October 2, 2014 Leave a comment
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).
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.