April 9, 2015 Leave a comment
The term ‘information’ captures a sense of flow and dynamism, it is not static. A compound word derived from stuff that moves ‘in-formation’ should concern all facilitators, as rarely do we touch a product or conduct a process during a meeting or a workshop. Rather, we are all working with subject matter experts who provide us their perspective about stuff that is in-formation.
Collaborative practices have been increasingly applied to running agile meetings and Scrum ‘events’ with most recognizing facilitation skills as core to the ScrumMaster role. Some of the developments embraced by many that could apply to your meetings include:
- Consensus building, NOT voting
- High participation
- Providing a variety of stimulating activities
- Structured collaborative tools
- Time boxing
- Visible agendas
Some of the benefits espoused from the agile approach to facilitation practices are shown below:
- Collective knowledge about product and process decisions
- Early identification of high-benefit opportunities
- Encouraging flexibility and adjustments toward unexpected developments
- Frequent re-assessment to identify appropriate course corrections
- In-depth exploration of more factors than normally considered
Since we are not ScrumMasters ourselves, we borrow some of this from Cara Turner, who provides richer detail about the relationship of agile methods and neuroscience at her blog site, facilitatingagility.com. Cara, along with numerous authors and scientists she uses in support, refers to eight concepts that all facilitators ought consider, namely:
- Conceptual Challenges: Keeping participants conscious to “be here now” burns a lot of fuel. Additionally, keeping multiple concepts in mind, at the same time, is virtually impossible for a group since individuals cannot typically think about more than four concepts at once, and thinking about only two at once is optimal, therefore . . .
- . . . Focus: The hardest part of any session is getting a group of people to focus on the same thing at the same time with the same meaning and intent. Be sure to schedule ample breaks.
- Conduct frequent breakout sessions to keep energy flowing.
- Consider ergonomic stretches and breathing exercises to keep participants vibrant.
- If necessary, use time boxing rather than burning out participants. Subsequence meeting can pick up where you leave off, with fresh energy.
- Schedule the most important stuff the first part of the meeting, and if it is critically important, schedule that meeting for the first part of the day.
- We believe that two ten-minute breaks are superior to the traditional 15 to 20 minute break offered each morning or afternoon. We do post timers however, and do not allow them to become eleven-minute (or more) breaks. Do NOT penalize people who are on time by waiting for people who are not.
- Get Graphic: Visual imagery also stimulates making it easier to analyze. Images (ie, iconic) and sketches (ie, illustrative) are more efficient for capturing complex relationships than narrative (ie, written) terms. If you work in a multi-national organization, they also mitigate some of the challenges associated with translations and transliterations.
- Mapping Stimulates: The power of patterns remains unchallenged and continues to be supported by most scientific research across a broad spectrum of disciplines. Mapping, such as logical models and process flow diagrams, make it easier to identify omissions and more fully explain the complex relationships that exists among the components being discussed.
- The Zen of the Experience (use all the senses): When physical/ spatial, visual, and sound (and optimally even taste and smell) harmonize, we create more vivid associations that improve our memory recall. Who cannot recall the smell, standing at the seashore, of an “ocean breeze”?
- Think Deeply: Here the basic challenge advances our short-term thinking to embrace long-term implications and consequences. What are the deeper associations? Because the cost of omissions, that is ‘missing stuff’, is exorbitantly high (especially with information technologies), we need to more fully value and appreciate some of the longer exercises that may be required to bring the discussion to a higher level that removes the myopic view from your participants and forces them to be integrative with their thinking. Simply put, causal diagrams take longer than ideation sessions.
- Use Analogies: Educators have known for centuries that learning is amplified when explained via analogy or metaphor. We have ben promoting the concept of an analogy as a way to explain the agenda and how the pieces fit together for nearly thirty years now.
- Write it Down: In addition to providing visual stimulation, if it is not written down it will be forgotten. In other words, if it is not written down, it did not happen. Do not waste everyone’s time, please write it down. It is easier to delete later than to recall what was said, “back then.”
Combined, the concepts above make it easier (ie, faciltaere) for your participants to act on knowledge accessed and developed during your meetings and workshops. For additional activities to support your sessions, look at her post or some of the worthwhile bookmarks provided below that support collaborative sorting, experience prototyping, idea generation, and other simulations to build consensus and higher quality deliverables, FAST.
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.