetings are a poor form of persuasion)

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 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’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 Announcement Considerations Prior to Shipping a Pre-Read


Before you send a meeting or workshop pre-read to participants, consider a formal announcement rather than an informal calendar invite. If accepted, follow-up the announcement with the invite, and then the pre-read.

Meeting Announcements

Meeting Announcements

While all of the following is not necessary, put yourself in the position of participant. Ask yourself, “Would I be interested in knowing this _______?” Clearly if the answer is ‘yes’, then consider putting it in the meeting announcement. Some considerations include:

  • Meeting facilitator contact information; including perhaps:
    • Easy to cut and paste email
    • URL for business group or division
    • Primary telephone
    • Mobile telephone
    • URL for SharePoint or workgroup folder
  • Meeting logistics; including perhaps:
    • Date of meeting
    • Time of meeting
    • Duration of meeting
    • Location of meeting (including a map if part of a large campus setting). Plus any hints about best access such as elevator banks to take or avoid
  • Meeting participants; including perhaps:
    • List of attendees
    • Alternatively consider adding their contact information as well
    • Items that should or should NOT be brought with them
    • Request for questions they would like answered during the meeting
  • Meeting rationale; including:
    • Purpose and scope of the meeting (50 words or less)
    • Statement of meeting deliverables (ie, output) or desired outcome
    • DRAFT agenda items (knowing some minor changes may occur)
    • Other miscellany particular to your situation

While these considerations may appear burdensome, they are truly optimal. You can remove or subtract as you deem fit, but always make adjustments from the point of view of the participants, rather than what will make your life easier.

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 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’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.

Neuroeconomics & Neurofacilitation: Rational Decisions Maximize Utility


World scientists are striving to map activity in the human brain. Presumably, a map of neural activity will shed light on how the brain works and how choices are made. Concurrently, there has been an upsurge in related fields seeking to understand human nature and behavior change: neuroaccounting, neuroeconomics, neurotics, neurofinance, neuroleadership, neurolinguisics, neuromanagement, neuromarketing, and now . . .neurofacilitation.

Why Individual Decisions are Made

Why Individual Decisions are Made

Neuroeconomics was cited by Anna Teo (The Business Times, 01/03/13) as having developed over 50 research groups around the world, “exploring the brain processes that underlie decision-making.” Economics focuses on how people make choices, especially when they cannot get everything they want. Traditional theory asserts that rational decision-making maximizes utility, satisfaction, or well being. Yet daily, people and groups generate sub-optimal decisions, so the question remains—why?

Science has advanced tremendously the past twenty years. Look no further for proof than proximity—they now know where in the brain choosing occurs, where preferences reside, and how choices happen physically. While they soon may be able to model ‘how we choose our underwear” (or how monkeys choose their juice), we professional facilitators must be held accountable to mapping how complex group decisions are made. Business meetings could be referred to as a neural net of decision-making.

Maintaining a diligent trail of challenge and documentation provides a benchmark to support neurofacilitation. Group decisions require traceability. Take any decision back to your supervisor, executive sponsor, or steering team and they will immediately respond with “Why?” Why did your groupmake the decision they made?

Why Group Decisions are Made

Why Group Decisions are Made

Data sets are making it much easier to make more informed decisions. Teo cites three relevant examples related to individual decision-making:

1) Electronic road pricing that helps predict the changing demographics, vehicle types, and density of traffic.

2) In New York City data is available on every taxicab: whether they are occupied or empty, when patrons are waiting (or not), size of the tips, etc.

3) Equity stock selections where information abounds whom, when, how much, etc.

Yet there is no comparable example offered to shed light on the most important decisions being made that affect all of humanity, not solely one individual. For example, should we go to war, fire a missile, build a new nuclear plant, construct a new highway (or conduct road repair), approve a major project, hire a key executive, etc.

Professional facilitators ought sensitize themselves to the importance of neurofacilitation; ie, challenging the underlying rationale and carefully documenting the support behind all of the options, not only the final choice. You may never want to see the term ‘neurofacilitation’ again, but you know that it oversimplifies the true nature and complexity of group decision-making, and how groups or teams define “utility.”

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 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’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.

Establishing Common Purpose Provides the Secret to Building Consensus


Always remember, ask WHY before WHAT before HOW when you want to lead a group of people to shared understanding. Success begins developing common ground as to WHY a group has come together to plan, analyze, or design. Use of our Purpose Tool quickly builds an integrated viewpoint that coalesces the intent and purpose behind anything—from a  large organization to a small product or process.   Only with an appeal to WHY something exists can we lead a meaningful discussion on WHAT we should do to support the purpose.

Common Purpose

Common Purpose

Create clear deliverables before your meeting, but start your meeting either building or confirming the purpose of the object of your deliverables. For example, if building consensus around a simple decision such as a gift for someone retiring, determine the purpose of the gift before prompting for options and criteria. Some in the group may be serious while others could treat the gift as a “gag” (ie, comedic relief). Best to reach understanding about the purpose of the gift before launching into gift ideas.

Contrasting the abstract with the concrete yields insight about the simple difference between WHAT and HOW. WHAT groups may need includes decisions, plans, and amplified understanding. Any discussion about deliverables such as decisions, plans, and prioritization should always appeal to WHAT is required to support WHY the common purpose exists and align with WHY it is important.

Likewise, detailed design and HOW things get done may also appeal to WHY it exists. In a safety-sensitive culture for example, risk of injury and potential damage to health, safety, or environment must be reconciled with WHY something exists. To prevent 100 percent risk abatement may be too expensive, so strive to reduce as much potential injury as common sense, timing, and budget allow.

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 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’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.

Challenge the Status Quo, such as “We don’t do things that way around here.”


Those of you familiar with the FAST curriculum remember the challenge of the “bookworm” exercise that only one or two students get correct per year.  Here is another similar, quickly run challenge to test groups resistant to change or inclined to simply “vote on things.”

Framing

Keeping Groups Mentally Sharp

Keeping Groups Mentally Sharp

Answer

Add an “A” tablet to the mix. Now you have two full tablets of each, not knowing which is “A” and which is “B”. Cut each tablet in half without mixing the halves. Then take one-half from each of the four tablets. The remainder will also provide the proper dosage for another treatment (eg, tomorrow).

Application

Use our “bookworm” problem, this “medicine” example, or similar “tests” to stir things up, especially with groups that become too complacent. Remember as well to remind your participants shouting “We don’t do things that way around here.” That WHAT they do may rarely change, but HOW they do it changes constantly, whether they realize it or not.

Other participants are given an understanding of the value of stimulating thinking processes throughout the day. Creative thinking is the key to breakthrough, and innovation is a primary driver of profit.

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 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’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.

How to (Not) Gesture while Facilitating


Nonverbal expressions, like words (see Facilitate Meaning, Not Words), connote multiple messages. After you finish this article, you will be strongly tempted to embrace the FAST recommendation—ie; keep your elbows tucked in, your hands below your heart, and keep them open, facing up. Some would call this approach, keeping your hands to yourself.

For example, extending the index and little fingers upward, with a fist shaped as a “V” (with the middle and ring fingers tucked down into the palm, along with the thumb) can signify victory or good luck in the Americas while it is considered a vulgar insult in Italy.Screen Shot 2012-01-23 at 4.01.20 PM

A single thumb up, commonly used to express “all right” in the United States, counts as the number one in Germany, the number five in Japan, and is seen as a vulgar insult in Afghanistan, among other places (akin to the middle finger prone upward in the United States).

Scuba divers universally acknowledge the clasping of the thumb and index finger into a circle (or, “AOK”) as the buddy signal that all is fine. The same signal may be seen as a vulgar insult in Brazil, Russia, and Italy while it signifies to “pay me” in Japan and displays a sense of “worthless” in France.Screen Shot 2012-01-23 at 4.01.01 PM

Even a simple nod of the head from side to side typically signifies “no” or “I’m not in agreement” in the United States, may signify “yes” or “no problem” in India and elsewhere. The slight vertical nod of the head up and down signifies “yes” or “I’m OK with it” in the United States, but it may signify “no” or “I don’t see it” in Greece and elsewhere.

While nonverbal cues are intended to simplify understanding, it is rather apparent that they can obfuscate consensus in a multi-cultural setting. As with everything, context is critical to understanding, and the role of the facilitator is to police context on behalf of the participants—so be careful, and keep your hands to yourself.

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 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’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.

Related articles

What to Do About the Seven Deadly Sins of Facilitating (in alphabetical order):


  1. Assuming:  Simply because the facilitator hears what was said does not imply everyone heard what was said.  The key to active listening is thorough reflection.  Whether it’s audio (i.e., spoken) or visual (i.e., written down), the facilitator’s roleistoensure common understanding, not assume that common understanding exists simplybecausesomethingwas spoken.

    Seven Deadly Sins of Facilitating

    Seven Deadly Sins of Facilitating

  1. Modifiers:  Nouns and verbs are a facilitator’s friend.  Modifier such as adjectives and adverbs cause dissent.  For example, we may all be eating the same bowl of chili, but it may be both hot (i.e., spicy) and not so hot to different people, both correct in their assessment.  Most arguments are caused by how spicy the chili is, not by whether or not it is chili.
  2. Neutrality (or lack thereof):  A session leader who offers content and judgment appears to the participants to have the “answer”.  They will go quiet as they listen to what the leader believes to be true, comparing and contrasting the espoused point of view with their own truth.  In the role of facilitator, do not offer up or evaluate content during the session.
  3. Plurality:  Ask one question at a time.  Do not try to facilitate more than one issue at once.  Close it out before moving on to the next issue.  Most groups will succeed if they are facilitated to a position where the issue is clear and properly managed, one issue at a time.
  4. Precision:  Prefer substance to style.  Avoid impersonal pronouns such as it, this, and those.  Speak clearly and substitute words like “bunch” or “lots” for consultese like “plethora.”  Strive to speak in a manner that would be understood by your grandmothers.
  5. Processing:  Session leaders that analyze the content fill their minds with analysis that places a large stress on their ability to hear what others are saying.  Analyzing participant input makes it very difficult to provide comprehensive reflection of what was said.
  6. Unprepared: There is no secret or “silver bullet” to effective facilitation if the session leader shows up ill prepared.  Aside from active listening, with a strong emphasis on reflection, there aren’t any skills to help a facilitator during a session who shows up unprepared.

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 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’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.

When Quality Decision Making is Not Enough and Speed of Action is Required


According to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey, “Power is no longer simply the sum of capability and capacity but now, disproportionately, it includes speed—speed of action but especially speed of decision making.” (source: WSJ, Voices on the Future)

Race Against Time

Race Against Time

For any consensual and well-informed decision however, consider at least seven agenda steps to ensure a FAST quality decision:

  • Introduction
  • Purpose of the scope or object of the situation
  • Options
  • Criteria
  • Decision
  • Testing
  • Review and wrap

Do not forget to begin with the purpose of the decision or you risk combative participants with competing purposes. Also begin with WHY the situation is valuable or important before you being your analysis or WHAT discussions.

Embrace the rules of ideation when capturing options—no discussion, high energy, etc. Set them aside and immediately develop an understanding of the decision criteria. General Dempsey added that “Countering the need for speed is often the paralyzing volumes of information, which often create an illusion of control and optimal decision making.” Here is why we rely on subject matter experts, to translate the volumes of information, into the most important considerations.

Most importantly, understand how you plan to scrub the criteria and what tool is most appropriate for your situation. In our FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership curriculum, we look various methods to galvanize consensus around decisions including:

Throughout the decision step, get the group to first deselect and agree on sub-optimal options so that the number of viable options is reduced, increasing the likelihood that the group will better focus on the best candidates. Do not allow any tool to make the decision for you, but allow tools to help you de-select.

For testing, take the decision and compare it with the purpose developed in the second step of the agenda. Determine to what extent the decision supports the purpose. If the harmony is strong, the meeting is over. If there are disconnects, revisit both the purpose statement and tentative decision with questions about clarity, omissions, and deletions, until you have developed a decision that the participants can “live with” meaning they will support it and not lose sleep over it, even if it is not their ‘favorite.’

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 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’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.

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