9 Components of a Structured Approach for More Effective Meetings & Workshops


A facilitated meeting or workshop technique provides a structured environment designed to extract high quality information in a compressed timeframe. It uses visual aids and a team environment to accelerate projects and amplify the quality of the decisions, outputs, deliverables, and outcomes.

The major components of the FAST facilitative leadership technique include:

  1. A model life cycle and methodology that eases adapting FAST to a variety of planning, analysis, and design methodologies
  2. An intensive educational forum providing the necessary facilitation and communication skills, tools, and an understanding of facilitated meeting roles—not dogma or other inflexible, guru-like perspectives
  3. Collaborative activities designed to encourage discovery and promote innovation
  4. Stress-tested workshop and meeting approaches molded to fit most projects situations
  5. Proficient leadership, based on critical skills such as:

    A Structured Approach for More Effective Meetings & Workshops

    A Structured Approach for More Effective Meetings & Workshops

  1. Project management and risk analysis support
  2. Reference manual and alumni membership and resources
  3. Ten uniquely defined roles including session leader, documenter(s), methodologist, business partner, technical partner, executive sponsor, team members, participants, coordinator, and observers
  4. Unique visual and illustrative communication aids called upon appropriately by a trained and certified FAST session leader.

Is NOT

A structured meeting or workshop is NOT a replacement for analytical methodologies. It works with methodologies to generate a uniform voice by providing an efficient two-way flow of information, from one person or group to another. Information developed with a consensual method provides value by becoming the foundation for additional information gathering, development, and decisions.

Session Leader

A neutral session leader (ie, facilitator/ methodologist) provides the keystone for structured workshops. The session leader understands the preparation requirements, group dynamics and appropriate methodology. The session leader is responsible for the managing the approach—the agenda, the ground rules, the flow of the conversation, etc—but not the content of the discussion, or even necessarily the project(s) being supported by the discussion and decisions.

Effective Facilitator

Various academic research has found that the most effective type of facilitator was one that actively elicited questions and responses from the quietest participants to enable a balance among the players. Effectiveness is best achieved by building a safe and trustworthy environment, one that provides “permission to speak freely,” without fear of reprisal or economic loss.

Defined Products

The type of documentation they generate drives workshop techniques. Some use templates to organize the notes taken during a workshop. The information collected starts out as raw or draft notes. Draft notes provide formal input to the project process. However, the meeting or workshop is not synonymous with the project, rather it compliments additional tasks and activities performed before and after the meeting or workshop, typically by the project team. A clear and consensually agreed upon path of next steps and “WHO does WHAT and WHEN” becomes the most common deliverable of meetings and workshops.

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 SolutionImprove 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.

Four Important Steps Toward Building a Meeting Agenda Owned By Participants


Purpose

This approach builds the meeting purpose, scope, session (ie, meeting or workshop) deliverables, simple agenda, and potential participants.

Building an Agenda

Building an Agenda

Method

Do the following:

  1. Write down your deliverable and strive to get examples! Deliverables illustrate the required documentation and needed information. What are we producing? Show participants examples if you are building a model. Align with the enterprise and business unit strategic plans to help reconcile tradeoffs in your decision-making process.
  2. Quantify impact from the meeting on the program and articulate the project or meeting scope. Identify the level of detail desired, the type of session (planning, problem solving, design, etc.), and what to accomplish in the workshop. Understand what might be excluded (due to scope); or what the purpose and scope are NOT.
  3. Identify and compose the simple steps that enable you to organize the known information,identify the missing information, and produce the deliverablesidentifiedpreviously. Rely on your organization’s methodology or life cycle. The best sources for your draft method are (in order of preference):
    • Proprietary or in-house life cycle
    • Team charter, prior work, or FAST cookbook agendas
    • Experience—look at past successful workshops (or CoP; ie. community of practice), ask, “What questions need to be answered to satisfy the purpose of the workshop?” Consider the Single-Question approach.
    • Talk to the project manager, technical partner (ie, the methodologist), or other organizational experts.
    • Go to a library or bookstore but do NOT rely on Google®.

For Lean or Agile also consider

  • Existing enterprise systems or processes (life cycle)
  • Architecture infrastructure (consider drafting a baseline architectural pattern)
  • Scoping/ phasing (what high level information is known)
  • Consider existing process models, high level ERD, and actors’ security/ policy

The three steps in the method above yield a DRAFT simple agenda; 
ie, simple meeting or workshop agenda.

NOTE: Identify the known information at the start of the proposed workshop. Some information was probably built before this workshop. It may be output from prior workshops. It may be planning or scope documents. This information should only be reviewed and not built from scratch, if acceptable.

  1. Identify the most appropriate participants. Identify what knowledge or expertise each needs to bring to the workshop. Determine how much of the agenda the participants understand and can reasonably complete in a group environment. Identify what issues they have—do they need team building or creativity or some management of behavior?   

Find someone who will provide resistance at the meeting so that you can learn to anticipate challenges that will develop. You may not want to avoid the issues because they need to surface; however, you do not want to be surprised or caught off guard.

Walk through the steps to see if you can produce the desired results with the proposed participants. Do the steps allow the group to build on prior work without jumping around? Are the steps logical? Will the deliverables be comprehensive?

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.

10 Excellent Guidelines for Students & Teachers: Justice, Peace, & Delight


Found the ten rules below and had to share, especially Rule Eight.  Since most of us play many roles in life, all of us at one time or another are student, teacher, parent, child, etc., thought you would appreciate them as well.

John Cage, an avant-garde musical composer inspired Sister Corita Kent. As an unlikely ‘regular’ in the Los Angeles art scene, the nun was an instructor at Immaculate Heart College and a celebrated artist who considered Saul Bass, Buckminster Fuller and Cage to be personal friends.

In 1968, she crafted the lovely, touching Ten Rules for Students and Teachers for a class project. While Cage was quoted directly in Rule 10, he didn’t come up with the list, as many website sites claim. By all accounts, though, he marveled at the list.

Sr Corita Kent

Sr Corita Kent

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student: Pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.

RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher: Pull everything out of your students.

RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.

RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined: this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

RULE TEN: We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.

HINTS:

  • Always be around.
  • Come or go to everything.
  • Always go to classes.
  • Read anything you can get your hands on.
  • Look at movies carefully, often.
  • Save everything, it might come in handy later.

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 You Can Lead a Group in a Complex Situation to Prioritize and Decide


This quantitative approach to SWOT was developed by Terrence Metz while at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. Traditionally, SWOT is a narrative method for describing a current situation. It is typically used in strategic planning, but it also is used in product development, annual planning of projects, or current situation analysis. We have used the following quantitative approach whenever you are faced with prioritizing among hundreds of options.

The following is a simplified approach.
In our FAST curriculum, we explain quadrant analysis, baselining, temporal shift, group personality, and other esoteric factors.

SWOT analysis begins by defining each of the four areas – Strengths (what a group controls and does well), Weaknesses (what a group controls but does not do well), Opportunities (situations, events, etc., outside control of the group that provide unique opportunities for growth, change, etc.), and Threats (changes or competitive forces that may adversely impact the group). Brainstorm each list separately. Analyze each list (PowerBalls is a good tool here) to prioritize to about six of the most significant factors each.

Build a matrix (see illustrations below). Opportunities and Threats on top with Strengths and Weaknesses down the side. Explain the scoring process to the group. Each member gets “9” points (it is an arbitrary number and you may change it if you want more or fewer points). They assign the points based on the impact or leverage that each strength or weakness has relative to each opportunity or threat. The higher the impact, the higher the number. Ensure that they don’t just spread them evenly – it should be based on a business understanding. Collect the scoring. Using a spreadsheet (alumni may download), calculate the final scores for each intersection, each column, each row, and each quadrant.

Review the scores with the group and highlight the quadrants, rows, and intersections with the highest scores. Summarize from the list and have the group convert the most impactful concepts into a narrative action plan.

One Person Example
A fictitious software company employee looks at its strengths as: experience, good people, creative ideas, and product integration. Its weaknesses are newness to market and development time. Opportunities are integrated products, new market, and extensive market research data that is available. Threats are recession, other large competitors (eg, Microsoft), and hardware manufactures. The one person may scores it as follows (scored from 1 to 9, with 9 indicating greatest impact):

Fictitious Individual Scoring Sheet

Fictitious Individual Scoring Sheet

Analysis
The scoring indicates the most important strengths are their product ideas and integration. The weakness making them most vulnerable is their development time. The most favorable opportunities are integrated products and growth of computer use.

Thoughts
Strengths matter if they help take advantage of an opportunity or fend off a threat. Weaknesses matter if they prevent a group from taking an opportunity or making them vulnerable to threats. Opportunities require some strength to take advantage. This matrix helps to highlight which strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats require strategies.

Eleven Person Summary
Here is a real life example with eleven participants. Note that the moderate strengths and weaknesses had little or not impact on the plan.   Participants largely weighted their most significant strengths and weaknesses to develop actions.

Actual Eleven Person Team, Aggregate SWOT Scoring Summary

Actual Eleven Person Team, Aggregate SWOT Scoring Summary

Quantiative SWOT analysis helps focus future efforts – products, projects, strategies, and actions. It takes a few hours to complete, but it is worth the effort.

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.

A Simple Agenda for Agreeing on Who Does What to Support an Articulate Purpose


Purpose

To support any type of descriptive or prescriptive build-out of a plan, process, or series of activities which can then be illustrated with a process flow diagram.

Rationale

Groups have a tendency to forget activities or events that occur less frequently, particularly infrequent or irregular activities that support planning and control. The following helps to squeeze out potential and costly omissions.

Simple Agenda

You may consider using this simple agenda with a brief discussion of the supporting method that follows:

  • Introduction
  • Purpose of __________ (topic, sphere, or business area)
  • Activities
    (NOTE: Take each “thing” from the purpose statement above and ask—“What do you do with this thing ?”—forcing “Verb-Noun”)
  • Sequencing
    (NOTE: Test for omissions using the Plan ➺ Acquire ➺ Operate ➺ Control prompting)
  • Value-Add
    (NOTE: eg, SIPOC)
  • Swimlanes
    (NOTE: eg, process flow diagram)
  • Wrap

Method

The developmental support steps are covered in depth in the FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership Manual. Here is a brief summary for your quick reference:

  • Determine the business purpose of the planning area, process topic, or functional sphere. Strongly suggest using the “Purpose is to . . . So that . . . “ tool.
  • Next is the first activity of the brainstorming method—List. Label the top of the flip chart with “VERB-NOUN” and ask the group to identify all the activities required to support the business purpose created in the prior step. Enforce the listing and capture them as verb-noun pairings only.
  • Use the Plan➠Acquire➠Operate➠Control life cycle prompt to help stimulate discussion about activities that are missing.
  • There needs to be at least one to two planning, one to two acquiring, bunches of operating, and at least one to two controlling activities for each business topic or scope of work.
  • After identifying the various activities (sometimes called “sub-processes” by others), convert the verb-noun pairings into “use cases” or some form of input-process-output. Build one use-case for each pairing.
  • Consider assigning SIPOC tables (a form of use cases) to sub-teams. SIPOC stands for the Source of the input, Input(s) required to complete the activity, Process (ie, our activity), Output resulting from the activity, and Customer or client of the output. Demonstrate one or two in entirety with the whole group and then separate the participants out into two or three groups.
  • For each activity (ie, verb-noun pairing), build a narrative statement that captures the purpose of the activity (ie, WHY) and HOWitis being performed, then:
    • Continue to identify the specific outputs or what changes as a result of having completed the activity.
    • Link the outputs with the customer or client of each; ie, who is using each output.
    • Next identify the inputs required to support the activity.
    • Finally identify the sources of the inputs.

An illustrative SIPOC chart is shown below based on a mountain climbing metaphor. The focal verb-noun pairing is “pack supplies”.

Illustrative SIPOC

Illustrative SIPOC

Summary of steps to be included in this sequence

  1. Identify the activity (ie, process) and its purpose and discuss WHY it is performed.
  2. Detail HOW it is or should be performed.
  3. List the outputs from the completed activity.
  4. Link the outputs to the respective clients or customers.
  5. List the inputs needed to complete the activity.
  6. Identify the source(s) for each of the inputs.

Success Keys

To build clear definition of “requirements”, provide a visual illustration or template. Additionally,

  • Have the group pre-build all the potential sources and customers of the process and code them so that when you build the SIPOC tables, the group can refer to the code letter/ number instead of the full name (thus substantially speeding up the method). As you discover new sources or customers, simply add them.
  • Learn to ‘shut up’ after asking questions and seek to understand rather than be understood.
  • Write down participant response immediately and fully.
  • Provide visual feedback, preferably through modeling.
  • Advance from activity identification to the inputs and outputs required to support the activity; then associate each with its sources and clients (SIPOC).
  • Separate the WHAT (ie, abstract) from the HOW (ie, concrete).

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.

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

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 the 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.

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