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.

Consensus does NOT Mean that Participants are Going to be “Happy”


A facilitator should typically avoid the term “happy”. Our effort guides a group to common or shared understanding that they can support and not lose any sleep over—something they can “live with.” Consensus does NOT mean that they are going to end up “happy.”

Look closely at the difference in meaning between the terms ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’. The ‘object’ is that outside of us that is being perceived. The ‘subject’ is the perceiver. In business, we frequently use the terms ‘objective’ as something we intend to accomplish or realize. We use the term ‘subject’ when we are referring to meeting participants, or ‘subject matter experts’.

Subject matter experts, aka SME, express their preferences, requirements, needs, priorities, likes, dislikes, etc. about ‘objects’ or things outside of their immediate control. Two people eating chili for example may disagree on the chili’s level of spiciness. What is really hot to one person may be tepid to another. They are experiencing separate realities; it, they are reacting differently to the same object (spiciness of the chili).

Scoville Units

Scoville Units

No amount of argument will get them to agree on whether the chili is too spicy or not. Clearly to one, it is, while to the other it is not. They are both right from their subjective points of view. The wrong approach would be to encourage them to meet halfway and call the chili semi-spicy. That would be like suggesting one with their left foot in a pail of hot water and their right foot in a pail of freezing water should on average, be comfortable.

Therefore a world-class facilitator strives to ‘objectify’ the subjective. Meaning, they strive to find a common ground that both parties to which both parties agree without compromise. In the case of spiciness, we might be able to get both parties to agree that the chili is neither hot nor tepid, rather they might agree that it measures 3,000 Scoville units (ie, the measure of pungency or the amount of capsaicin that makes peppers ‘hot’). The truly objective rating of the spiciness does not make either participant “happy” but it does give them a common ground about which they can argue for more or less in the specific, rather than the general.

While one may argue for more ‘heat’ and another argues for less ‘heat’ we can now more effectively facilitate precisely what is meant by heat, and wisely offer options such as offering two or three types of chili.

We are seeking agreement or consensus rather than making participants “happy” so please be careful when using the term, or similar terms that are “qualitative” by description but can be made “quantitative” through strong challenge, clear definitions, and excellent facilitation.

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.

How to Manage Meeting Participants With Problems Without Embarrassing Them


People with Problems

The following is a table of the characteristics or people problems and some suggestions on how to deal with them.

NAME CHARACTERISTICS WHAT TO DO
The Latecomer Always comes late to meetings, makes a show of arrival, and insists on catching up and stopping the group midstream. Enforce punctuality ground rule; do not disturb meeting or allow person to catch up; talk to during break if necessary.
The Early Leaver Drains group’s energy and morale by leaving meeting before its end. Handle as a latecomer; do not stop the meeting for one person.
The Broken Record Brings up the same point repeatedly; constantly tries to focus discussion of this issue; can prevent group from moving ahead to new items even if ready. The broken record needs to be heard.   Document their input but do not make it an open item until later in the workshop.
The Head Shaker Actively expresses disapproval through body language and nonverbal cues such as rolling eyes, shaking head, crossing and uncrossing arms, sighing, etc. Covertly influences group to reject an idea. Simply approach the head shaker.   Do not allow these nonverbal cues to continue unnoticed. Use open hands to ask them to orally agree or disagree, depending on their actions.
The Dropout Constantly engaged with their “crackberry” or laptop; expresses disapproval or dislike by ignoring the proceedings; may read, do unrelated paperwork to avoid getting engaged in the session. Caution, a doodler is not dropping out—they may be a horizontal thinker. Use laser focus so that they know that you see them. During a break, talk to them. Do NOT publicly call out their name and ask for participation.Encourage your culture to embrace “topless meetings” that prohibit laptops and smart devices.

Consider purchasing an electronic “jammer” for USD$50-$100.

The Whisperer Constantly whispering during meetings, holding offside conversations; upstages facilitator or session leader, as well as other group members. Standing close to the 
whisperer(s) will stop their conversation. Enforce one conversation at a time with the entire group.
The Loudmouth Talks too often and too loudly; dominates the discussion; seemingly impossible to shut up; may be someone who has a higher rank than other group members. Record input if on topic. If not, direct conversation away; stand in front of person for a short time; talk to during break.
The Attacker Launches verbal, personal attacks on other group members and/ or facilitator; constantly ridicules a specific participant’s or constituency view. Stand between two people fighting; stop attacks; use additional ground rules 
to control.
The Interpreter Always speaks for someone else, usually without invitation to do so; restates ideas or meanings and frequently distorts it in the process. First get original speaker to confirm without embarrassing or putting on the spot and then pass the “talking stick.”
The Sleeper Challenged to stay awake, especially during late afternoon sessions. Ideally, open a window.   Practically, walk around them if possible or apply “hand lotion” near them.
The Know-it-all Uses credentials, age, seniority, etc, to argue a point; focuses group attention on opinion and status as opposed to the real issue. Often a supervisor or manager; write it down to satisfy and challenge them about relevancy and proof.
The Backseat Driver Keeps telling the session leader or facilitator what to do—or not do; attempts to control the meeting by downgrading facilitator’s efforts. Listen to some comments—they may be good; never turn over control; talk to during breaks; enforce roles.
The Busybody Always ducking in and out of meetings, does not ask subordinates to hold calls, tries to give impression of being too busy (and therefore important) to devote full attention to the meeting and the group. Deal with like the latecomer or early leaver; try to establish rules to control during preparation. Allow frequent bio-breaks for people to react to their electronic leashes.
The Interrupter Jumps into the discussion and cuts off someone else’s comments; acts impatient, too excited, or concerned that own ideas will not be acknowledged. Stop them immediately to protect the source; always get back to them but do not allow them to interrupt; they will learn.
The Uninvited Show up without an invitation Explain and enforce the role of Observer, noting they may speak during breaks.
The Doubting Thomas Voiced skepticism, shrouded with genuine concern. Use the “What—So What—Now What” approach. They may be on to something significant.
The Quiet Person While it is true that we are not going to convert quiet people into aggressive extroverts who dominate a meeting, there are steps that facilitators can take to transform the velocity of contributions from quiet people.
  1. Interview your participants
  2. Breakout sessions
  3. Non-verbal solicitation
  4. Reinforce during break
  5. Round-robins & Post-It note approaches

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.

Understanding the Method to Manage Meeting Participants with Problems


Politikos

The term ‘Politikos’ means ‘the science of people. You deal more ably with participants as you gain more experience. However, there is a certain degree of comfort in recognizing that there are some common patterns of behavior that are likely to occur.Keep one thing in mind however; participants cause problems only for a certain time. Often a participant causing a problem becomes productive in a different situation. Do not label people permanently.

Identifying Problems

You identify participants displaying problems because they generally disrupt the session. Sometimes, however, they don’t participate. When we say that a participant is displaying problems, we mean that their communication is ineffective because of some characteristic that gets in the way of communication, for example:

To deal with the people on the ends of the curve (ie, the outliers), assume that people have good intentions and focus your energy on discovering what is causing the difficulty. In other words, identify the problem—do not highlight the person(with the problem).

Praise in Public

Motivation of People

People are motivated by:

  • Need to control (power motivation)

o   They rebel against a loss of control.

o   Turf issues arise.

  • Need to excel (achievement motivation)

o   People don’t want to look bad in a group.

o   All participants are speaking publicly—public speaking scares many people.

  • Need to bond (affiliation motivation)

o   Attacks and win-lose situations affect participants’ ability or willingness to bond.

Managing Problems

Determine what is motivating a participant you are dealing with. Once you understand that, use the following sequence of guidelines in dealing with them.

  • First determine and correct the cause of the problem.
  • Mitigate the symptom if the cause cannot be corrected by:

o   Ground rules

o   Body position

o   Eye contact

o   Talking with the participant during a break

  • Enlist help from the business partner or executive sponsor.
  • Last resort—have the problem participant removed.

Exceptions

There are three exceptions to the rules above—the business or technical partner and the executive sponsor. None of these people can be removed. You cannot go over their heads to get additional help. For these participants you:

                        Partners            •     Set expectations before the session. Ensure that the partners know what they want—if not help them. Never argue with them in the workshop—they are your clients. Do not do their job.

                        Executive          •     The executive sponsor is most likely dominating. It is their job. If the session is not for policy, ask the executive to leave. If the session is policy, treat the others as if they are the problem (they are). Never allow the executive to dominate since they are but a participant in the meeting and all participants have an equal voice. Talk to the executive but always remain the process leader.

People Principles

Following are guiding principles for dealing with people (all based on “Treat others as you wish to be treated”):

  • Never embarrass people, especially in public.
  • People are creative if asked.
  • People are intrinsically reasonable.
  • People do not like to be blamed.
  • People have different goals in life.
  • People prefer the positive to the negative.
  • People share similar fears.

Managing Issues

Here are the tactics listed in order of priority and frequency of use for managing issues and personality challenges:

  • Interviews
  • Ground rules
  • Eye contact
  • Body Position
  • Take a break
  • Exercises

Note of Caution

Whenever you allow a win-lose situation to occur, you will cause problems. Latecomers, early leavers, dropouts, etc, are often manifestations of their anger at losing. Correct the win-lose situation to make all participants productive.

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.

Professional Facilitative Leadership and Facilitator Training for Structured Meetings and Workshops

FUD: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt Amplify Fear but People Change Anyway


Paradigms

Paradigms are established accepted norms, patterns of behavior or shared set of assumptions. They are models that establish boundaries or rules for success. Paradigms may present structural barriers to creativity based on psychological, cultural, and environmental factors. Examples include:

  • Flow charts, diagrams, and other conventions for presenting information (eg, swim lane diagrams)

    More Similarities Than Differences

    More Similarities Than Differences

  • Stereotypes about men and women and their roles in business, family, and society
  • Where people sit in meetings—once they find a seat it becomes their seat for the rest of the meeting

Not All Bad

There are many more paradigms in life. Paradigms are not bad unless they become barriers to progress. People either understand paradigms or risk being left behind. What is impossible with one paradigm is easy with another—because “I didn’t know any better.” When paradigms change, everyone starts over.

Changing Paradigms

To cause groups to challenge and possibly modify their paradigms, do the following:

  • Ask the “Paradigm Shift” question—“What is impossible today, but if made possible . . . What would you do?”
  • Force the group to look at a familiar object or idea in a new way.
  • Use the “Five-year Old” routine—ask—“But why?” frequently, or until the group thoroughly discusses an issue, its assumptions and implications.
  • Develop a clear problem statementor use a problem such as the example provided below).

“An automobile traveling on a deserted road blows a tire. The occupants discover that there is no jack in the trunk. They define the problem as “finding a jack” and decide to walk to a station for a jack. Another automobile on the same road also blows a tire. The occupants also discover that there is no jack. They define the problem as “raising the automobile.” They see an old barn, push the auto there, raise it on a pulley, change the tire, and drive off while the occupants of the first car are still trudging towards the service station.”

            Getzels, J.W., Problem-finding and the inventiveness of solutions, 
Journal of Creative Behavior, 1975, 9(1), pp 12-18.

Shifting perspectives will frequently help “shake” paradigms. Consider using Edward de Bono’s Thinking Hats or imposing some other perspective or comparison such as:

  • A monastery compared to the “mafia”
  • Steve Jobs compared to Bill Gates
  • Ant colony compared to a penal colony
  • A weather system compared to a gambling system
  • Mother Teresa of Calcutta compared to Genghis Khan
  • Etcetera

People DO Change

Recent research (2007, Dyer) has proven that people do change. There is a quantum shift of values after twenty to thirty years of life.

Change occurs across both men and women, although their before and after values remain different. The shifts shown below occur after a relatively significant change in maturity, such as we find today with “empty nesters” or people that find themselves no longer hosting others, in particular, their children.

Note the implications for a facilitated session with people coming from all four categories shown below.

Men and Women Do Change

Men and Women Do Change

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.

The Way People Think Affects How You Intervene to Build Consensus


Differences

People think differently. As session leader, you empower participants and their ability to understand and communicate with each other. You also enable them to think creatively about their business. The following two subjects deal with the thinking patterns of people—horizontal/ vertical thinking and paradigms.

Horizontal/ Vertical

Participants in a workshop argue over a seemingly simple issue. Two people hear the same thing and react as if they each were in different meetings. Why? Because people interpret information differently. There are many theories about how people process information.

One theory states that the two spheres of the brain, the right and the left, govern our thinking with right brain or left brain thinking.

Another theory that explains the differences more clearly is Communicoding. This theory states that there are two modes of thinking for processing information, vertical and horizontal. These two modes of thinking may have a difficult time communicating with each other because the way that each perceives the world is different. What are they?

People Learn Differently

People Learn Differently

Vertical Thinker

A vertical thinker is often described as very logical, organized, and detail-oriented. Vertical thinkers:

  • Easily discern immediate dynamics of a problem.
  • Identify specific details and relate issues to reality.
  • Know what can be accomplished within a given time.
  • See barriers and obstacles to be removed.
  • Take the likely paths to reach results.
  • Work well in structured environments.

The vertical thinker’s main characteristic is that they find differences. Vertical thinkers can decompose something and design something new from the pieces. They work from exclusion.

Horizontal Thinker

A horizontal thinker is often described as far-sighted, innovative, and conceptual. Horizontal thinkers:

  • Easily discern the underlying dynamics of a problem.
  • Identify context details—relating issues to a larger perspective.
  • Know what impact can be achieved within a given context.
  • See possibilities and benefits to strive for.
  • Take the unlikely paths to reach results.
  • Work well in unstructured environments.

Horizontal thinkers’ main characteristic is that they find similarities. They are able to find the common thread—to make new associations among unrelated items. They work from inclusion.

To Identify

As a facilitator, you cannot change the way people think—andnever label participants. You do help the participants in a workshop learn to hear each other and to better understand their communication challenges. Clues that thinking differences are causing problems are:

  • One person arguing about the problems while another is focused on the benefits.
  • One person trying to get to the details while the other is trying to focus on the ideas.
  • People using the same words yet meaning something different or arguing as if they are saying something different.
  • Using different words that seem to be saying the same thing.

To Fix

When you hear communication problems consider the following:

  • Capture what each person is saying—write it on the flip charts without putting their names by the ideas.
  • Draw pictures using visual aids, flip charts, and models. By using visual support or other exercises, participants learn about their business.
  • Get the group to see both similarities and differences.
  • Move the focus of the group away from people and onto the 
issue(s) at hand.
  • Summarize both similarities and differences and get the group to decide what to do with them or move along to the next step.

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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