Do not overlook the importance of the documenter(s), when used. The document produced from a FAST workshop provides the raw data for project deliverables. The meeting becomes a waste of time if meeting notes are not clear and accurate.
It is important that your documenter(s) are aware of and agree to their role, functions, and responsibilities.
Role of Neutrality
Emphasize to the documenter(s) that they are to remain absolutely neutral—they are part of the methodological team (ie, context) and are never to interfere with the content during or after sessions.
If More than One
Assign one documenter to be the chief documenter and the other to be the assistant documenter. This division of responsibilities is important in ensuring a smooth recording process. Both report to the session leader during the session, but the chief provides a single focal point.
The documenter is responsible for ensuring completeness and accuracy. The documenter is also responsible for:
- Setting up the documentation method before the session
- Ensuring that the documenter has the proper tools
- Reading the documentation back to the group for clarification
- Transcribing the documentation with notes, decisions, charts, and matrices from the session
- Ensuring that documentation is properly named, archived, and available for the project team upon completion of the workshop
The documenter assists the facilitator by capturing participant input that is written on flip charts or white boards. Capture photographs of the printed versions to double-check documenter accuracy.
It is important to note that the documenter generally copies what the session leader writes onto flip charts, front wall, or overheads. The documenter is not to interpret the discussion, capture complete transcription, or capture random notes.
The documenters do not judge or evaluate what the group decides. If what they are hearing is unclear, the documenter must ask the session leader to ask the group for clarification and not to intervene directly.
The relationship between you and the documenter(s) is important because the session leader and documenter(s) comprise the methodological team responsible for generating the final deliverable. Optimally, constant communication between you is essential. Keep the following in mind when working with documenter(s}:
Use the documenter(s) to hang completed flip chart paper on the wall. This helps you to keep the session moving without distractions. Arrange before the workshop where you expect to hang different sections or deliverables within the agenda.
When the group develops a definition or major decision during the session, ensure information is accurately and fully captured. You may ask the documenter(s) to read back what they have recorded.
Ensure that the documenters know and accept their role, and that they remain neutral!
The following steps ensure successful performance of the documentation role. Explain the role of each documenter with particular emphasis on neutrality and their relationship with each other.
- Cover the documenter checklist and ground rules in the following section and ensure that the documenter(s) understand and agree with the their roles and rules.
- Describe the agenda and method that you will use during the workshop. Provide the documenter(s) with an annotated agenda (see section on Preparation).
- Have the documenter(s) orally repeat the instructions and reason for each documentation section.
- Assist the documenter(s) in setting up the documentation approach if not using a laptop or other automated tool.
- Monitor documenter(s) during the workshop. The documenter(s) must not participate in the workshop other than to obtain clarifying information.
Use this checklist with your documenter(s) to prepare and review.
- Sit where you can see and hear the session leader and what the session leader is writing on visual aids.
- Have all materials ready before the workshop starts.
- Clear work area from any distractions.
- Neat handwriting is necessary if you are handwriting.
- Listen to, understand, and be alert for key ideas.
- Give speakers and session leader careful attention. Do not change meanings to your own. Document the main ideas; the essence of the discussion as taken from the flip charts or other visuals that the session leader is using. Capture the results from the visuals—not complete transcriptions or word-by-word minutes of the meeting.
- Capture information first—grammar and punctuation later.
- Avoid abbreviations, key or cue words. Do not change meanings.
- Leave marginal spaces for clarifying notes.
- Accurately and fully capture the ideas, workflows, outputs, and other components of any models or matrices that are built.
- Seek clarification and review as soon as possible if unsure. Remember—if not documented, it did not happen!
- Control your emotions. If you are reacting to your surroundings or a group member, you cannot listen effectively.
- Stay out of the discussion. Stick to your role. Stay neutral!
Structure the documenter(s) the same way using automated tools, however, their skill sets must change. The following guidelines help:
- Train the documenter(s) on the automated tool.
- The documenter MUST knows how to use the automated tool in an expert mode—ie, do not learn how to use the tool in the workshop.
- Position the documenter(s) on the U-shaped table close to you.
Once you have the right tool and the right documenter(s), use them properly.
- Do not attempt to capture documentation real time with the screen displayed to the participants (eg, using a large screen projector hooked up to the terminal). This distracts the participants from the purpose of the meeting (they become enamored with the tool), it forces a low-light condition (which may put some people to sleep), and any mistake, confusion, or slowness of capture is both visible and out of your control (the documenter is doing it).
- Capture process flows or screen layouts and show them to the participants. First, the session leader draws them on an overhead, flip chart, or other manual tool. The documenter captures the layout on a prototyping or mockup tool. When complete, turn on a large screen projector and display the finished screen or report.
- If you are using a modeling tool (eg, VISIO), have the documenter(s) run the analysis routines during breaks, lunch, or in the evening. Use the results to develop questions for the workshop to ensure completeness before the end of the workshop. Take advantage of the analysis capabilities of the tool, but do not run the analysis with the participants waiting for you to finish.
- Make certain that adequate backup is provided (both software copies and manual backup to cover the period of time since the last copy was made). Automated tools sometimes crash or electricity sometimes goes out. Do not be caught losing documentation.
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.