The Primary Reasons for Hosting Workshops Differ from Hosting Meetings


Meetings are typically held for one of the following three reasons:

Workshops and Meetings Support the Life Cycle of Projects and Other Initiatives

Workshops and Meetings Support the Life Cycle of Projects and Other Initiatives

  1. To endorse or decide
  2. To inform
  3. To monitor and review

Workshops on the other hand tend to focus on singular topics and strive to build impactful deliverables. Successful workshops depend on the following:

  • Building a workshop method to engage participants
  • Defining specific deliverables
  • Grouping information gathering activities
  • Policing the workshop method to accomplish those goals

Over the years we have catalogued the various workshops we have facilitated and share the reasons with you, sequenced below in alphabetical order, rather than frequency, importance, or randomness:

  • Any initiative requiring decision-making or consensual agreement between two or more people
  • Business area analysis
  • Business case development (including process optimization)
  • Business performance management (BPM—including balanced scorecard and dashboards)
  • Business process improvement—design or optimization
  • Content management prioritization
  • Executing your strategy, building action plans
  • Gathering requirements
  • Innovation, at least the creativity and ideation portion
  • Key performance, measuring and management indicators
  • Knowledge management (including decision support)
  • Maintenance activity to solve for missing descriptions of changes, precision with requirements, or problem identification
  • New system or business development initiatives
  • Problem situation requiring arbitration or neutrality
  • Project management
  • Problem solving
  • Product development processes
  • Scientific inquiry or challenging paradigms
  • Six Sigma® and Lean or other quality initiatives
  • Strategic planning at any level in the organizational holarchy
  • Team charters (including management perspectives and supporting strategic planning activities or tactical assignments)
  • Virtual meetings and workshops
  • Voice of the customer or advisory groups

Meetings frequently follow workshop activity. For example, numerous meetings will follow a project charter-planning workshop across the life cycle of the project being supported. While dozens of life cycles exist (eg; IPCC, DMAIC, etc.), each workshop has its own life cycle with at least three phases:

  • Preparation—getting yourself and the participants ready
  • Workshop event—gathering the information, making the decisions, and documenting the results
  • Review and resolution—distribute and integrate deliverable, typically into project

Over the next few issues we will take a look at various components required to support each phase, with required and optional roles that support a successful workshop endeavor.

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.

Does a Facilitator Need to be a Subject Matter Expert? (Content vs. Context)


Some of the best facilitators are NOT Subject Matter Experts within the topic and scope of the discussion; however, NOR can they afford to be subject matter ignorant. They need to be subject matter conversant and understand the terms being used and the relationship of those terms to the deliverable, but they do NOT have to have an ‘answer.’

Effective Facilitators Avoid Content Kowtow by Participants

Effective Facilitators Avoid Content Kowtow by Participants

For example, this author facilitated sessions in North America, Europe, and Asia with radiologists and directors of radiology for a manufacture to help them design their next generation of CT (Computerized Tomography) scanners. While NOT a physicist or radiologist, with strong preparation to understand the basic and essential principles of operation, we were highly effective at facilitating discussions around pain points and possible solutions.

Neutrality, curiosity, and willingness to challenge assumptions are far more important facilitator skills than being expert on the topic. Without the humility that encourages one to ‘seek to understand rather than being understood’, participants will drop out, go quiet, and disengage because they are thinking: “If this person (the leader or facilitator) already has the answer, then why are they seeking out my opinion?”

The better challenge or question may be, “What is the unit of measurement for distinguishing between ‘subject matter expertise’ and ‘subject matter conversant’?” For us, the answer is simple.

Before the session begins, the facilitator and participants ought have properly prepared. Optimal preparation includes writing down the meeting purpose, scope, deliverables, and simple agenda before the meeting begins. Make sense? Hopefully you understand that the facilitator, at minimum, better know the reason of the meeting, WHY it is important (ie, purpose), WHAT will be covered and NOT covered during the meeting (ie, scope—that is necessary to prevent meeting scope creep, the number one killer of meetings), WHERE the group is headed (ie, the deliverable or what DONE looks like), and HOW they are going to get there (ie, the agenda or prepared structure).

Therefore the unit of measurement becomes the glossary or lexicon. To what extent does the facilitator understand the terms being used in the prepared meeting purpose, scope, deliverables, and simple agenda? To what extent does the facilitator’s understanding of those terms harmonize with the understanding of the participants, their culture, and the project team or work that must occur after the meeting concludes? To what extent do the participants share the same or identical meaning of the terms being used?

We illustrate this importance by challenging you to explain the difference between a ‘goal’ and an ‘objective’. To us, they are NOT the same things. We prefer an operational definition suggesting that ‘goals’ are directional and somewhat fuzzy. For example, a mountain climber may have a ‘goal’ of getting some good photographs when they reach the summit. An ‘objective’ however is truly SMART—ie, Specific, Measurable, Adjustable (our preferred deviation from Deming’s original definition of Achievable), Realistic, and Time-based. For example, a mountain climber may need to be sheltered in a tent and sleeping bag at 3,000 meters by 17:00 before a storm blows in or they risk freezing to death.

Some culture define ‘goals’ and ‘objectives’ the opposite of our preference, defining ‘objectives’ as fuzzy and goals as SMART. A good facilitator is agnostic, and can use either set of definitions, but knows the importance of determining the optimal definitions BEFORE the meeting begins. They are responsible for controlling the context (ie, contextual expertise) and not the content (ie, subject matter expertise).

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.

Secret Sauce Part 2: Clear Thinking, Active Listening, & Prepared Structure


The secret to leading more effective meetings and workshops reminds us to put a CAP on wasted time and energy by embracing three behaviors:

  • Clear thinking (ie, yields consciousness)
  • Active listening (ie, yields competence)
  • Prepared structure (ie, yields confidence)

The effective meeting leader learns to cap waste—to maintain control over direction, environment, and contributions of meeting participants. To be highly effective, requires a servile attitude. Here we cover the second item, the core skill of effective facilitators, commonly referred to as “Active Listening”.

Active listening

Groups make higher quality decisions than the smartest person in the group. Why? Because groups, when properly led, are able to create options that did not exist before the individuals walked into the meeting. Input from one participant may cause another to think of something they had not considered before the meeting. For a group of nine people, we are looking for the tenth answer. With strong leadership and a little luck, that answer may also include or instill the spark of innovation.

Discipline and structure support thorough analysis, but so will the active listening method and use of stimulating visual prompts. Ultimately we are not facilitating “words” in a meeting, so much as the meaning behind the words. Obviously, meetings occur without the use of the English language at all. Non-English meetings will still be effective because words are only the tools used by participants to signify their intent, meaning, and relationships behind the words. Subsequently, pictures and models are frequently more effective tools than narrative descriptions.

Be prepared to challenge participants. Active listening is a four-step process that is NOT like having a conversation. In a conversation we make contact and absorb what the other person is saying. With active listening we need to feed back the reasons for what we have heard, confirm whether we got it right, and challenge for substantive omissions.

The differences are in the following table.

Active Listening

Active Listening

Having a conversation takes less time. Active listening however prevents misunderstanding and can help push the envelope towards options that were previously not considered, thus improving the quality of the decisions made.

We will take a deeper view of the importance of prepared structure, methodology, and tools in our next post.

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.

Mother Teresa’s Holiday Message of Prescribed Actions and Behaviours


A large portion of the world celebrates holidays this time of the year. Since one traditional greeting in the English language is “Merry Christmas”, it begs the question, HOW. While the thought may be genuine, and the words rich with historical precedence, HOW DOES a facilitator go about making today (and tomorrow) merry? The solution begins with attitude, and letting go of our own egos will positively impact attitudes that shape our behavior.

How do you do that? Follow the sage advice of Mother Teresa in her sentiments below and you will find it a lot easier. After all, she facilitated nourishment for thousands of “participants” by simply being of service.

Removing the Weight of the World

Removing the Weight of the World

Treat today as if you won’t exist tomorrow. 
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;

Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;

Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, there may be jealousy;

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;

Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;

Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;

It was never between you and them anyway.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

6 Potent Responses to Facilitating Collaborative Behavior During Conflict


External Conflict

Conflict in your group is natural and not necessarily bad when properly managed. You must channel conflict into productivity. Managed well, conflict leads to expanded information exchange, surfaced rationales, more options, and better group decisions that enable change. Managed poorly, conflict destroys. Properly managed, conflict leads to positive transformation. If left festering in the hallways, conflict leads to chaos.

Conflict provides one of the best reasons for justifying the time and expense of a face-to-face meeting because it cannot be properly resolved with mail, attachments, and messaging. Society places negative values on conflict at home and at school. We are not taught collaborative problem solving skills. We will look at the likely external sources of conflict, barriers you will encounter, and responses that are proven effective.

External Conflict

External Conflict

Recognizing Conflict

Recognize that conflict exists particularly when you sense resistance from the group. If your intuition tells you that something is not right, you would be wise to listen to the symptoms:

  • Challenges and attacks
  • Silence and withdrawal
  • Emergence of people with problems
  • Tardiness and punctuality problems
  • Sabotage attempts at the project, process, or facilitator

Sources of Conflict

Primary sources of conflict in a typical workshop include the following, but keep in mind that the two biggest predictors are tenure (ie, how long somebody has been around) and when their jobs, titles, or reporting situation is at risk or being changed:

  • Competition—feeling out of control or the need to control
  • Fears—participant fears as well as facilitator fears
  • Habits—used to disagreeing or arguing, cultural
  • Listening filters—age, background
  • Misinformation—rumors, especially with change
  • Participants’ problems—out of control, unable to excel or bond
  • Poorly defined objectives—misunderstanding of expectations
  • Semantics—understanding of words and intent
  • Situations—reengineering, reorganizations, automating jobs
  • Thinking styles—vertical/ horizontal
  • Ways participants view others—biases, prejudices

Barriers

The following barriers inhibit your ability to manage conflict:

  • Ability or willingness to listen—yours and theirs
  • Fears—yours and theirs
  • Group norms—culture such as “we don’t discuss that here”
  • Image—inability to save face
  • Lack of skill—a weak facilitator
  • Learned responses—our past is hard to unlearn
  • Time—consensus is seldom achieved quickly
  • Vulnerability—real or perceived threats                                                                

Your Responses

How do you respond to manage conflict? To effectively facilitate a conflict situation, you must keep conflict constructive and . . .

  1. Understand anger—dealing with yours and theirs.
  2. Know how to communicate acceptance—to promote open communications.
  3. Understand consensus—it is not compromise.
  4. Prepare properly—know if it is coming.
  5. Build a tool kit (see FAST Facilitative Leadership Tools for immediate help and develop a hip pocket set of tools in preparation for the unexpected)—build teams and diffuse problems.
  6. Challenge—when people raise objectives, discover the cause of the objection. With active listening and proper leadership, the objection can be converted into criterion. What causes the objection and what is the unit of measurement of the cause?

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.

Why Facilitators View Internal Conflict as Both Challenge and Opportunity


Don’t Run

A facilitator sees conflict in a workshop coming from the group and coming from within. Internal and external conflict reflect emotions that, when harnessed, enable innovative change. A facilitator must understand and manage conflict. We must first understand our own internal conflict so that we are prepared to serve others.

Internal Conflict

Internal conflict is fear. All people have fears. When we allow these fears to control us, we lose our ability to perform. The first step is to understand our fears. Once we do, then we can control them. Fears never go away—you simply learn to control fears. Below are some typical facilitator fears.

Internal Conflict

Internal Conflict

Once you identify your personal fears, you can find ways to make them work to your advantage. It gives you an edge. Remember that the butterflies in your stomach will always be there. You don’t want to remove them. You want to teach them to fly in formation.

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.

Three New FAST Tips to Help You Before, During, and After Your Meetings


Materials not found in prior FAST Reference Manuals that can augment your own Facilitator’s Handbook are provided below. If you have not compiled your personal handbook or archive folder, do so now. Consider keeping prior annotated agendas, a master glossary, handouts and slides, and evaluation summaries. Continuously improve your annotated agendas and emphasize detailed support for the steps you frequently facilitate in workshops and meetings; such as brainstorming, requirements gathering, decision making, prioritization, and so on. Reflect on the organizational culture as to when a certain tools works best, or fails. Your handbook ought be dynamic, useful, and powerful.

Before Meetings

As part of your pre-read, or selectively used to support your meeting ground rules, here are some specific Participant Behavior guidelines you may want to use (listed alphabetically):

  • Caution with voice inflections that may indicate disdain or an otherwise counterproductive attitude
  • Commit to decisions that are made
  • Let each person speak without interruption
  • Share in accepting post-meeting assignments
  • Stay on topic and agenda, begin and end on time
  • Stay until the end of the meeting and stay in the room
  • Welcome conflict but separate issues from personalities

During Meetings

Especially when time constrained, encourage participants to share their message as if they were delivering results to someone’s voicemail   An alternative way for some to visualize this mandate encourages responses that would fit on a single 4 * 6 notecard. Have them use the notecard as the scripting for the voicemail, capturing the main points. Encourage them to get to the answer or main point with the second sentence.

After Meetings

Meeting Evaluation Tool

Meeting Evaluation Tool

Our curriculum shares some variants of a Plus-Delta and a more robust annotated evaluation template that assesses the effectiveness of the meeting and your own performance. An approach that fits between the two is shown below. It provides numerical feedback but relies on three questions and optional, anecdotal feedback. The questions shown are solid, but also illustrative. Do not hesitate to substitute questions that more valuable for you, relying on a similar format. With this format, you can print two per sheet, reducing the ‘visual burden’ on your participants as well.

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.

Substitute for these 15 Vague Verbs an Effective Facilitator Should Avoid


As you improve your meeting leadership skills, constantly endeavor to listen to yourself. We know about the importance of NOT NEVER EVER using the term “I” after the Introduction has been completed. After all, it is not about you, it is about them. It is OK to use the plural and integrative first person however, including ‘we’ and ‘us.’

There are some additional words, here focused on verbs, which lend themselves to being DUMB. Remember DUMB stands for Dull, Ubiquitous, Myopic, and Broad—in other words, vague. Because the terms below are vague, participants can interpret them based on their individual meaning and perspective—the opposite of consensual understanding.

Keep in mind the following should be directed at participants and do not represent actions that are undertaken by the facilitator. These terms are typically put in the form of a challenge, such as an action plan for the participants. Monitor your choice of using the following words and note the supporting rationale:

Avoid Vague, Abstract, and DUMB Verbs

Avoid Vague, Abstract, and DUMB Verbs

  1. Administer—Really? How are you going to do that?
  2. Assure—What is the action that provides the assurance?
  3. Consult—Here we have a contronym. Are you giving or receiving something?
  4. Develop—This requires an entire life cycle of discrete activities.
  5. Ensure—Given the many things we have no control over, how will you do this?
  6. Establish—An early process in most life cycles, requiring multiple steps or activities. What are they?
  7. Expedite—Simply substitute HOW are you going to do this?
  8. Follow-up—FAST provides three tools for doing this, each with multiple activities that are stipulated separately.
  9. Implement—Another life cycle term that begs for clear detail.
  10. Investigate—A life cycle by itself that will require multiple activities.
  11. Manage—Probably the most abused of all terms (outside of consult). Twelve people will interpret what ‘manage’ means, a few dozen different ways.
  12. Monitor—Classic. Sound good, but HOW are you going to do this?
  13. Observe—Face-to-face? Secondary information? Third-hand hearsay?
  14. Perform—Do you mean act? If so, what action will be taken?

We do not expect you to memorize these terms, so strive to understand the logic. Verbs to avoid are not only vague, they are abstract. Participant-friendly terms are more active and tend towards the concrete. For example, it is easier to visualize someone “telling” someone else, rather than “collaborating.”

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.

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.

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