A Blueprint for Consensus Building Around Strategic Decision-Making


After reviewing some material about the optimal methodology (ie, approach) for strategic distribution planning, related to an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) project, it became quickly evident that the expert’s recommendation followed the basic principles of all decision-making. The three indisputable components include:

  1. Purpose (or, intent)
  2. Options
  3. Criteria

And since not all criteria is of equal value, the author suggested weighting the criteria, referred to as “service outputs.” Even when you make a simple decision about buying new underwear, you consider the purpose (eg, workout, daily, formalwear, etc.), your options (typically stuff on the shelf at the store), and your criteria (ie, style, price, size, etc.). Not surprisingly, you also weigh the criteria, as size is probably the most important criteria, followed closely by price.

In their model they suggest the following:

  • Identify which channels you are seeking to penetrate
  • Isolate the most important segments within each channel
  • Identify their “service outputs” and then to . . .
  1. List clearly
  2. Rank
  3. Prioritize
  4. Rank

Nearly all decisions could be represented on a single-page. We call the visual array a decision-matrix. Compare your options to your criteria.

Decision Support Matrix (illustration)

Decision Support Matrix
(illustration)

Do not ask a close-ended question such as “Does this criteria affect this option?” Rather, ask the open-ended question that yields a powerful visual; namely, “To what extent does this criteria impact this option (ie, High, Low, or Medium). It’s easier to build consensual understanding when taking a non-narrative approach as shown below.

The example suggests the important attributes sought when hiring domestic staff for a wealthy household. Note for example that “Reputation” is less important when hiring a new Gardener than when hiring someone for Day Care support of the children. Again, note that “Creativity” is more important when hiring a chef than when hiring Cleaning Support. The group can easily evaluate the importance of the options by the extent they are supported by the criteria. The group can also see the relative importance of an individual criterion by evaluating its impact across all of your options.

Remember, the secret is to ask the open-ended question, “To what extent . . .” Additionally, since the example is a simple, “plain vanilla” illustration, modify it to your own situation, and consider using the Bookend tool to force fit an even distribution of Highs, Lows, and Moderates across the options or within each option. See the link that follows for further explanation on the use of Bookends.

By the way, some of the criteria used in the distribution channels example might include:

  • Adaptability (eg, to economic upheaval, competitive forces, etc.)
  • Effectiveness (eg, return on investment, market share, etc.)
  • Efficiency (eg, expense to revenue, cost of doing business, etc.)
  • Quality (eg, customer satisfaction, on time performance, etc.)

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.

Seven Traits that Increase the Likelihood of Successful Meetings


Avoid meeting killers. A “killer” would suggest the absence or void of its opposite, a success catalyst. There is no set formula for successful meetings, but there are given traits that suggest a strong likelihood of successful meetings, listed in alphabetical order below:

Successful Team Meetings

Successful Team Meetings

  1. Control the Operational Definitions to Prevent Scope Creep: Unless your deliverable calls for a definition or scoping boundaries, do not allow arguments about the meaning of terms used in your preparatory materials. If you have prepared a meeting deliverable and agenda, then you need to know the meaning of the terms being used, so do not allow any argument about definitions. Scope creep kills projects, and it kills meetings as well.
  2. Embrace Ground Rules to Ensure On-time Performance: The terms “concussion”, “percussion”, and “discussion” are all related. Avoid meeting headaches and get more done faster. You do not have to have ground rules, only if you want to get more done, faster.
  3. Enjoin and Facilitate Argumentation and Discussion: The best return on investment of face-to-face meeting time (and costs) derives from resolving conflict. When two or more people (or teams) disagree, they need facilitation. Arguments are not well solved with text messages, emails, decks of slides, and PDFs.
  4. Focus on the Analytics or Tools that Galvanize Consensus: There is more one than tool in all circumstances. Given your participants, constraints, and personal experience, anticipate a tool that may be optimum for your situation. If possible, anticipate a back-up approach as well, if something goes awry with your plan.
  5. Increase the Velocity of Participation: Groups are smarter than the smartest person in the group because groups generate more options than individuals alone. Solicit and encourage a multiplicity of input. The human mind is empowered tremendously when it can compare and contrast options to influence decision-making.
  6. Know What Done Looks Like: Any leader needs to know where they are going before they take off. The deliverable of your meeting must be made clear before the meeting starts. People can follow someone who knows where they are going. People are reticent to follow someone who does not know where they are going. And meeting participants ALWAYS know the difference.
  7. Prepare a Method or Agenda to Guide the Group: Structure yields flexibility. If you create a map for a journey, it is easy to take a detour or scenic route because you know where to go when the temporary path is no longer valuable. Plan your work and work your plan.

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.

It Is NOT “What’s in it for me?” Rather, “What do you need or want from me?”


One difference between high performance groups and normal or under-performing groups of people is the perspective embraced by the participants during meetings and workshops.  Most participants attend sessions with concern over “What’s in it for me?”  That is neither the right attitude nor the right question.  What they should be asking is “What do you need or want from me (so that we can get done faster)?”

What Do You Need from Me?

What Do You Need from Me?

As facilitator or session leader, it is virtually impossible to shift their attitude at the start of a meeting.  To cause a shift in participant thinking, attitude, and behavior requires clear and two-way communications before the meeting begins.

Most meetings (at least the good ones) typically result in Action Plans and agreed upon roles and responsibilities for making things happen.  Because we expect to hold the participants accountable for their follow-up, get them involved before the meeting starts to understand and agree to the Purpose, Scope, Deliverables, and Simple Agenda for the meeting.

You have every right to expect participants to show up prepared.  As session leader, it is your responsibility to define “prepared.”  How can participants arrive prepared if they do not know the purpose of the meeting before it starts?  How can participants stay focused and complete on time if they do not understand the scope of the meeting (as discrete from the scope of the project the meeting may be supporting)?  How can participants help you get done faster if you and they do not know “what done looks like (ie, deliverable)”?  How can participants agree to follow-up assignments if they are not permitted to provide their input, clarifications, and calibrations about HOW they are going to get done on time (ie, the Agenda)?

Ultimately the reason for most meetings and workshops is that we need consensual answers to relatively complex questions.  If the questions are simple, typically we do not need a meeting nor are their consensual challenges.  Knowing that effective meetings develop consensual answers to questions and problems, the session leader must prepare and know in advance of the meeting, the questions that need to be answered.

Once developed and understood, do not hide the questions to be asked in a meeting.  Share them in advance.  Since select subject matter experts (ie, participants) are more likely to provide input on select questions, highlight the questions on an individual basis and explain to each participants that you expect them to think in advance about their responses.  Explain that when the questions(s) is asked that you have highlighted for them to consider, you expect them to take the lead and be among the first to offer up a perspective.

It’s not easy to run a successful meeting.  That is why many meetings fail or frail.  Your job is to make sure the meeting or workshop is off and running the moment you start.  The only way to ensure that level of productivity is to prepare your participants in advance.

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.

Apply “Book-Ends” Method, Rather than Analyzing Lists Using a Linear Method


Purpose

Effective facilitators shy away from working lists in a linear fashion.  The purpose with the use of bookends is to develop a natural habit of squeezing the grey matter towards the middle, rather than wasting too much time on it.

Rationale

Groups tend to argue about grey matter that frequently does not affect the decision anyway.  For instance, with PowerBalls, you can envision some participants arguing whether something is more important than moderate yet less important than high.  We know from experience that high criteria drives most decisions, so bookends help us identify the most important stuff quickly.

Method

After you have compiled a list, compare and contrast different items with the simple process as explained below:

Avoid Linear Analysis

Avoid Linear Analysis

  • Ask, “Which of these is the most important?” (as defined by the PowerBalls displayed).
  • Next ask, “Which of these is the least important?” 
  • Then return to the next most important
  • And to the next least important

Until the list has been squeezed into the remaining one-third that is moderate.

If comparing or contrasting illustrations, consider asking . . .

  • Which is most similar?
  • Which is least similar?

Repeat until one-third remain as moderate.

For discussions consider asking . . .

  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is your greatest weakness?

Repeat until one-third remain as moderate.

Five-Level Numeric Alternative (plus Null) Where More is Better

5. High Importance

1. Low Importance

4. Moderate Importance

3. Moderately High Importance

2. Moderately Low Importance

Ø.  NULL or Will NOT have

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.

Five Narrative Methods of Gathering Participant Input During Brainstorming


The Brainstorming tool comprises three steps; diverge, analyze, and converge.  Besides non-narrative methods of capturing participant input, consider the following options when gathering narrative input from your participants.

Remember to embrace the rules of ideation and prevent discussion while you are capturing their ideas. At the very least, consider one last round robin for final contributions, allowing participants to say “pass” if they have nothing to add.

Ideation Ground Rules

Ideation Ground Rules

Keep in mind that the term “listing” may be more appropriate if you are collecting a known set of information.  True brainstorming derives all future possibilities—anything goes. Beginning with the traditional, facilitator-led question and answer approach; are some additional options to consider:

  • Facilitator-led questions—keep in mind that you can use a support scribe(s) but if so, remind them of the importance of neutrality and capturing complete verbatim inputs.
  • Pass the pen or marker—again having prepared the easel title/ banner, have participants walk up to the easel in the order of an assigned round-robin sequence to document their contribution(s).  This approach is wise after lunch or when participants’ energy is low because it gets participants up and moving around.  Help them with their penmanship or clarity if necessary.
  • Pass the sheet or card—particularly appropriate if time is short, the group is large, or you have many questions requiring input (distribute a writing pad or index card for each question).  Write the question or title on individual large cards or sturdy-stock pieces of paper and either sitting or standing have the participants pass them around until each person has had the opportunity to make a contribution to each question.  This approach helps reduce redundant answers since participants see what prior people have written.
  • Post-it Notes—continue to use easels with sheet titles for posting the notes.  Have individuals mount one idea per note, as many notes as they want, on the appropriate easel whose title/ question matches the answers they are posting.  If there is more than one question, you can color coordinate the easel title/ banner with the Post-it note colors.
  • Round-robin—again having prepared the easel title/ banner, and perhaps in consort with a scribe(s), create an assigned order by which the participants one at a time offer content, permitting any of them to say “pass” at any time.

Consider time boxing the ideation step if necessary, typically in the five to ten minute range.  Remember, the hard part is the analysis that occurs next.

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.

How to Build Consensual Definitions that Make It Easier to Plan and Decide


Here is a robust method of defining terms, phrases, or expressions with a group of meeting or workshop participants.  Keep in mind that the standards expected in the method below are demanding and include five separate activities, when combined are highly effective.  Keep this tool in your hip pocket and be prepared to use it whenever you encounter serious discord over the meaning of something.  You may also need this tool when you manage open issues (ie, Parking Lot) and your participants do not agree or cannot remember what something meant.

Purpose

To build an operational definition of a term or phrase that the group can live with, in its own words, and with its own understanding. Since narrative descriptions alone may fall short of the entire meaning, we also want to support the definition with illustration and examples.

Rationale

Robust Definition Tool

Robust Definition Tool

To provide support to a group that needs to consensually arrive at the definition and meaning of something, whether concrete or abstract. This FAST tool supports consensual understanding around terms and phrases but is not robust enough to develop rich definitions for complex ideas like processes, where an entire workshop(s) like Activity Flows may be more useful.

Method

When a term or phrase requires further definition or understanding, it may be best to start with a dictionary definition(s).  However, do not use dictionary definitions alone. Rather, offer them as stimulus for the group to draft their own operational definition. The five additional activities include:

  1. First identify “WHAT THE TERM OR PHRASE IS NOT”.
  2. Next, compile a narrative sentence or paragraph that generally describes it.  Perhaps avoid starting with a blank sheet of paper (ie, use a dictionary or other professional definitions and support).
  3. Then list the detailed bullets that capture the specific characteristics or specifications of the term or phrase as intended by the participants.  For example, with a camera, we might detail requirements for the quantity of mega pixels, zoom range, etc.
  4. Obtain or build a picture of concrete items or create an illustration of the item if it is abstract or dynamic (eg, process flow).
  5. Provide at least two actual, real-life examples from the participants’ experience that vivify the term or phrase. For example, a utility bill can be defined, but it is helpful to show an actual invoice (eg, electricity for the period 15JAN20xx to 14FEB20xx).

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.

Building the Strategic Plan for a Function, Process, Activity or Product


Assuredly, organizational executives are known to go off-site to conduct strategic planning sessions, building consensus around vision and strategy to lead an organization to the future it seeks.  It’s infrequently that the Account Payable Department (or, some other function, process, activity or product) will justify off-site strategic planning sessions, and yet a group still needs consensus around why that department (or, some other function, process, activity or product) exists, where they are going, and how they are going to measure their progress.  To build consensual understanding around WHY something exists or WHY it is important, consider the following tool.  If used appropriately, Commander’s Intent (aka, the Purpose Tool) may be the second most frequently used workshop tool, after Brainstorming.

Purpose

The Purpose Tool  (or, Commander's Intent)

The Purpose Tool
(or, Commander’s Intent)

This activity yields a wonderful, group constructed statement that captures the reason, plan, scope, and benefits of a business area.

Rationale

This provides the group a consensually built backdrop that can be appealed to—and helps galvanize consensus around analytical methods and decision-making that follow.

Method

Either on one easel or two separate easels, in advance you should build out the visual prompt (preferably in a separate color), that “The Purpose of ____ is to . . . (ellipsis) So that . . . (ellipsis).”

  • Prompt your participants with “The Purpose of ____ is to . . .
  • If you are scribing and the room is silent, as you print the last word from the previous input, prompt them audibly with “So that . . .” because you want to keep the energy high.
  • Do not use hyphens as you capture, rather use commas as you are helping them build one, long run-on sentence.
  • Do not wordsmith the results but be certain to reread, review, and confirm that they have created a statement that everyone can live with.  Basically, you have created a strategic plan at the level of a business area or activity—why it is important.
  • Review during the workshop as an appeal to ensure that the discussion stays on topic.  If necessary, either take off topic discussion and ask that it be placed in the Issue Bin or go back and modify this statement to allow for its inclusion.

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.

A Facilitator’s Profile is Much Like an Innovator’s Profile (Design Thinker)


“Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need weird shoes or a black turtleneck to be a design thinker . . .” so goes the article from Harvard Business Review June 2008 (pg 87).  The author suggests that five characteristics found in design thinkers (ie, innovators) that relate uncannily to core competencies required for effective facilitation.  Included (in alphabetical order) are Collaboration, Empathy, Experimentalism, Integrative Thinking, and Optimism.

Door of Opportunity

Door of Opportunity

Collaboration:  Increasing complexity of options and decision-making demands the involvement of many, rather than one.  Lone genius has been replaced with cross-disciplinary subject matter experts.  Select subject matter experts have the talent to succeed, the initiative and motivation to succeed, but frequently do not know how to succeed in a group setting.  Many are subject matters across disciplines with experience drawn upon multiple backgrounds and organizations.  At IDEO for example, they engage engineers, marketers, anthropologists, industrial designers, architects, and psychologists, among others.

Empathy:  Understanding that there is more than one right answer, seeking the best among multiple perspectives lends itself to creating an answer that did not walk into the meeting; rather one that is created during the meeting.  To support creation, empathy in the form of active listening with a neutral session leader becomes critical.

Experimentalism:  Challenging subject matter experts to make their thinking visible, from the heart, can advance the rationale behind their thoughts that breeds both consensual understanding and breakthrough solutions.  Through observation and questioning, session leaders can inspire and transfer ownership of the meeting output.

Integrative Thinking:  While analytical methods are certainly helpful, integrative approaches support innovation.  A neutral facilitator can help a group understand multiple perspectives and build a solution(s) to reconcile seemingly contradictory points of view.  For example, one participant may prefer black and another prefers white.  Instead of viewing them as opposing thoughts, how can we integrate both black and white?  Immediate answers include options such as two-tone, plaid, polka dot, shades of grey, etc.

Optimism:  Successful session leaders rely on confidence in method rather than expertise around content to generate higher quality solutions.  Practically speaking however, optimism and confidence come from experience, so don’t forget to try, practice, and some more.  There is usually more than one right answer.  You may not be the best facilitator in the world, but you are the best facilitator your group can find.

Trust that in the role of session leader, they need you more than anything else, to lead with Collaboration, Empathy, Experimentalism, Integrative Thinking, and Optimism.  Through method you can open the doors of perception that makes it easier for your group to develop breakthrough solutions.

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.

A Consensually Built Picture Can Resolve a Thousand Arguments


Most of us have heard that a picture tells a thousand words.  Consensually built pictures, especially around complex topics and interactions, can be used to help solve and resolve a thousand arguments.  We are reminded by the IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) Quick Tip Bulletin #58 about the value of one picture type, called a Context Diagram.

A Context Diagram, also known as a Scoping Picture or Picture of the Business (area) may look complicated and un-informing to the uninformed, but a picture of the business quickly enables a session leader to tighten the reign on scope creep issues that plague many meetings and workshops.Illustrative Context Diagram

The example shown above illustrates “who” the business interacts (here, an organization or business called “Home Finance”) with, “what” the business receives from them, and “what” the business gives to them. Frequently the “whats” are known as inputs and outputs. Inputs and outputs are used in requirements gathering to narrow the scope of discovery and discussion. The picture helps both the participants and the facilitator focus on the deliverable.

Our simple agenda is shown below, and captures the answers to three simple questions before the modeling is complete:

  1. WHO do we work with to support our purpose (eg, Actors or Agents)?
  2. WHAT do we get from them (inputs)?
  3. WHAT do we give them (outputs)?

Modify this “plain vanilla” agenda as you see fit.  Use the FAST 7-step introductory sequence and 4-step review and wrap for the bookends. Have an ample supply of Post-It® Notes available, in at least three different colors, sizes, or shapes to distinguish the WHO from the inputs and outputs. Once complete, and consensually validated, you can proceed further with follow-up meetings or workshops to further define and illustrate WHO the business uses to support their purpose, and what activities (Activity Flow or Functional Decomposition workshop, leading to use cases such as SIPOC) and information (Logical Modeling or Entity Relationship Diagram) are also required to support their business purpose.

Here is the simple agenda that typically takes two to four hours to complete. Refer to your FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership manual for more details.

  • INTRODUCTION
  • PURPOSE OF THE BUSINESS AREA
  • WHO INTERACTS (Actors)
  • WHAT COMES IN (Inputs)
  • WHAT GOES OUT (Outputs)
  • MODEL AND VALIDATION (Walk-thru)
  • THE SCOPE DEFINED (Narrative)
  • REVIEW AND WRAP

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.

Questions to Ask When Managing Risk and Reward in an Innovation Portfolio


Five years before George Day’s article “Is It Real? Can We Win? Is It Worth Doing? Managing Risk and Reward in an Innovation Portfolio” appeared in the December 2007 edition of the Harvard Business Review, we were working with the a Fortune 100 Company to build a process to manage “ideas.” Imagine a traditional scorecard or project assessment portfolio, built much like our FAST approach to quantitative SWOT analysis, that could look something like the picture below.

Real-Win-Worth

Real-Win-Worth

While you would need to determine the weights and sensitivities of your own situation, the questions being asked (Criterion) are pertinent to all product development and portfolio balancing initiatives. Since most of our alumni struggle with methodology rather than facilitation, listed below are the primary categories (far left column of picture), the secondary categories (second column from the left), and the questions each contains, that you may choose to modify for your situation.

Note that the primary categories provide natural agenda steps for a workshop. The secondary categories open the door for activities to support each step. The questions themselves are the bottom of the FAST holarchy, as known by our alumni.

Methodologically, it is very important to follow the sequence as shown, as we discovered based on our own experience facilitating such workshops. If the product is not very real, stop.  If the product is real but we cannot win, stop. If the product is real and we can win, what is it worth?

REAL

  1. Market Attractiveness: Is the market real?

1.1.  What is the need, want, or problem to solve?

1.2.  Who are the identifiable customer(s) willing to buy?

1.3.  How attractive is the market potential?

2.  Technical Feasibility: Is the product (or solution or service) real?

2.1.  What is the idea, concept, or solution that addresses the identified need?

2.2.  To what extent do we have the technology and expertise to make it? (technical risk)

2.3.  To what extent do we have the manufacturing or delivery capacity to provide it? (manufacturing risk)

2.4.  How likely can we make the product within the defined market window? (timing risk)

2.5.  To what extent will the product fit the customer’s processes? (commercial risk)

WIN

3.  Product Advantage: Is the product competitive?

3.1.  To what extent can our product be competitive on design or performance features?

3.2.  To what extent does the product compliment or enhance an existing product offering? (product cannibalization risk)

3.3.  To what extent does our price meet customer expectations? (pricing risk)

4.   Synergy with Core Competencies: Is the company competitive?

4.1.  To what extent does it leverage our core technology or build on an existing platform? (investment risk)

4.2.  To what extent do we have a path to market and business model to be successful? (market share risk)

4.3.  To what extent do we have the experience, skills, and human resources to be successful? (project risk)

WORTH  

5.  Strategic Fit: To what extent is the product strategic?

5.1.  How well is this opportunity aligned with the strategic plan for our organization?

5.2.  To what extent does this opportunity open the door to new business in the future? (strategic leverage)

5.3.  To what extent are there overriding factors? (eg, affordability)

6.  Risk/ Reward: To what extent is the product profitable?

6.1.  What are the capital requirements? (financial risk)

6.2.  What are the full-time equivalent requirements? (human capital risk)

6.3.  What is the range for projected annual sales in year five?

6.4.  What is the projected range for rate of return on capital invested?

6.5.  What is the range for projected size of return in ten years? (net present value or NPV)

6.6.  To what extent do we have confidence in the opportunity? (forecast risk)

With consensual answers to these questions and appropriate weights applied, you can now calculate and compare discrete values for real, win, and worth. The workshop discussions lend to the capture of top risks, critical information, key uncertainties, and major assumptions that need to be captured for setting up next steps including an action plan, key milestones, and critical dates.  (See Roles and Responsibilities tool).

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.

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