Meeting Impact: Poor Facilitation Leads to Problems, Struggles, and Errors


“Perversely, organizations with the best human resource departments sometimes have less effective teams. That’s because HR tends to focus on improving individual rather than team behavior.”

— Diane Coutu, HBR, May 2009, pg 99

A primary concern in meetings and information gathering activities is getting good information—to build the right product the first time—and to make well-informed decisions. Significant trends are imbedding the role of ‘facilitator’ in the culture and health of modern, especially holistic, organizations.

Successful Meetings Demand Collaboration

Successful Meetings Demand Collaboration

Group decision-making processes are more prevalent than ever. Intellectual capital is critical to the growth and profit of service organizations. Manufacturers are becoming “infomediaries” and sourcing production based on worldwide, not parochial, views. Innovation determines the future prosperity of most organizations:

Meta-trends demand facilitative leadership

  • Cultural modernization—the basic tenets of modern cultures include equality, personal freedom, and individual requirements.
  • Economic globalization—in developed economies, where formal institutions sustain order and predictability, consensus is critical to survival.
  • Universal connectivity—information technology continues to inundate us with capabilities and the “death of distance”, when we can find what we need.
  • Transactional transparency—ubiquitous computing and comprehensive electronic documentation make leaders and decision makers exposed.
  • Individual limitations—empirical evidence that groups make higher quality decisions and are better at addressing more difficult or complex challenges.

Problems

Decision-making and information gathering share two problems:

  • The first is the communication gap between those who have the information (eg, information technology) and those who need to use it to build something (eg, business community or product development).
  • The second is the invariable power struggle between the players involved. Egos make building consensus a significant challenge.

Power Struggles

The power struggles between various departments or business units are often the result of language differences. Frequently, power struggles are not intentional but occur because of differing perspectives around the same issue. Reconciliation may be critical to organizational success, particularly for proactive organizations that want to lead change rather than be changed.

Errors & Omissions

The most effective way to reduce the cost of reaching objectives is to reduce errors and omissions. Groups can recall and remember more than individuals and are capable of using the input of individuals to create an integrative response. Consensus helps prevent errors, but more importantly, it helps prevent omissions.

Help Needed

Numerous analytical methodologies, design methodologies, life cycle techniques, etc, have evolved to address errors in the planning and development phase. While methodologies work well in analysis and design, they have not successfully addressed the information gathering necessary to gather effective and timely input.  See next week’s column for the solution.

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.

The Application, Scope, and Benefits of Facilitative Leadership


We want you to see that facilitative leadership does not apply to all situations, but is ideally suited for projects and teams where the leader is coordinating the efforts of competent specialists in complex situations. The best leaders are flexible because both modes of leadership have their place.

Participants should also come to understand that they could shift to a facilitative mode once their staff possesses the capacity to work independently and assumes responsibility for outcomes. Task-focused direction is required for the close oversight of tasks. Structure-focused direction works best when leading teams of experts.

Facilitative Leadership May Improve Quality, Reduce Costs, and Optimize Timing

Facilitative Leadership May Improve Quality, Reduce Costs, and Optimize Timing

The following questions can be asked to determine if a project or team is best suited for facilitative leadership:

  • Are some of the team decisions extremely complex or sensitive?
  • Are team members evaluated with different performance measurement systems?
  • Are the leaders operating without direct authority over some of the members?
  • Does the project cross multiple lines of business or departments?
  • Do the decisions require broad support and commitment from stakeholders?
  • Does the situation call for a leader who is seen to be neutral by 
all parties?
  • Is the group dealing with historically hostile parties or complex bureaucracies?
  • Is the project tied to a critical time frame?
  • Is the project striving to accomplish something new to the organization or resurrecting something that failed before?
  • Will the effort or project require initiative, creativity, and innovation?
  • Will the team be communicating across time zones, cultures, and organizational boundaries?
  • Will you have strong subject matter experts who need to align around new goals or outcomes?
  • Will you need group members be self-motivated because they are working independently?
  • Will you need your group to perform as a cohesive team that meets periodically?

Benefits

Benefits will ensue both to the organization and the participants. In a networked world, organizations that deploy skilled facilitators to lead projects and others teams, have allocated human capital to ensure the success of their most expensive investment—meetings.

  • As context is carefully managed, teams are free to focus on higher quality content
  • As staff is treated as collegial, commitment and motivation increases
  • As stakeholders’ ideas are sought, meeting activity becomes more collaborative and innovative
  • With assertive structure and facilitation, quality dialogue becomes the focus
  • For modern leaders who have been successful with their existing style, they may accrue additional benefits from the increased flexibility of adapting a facilitative style:
  • Facilitative leadership makes it easier to develop new leaders
  • Greater commitment and buy-in through stakeholder input and involvement
  • Improved, self-managing teams
  • Increased ability to help others make complex, collaborative decisions
  • Increased return-on-meeting time and investment

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.

Nine Characteristics of the Facilitative Leadership Difference


We seek primarily to shift the thinking of our readers from facilitation (as a noun or a static way of being) to facilitating (as a verb or a dynamic way of doing)—truly making it easier for meeting participants to make more informed decisions. Facilitating is based on speaking with people rather than at them. Facilitating is about creating an environment that is conducive to productivity and breakthrough. Facilitating is about stimulating and inspiring people. Facilitating amplifies the DNA of the modern leader.

Facilitative Style, Key to Effective Leadership

Facilitative Style, Key to Effective Leadership

We seek to build understanding around the role of facilitating—getting participants to understand . . .

  • how to think about group decision-making
  • skills such as clear speaking, precise questioning, keen observing, and active listening
  • the criticality of being content-neutral; passionate about results, yet unbiased about path
  • the importance of the holarchy (ie, organizational goal alignment)
  • the role (of facilitator) is not the person, rather a temporary position (like a referee)

We aspire to develop a working understanding among our readers about the differences and challenges of becoming a facilitative leader that extend beyond those of a modern leader. Some of the differences are shown in the table that follows. Modern leaders exhibit traits that head in the right direction, compared to traditional or historic leaders, but further shift is still required to be truly facilitative so that their teams and groups realize the full potential of consensus, commitment, and ownership.

Characteristics of the Facilitative Leadership Difference

Modern Leaders

Facilitative Leaders

  • Are receptive to change
  • Focus on continuous improvement of both results and the method used to obtain them
  • Communicate and receive feedback
  • Can also structure activities to ensure that participants evaluate them and each other
  • Effective interpersonal skills
  • More than people savvy, they are group focused

  • Believe that staff work for them
  • Work to exceed the expectations of all stakeholders, including their staff
  • Have meeting management skills
  • Can also use groups to build complex deliverables and structure any type of conversation with collaboration
  • Involved in directing tasks
  • Strive to build collaborative decisions based on staff input
  • Remain accountable for results
  • Leads groups whose members are highly skilled and also accountable for outcomes
  • Value teamwork and collaboration
  • Focus on providing structures that support 
superior performance
  • Work to meet the expectation of management
  • Operate without status or rank consciousness

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.

Change or Die—“It is NOT the strongest of the species that survives . . .


“It is NOT the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

—Charles Darwin

Our approach to meetings and workshops reflect the necessity to change. In fact, most people do not even change their minds—rather, they make a new decision based on new information. Sometimes the things they look at change as well.

Every morning in Africa, 
a gazelle wakes up.

It knows it must run faster 
than the fastest lion

or it will be killed.

 Every morning a lion wakes up.

It knows it must outrun 
the slowest gazelle

or it will starve to death.

 It doesn’t matter whether 
you are a lion or a gazelle . . .

when the sun comes up, 
you’d better be running.

Source: Unknown

Change is stimulated by information that supports decision-making. Groups make higher quality decisions than the smartest person in the group because groups create more options. Groups or individuals presented with more options are known to make higher quality decisions.

An ever-changing world

An ever-changing world

Most change is incremental or evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Yet, by harnessing one degree Fahrenheit, steam power ushered in the industrial revolution. Modern revolution is both digital and dynamic, it is still taking form—it is “in-formation”. With anything that remains “in-formation”, change is inevitable, only growth is optional.

The Transforming 
Workplace

Facing many consecutive days of back-to-back meetings, participants value the importance of well-run meetings. Traditionally, leaders have chaired meetings and exerted control over decision-making. As the workplace has transformed, and knowledge workers operate within a matrix of networks, modern leadership has also changed.

Instead of dealing mostly with individuals (conversations or dyads), modern leaders work more frequently with people in groups (meetings). Instead of supervising hours of workload, they help their teams become self-managing. Instead of directing tasks, they motivate people to achieve results. Above all, they stay focused on aligning team activity with organizational goals, from the boardroom to the boiler room.

The Transforming Workplace

FROM

TO

  • Geographically close
  • Geographically scattered
  • Homogenous staff groupings
  • Diverse skill sets
  • Leaders know the work
  • Leaders may not know the work
  • Lifelong expectations
  • Expectations of autonomy
  • Nine to five
  • Twenty-four/ seven
  • Stable departments
  • Shifting networks of teams
  • Task orientation
  • Goal orientation
  • Vertical hierarchies
  • Lateral matrices

Over the following year, this blog will provide insight into modern, facilitative leadership—the type you need to be successful in toady’s ever-changing marketplace.

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.

A Simple Agenda for Agreeing on Who Does What to Support an Articulate Purpose


Purpose

To support any type of descriptive or prescriptive build-out of a plan, process, or series of activities which can then be illustrated with a process flow diagram.

Rationale

Groups have a tendency to forget activities or events that occur less frequently, particularly infrequent or irregular activities that support planning and control. The following helps to squeeze out potential and costly omissions.

Simple Agenda

You may consider using this simple agenda with a brief discussion of the supporting method that follows:

  • Introduction
  • Purpose of __________ (topic, sphere, or business area)
  • Activities
    (NOTE: Take each “thing” from the purpose statement above and ask—“What do you do with this thing ?”—forcing “Verb-Noun”)
  • Sequencing
    (NOTE: Test for omissions using the Plan ➺ Acquire ➺ Operate ➺ Control prompting)
  • Value-Add
    (NOTE: eg, SIPOC)
  • Swimlanes
    (NOTE: eg, process flow diagram)
  • Wrap

Method

The developmental support steps are covered in depth in the FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership Manual. Here is a brief summary for your quick reference:

  • Determine the business purpose of the planning area, process topic, or functional sphere. Strongly suggest using the “Purpose is to . . . So that . . . “ tool.
  • Next is the first activity of the brainstorming method—List. Label the top of the flip chart with “VERB-NOUN” and ask the group to identify all the activities required to support the business purpose created in the prior step. Enforce the listing and capture them as verb-noun pairings only.
  • Use the Plan➠Acquire➠Operate➠Control life cycle prompt to help stimulate discussion about activities that are missing.
  • There needs to be at least one to two planning, one to two acquiring, bunches of operating, and at least one to two controlling activities for each business topic or scope of work.
  • After identifying the various activities (sometimes called “sub-processes” by others), convert the verb-noun pairings into “use cases” or some form of input-process-output. Build one use-case for each pairing.
  • Consider assigning SIPOC tables (a form of use cases) to sub-teams. SIPOC stands for the Source of the input, Input(s) required to complete the activity, Process (ie, our activity), Output resulting from the activity, and Customer or client of the output. Demonstrate one or two in entirety with the whole group and then separate the participants out into two or three groups.
  • For each activity (ie, verb-noun pairing), build a narrative statement that captures the purpose of the activity (ie, WHY) and HOWitis being performed, then:
    • Continue to identify the specific outputs or what changes as a result of having completed the activity.
    • Link the outputs with the customer or client of each; ie, who is using each output.
    • Next identify the inputs required to support the activity.
    • Finally identify the sources of the inputs.

An illustrative SIPOC chart is shown below based on a mountain climbing metaphor. The focal verb-noun pairing is “pack supplies”.

Illustrative SIPOC

Illustrative SIPOC

Summary of steps to be included in this sequence

  1. Identify the activity (ie, process) and its purpose and discuss WHY it is performed.
  2. Detail HOW it is or should be performed.
  3. List the outputs from the completed activity.
  4. Link the outputs to the respective clients or customers.
  5. List the inputs needed to complete the activity.
  6. Identify the source(s) for each of the inputs.

Success Keys

To build clear definition of “requirements”, provide a visual illustration or template. Additionally,

  • Have the group pre-build all the potential sources and customers of the process and code them so that when you build the SIPOC tables, the group can refer to the code letter/ number instead of the full name (thus substantially speeding up the method). As you discover new sources or customers, simply add them.
  • Learn to ‘shut up’ after asking questions and seek to understand rather than be understood.
  • Write down participant response immediately and fully.
  • Provide visual feedback, preferably through modeling.
  • Advance from activity identification to the inputs and outputs required to support the activity; then associate each with its sources and clients (SIPOC).
  • Separate the WHAT (ie, abstract) from the HOW (ie, concrete).

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.

Sign the Charter for Compassion and Consider Becoming a Supporting Member


Charter for Compassion

Charter for Compassion

Ultimately, consensus-building requires intuition and a higher self to overcome the selfishness of physical and emotional demands. This week we became signatories with over 100,000 other people who have “Liked” the Charter for Compassion. We encourage you to do the same.

We are awaiting instructions to become Charter Members as an organization but meanwhile, for a quick blog and light summer reading, take a look at what they are aspiring towards, and use the hot links imbedded in this post to seek out further support and involvement on your behalf or the behalf of your organization.

The Charter for Compassion is a document that transcends religious, ideological, and national differences. Supported by leading thinkers from many traditions, the Charter calls on people to activate the Golden Rule around the world.

The text of the Charter for Compassion:

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women~to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion~to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate~to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity~to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

The Charter has been translated into over 30 languages.

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.

Do NOT Lead Another Meeting Without (at least) These Four Documents


There are four documents each meeting leader must ensure:

  1. Pre-Read
  2. Annotated Agenda
  3. Slide Deck
  4. Output Notes

Pre-Read

Your participants need to show up at your meeting prepared and ready to contribute. Do not assume they will. Lead them. Provide them a compelling pre-read. It should include at least the components shown below. If your pre-read is a large document, then provide a personalized cover letter asking each subject matter expert to focus on topics and pages that you have highlighted for their benefit (to spare them the obligation and time of reading the entire packaged):

Participants' Package  (Pre-read)

Participants’ Package
(Pre-read)

Meeting Purpose, Scope, Deliverables, and Simple Agenda

EVERY meeting, even a one-hour session, needs to have an articulate purpose, boundaries (ie, scope), and either well codified outputs or a generally described outcome documents. The deliverables (or output/ outcome) describe what done looks like when the session ends. A description of the deliverables describes where the group is headed during the meeting. The agenda, hopefully structured (NOT simply a ‘discussion’; a term closely related to ‘percussion’ and ‘concussion’), shows the group how it is going to get to the deliverable, or the end of the session.

Questions to be Addressed

If you want your participants to show up prepared, help them. Agree in advance (optimally through private interviews) what questions ought be raised during your session and have them prepare response before the meeting begins. Confirm with them the validity of the questions and obtain their feedback about questions you may wish to add that your participants deem important, and perhaps missing from your original list of questions. Consider the most important reason for meetings—building consensual answers to questions important to the group.

Mission, Value, and Vision

When arguments arise, active listening should be used first to avoid people, who unknowingly, may be in violent agreement with each other. When active listening fails, sometimes due to the stubbornness of participants, an appeal must be made to WHY the meeting is being held. No one wants more meetings; they only want results that accelerate projects and activities that occur after the meeting. To reconcile arguments, be prepared to appeal to the objectives of the project, program, business unit, or enterprise that your meeting supports.

Glossary of Terms

You cannot afford to allow arguments about the meaning of terms you use and build into your preparatory efforts. For example, to some you will discover that Goals are fuzzy statements and Objectives are SMART. To others, the opposite is true. To some, Mission is why they show up and Vision is where they are going. To others, it is the opposite. Standardize your operational definitions, share them, and enforce consistent use and interpretation.

Space for Participants’ Note-taking

As a kind gesture, provide some extra space for them to take notes. It will be appreciated.

Your Personal, Annotated Agenda

Your detailed methods should be built as if you were there visualizing every step in advance. Include break out teams, team names and members, CEOs (ie, Chief Easel Operators), but most importantly, detail how you will analyze their input (ie, second activity of Brainstorming). Our typical annotated agenda runs 20 pages long, even for a three-hour session.

Slide Deck

Provide the participants copies of the slides you use, and do not forget to include operational definitions. You don’t need our help here since this is what you do best; ie, create decks.

Output Notes

Meeting notes are a snap once you have a solid pre-read, annotated agenda, and slide deck.   Simply drop in the content developed during the meeting alongside the content provided by your pre-read, annotated agenda, and slide; and you are ready to call it good. Congratulations.

NOTE

Which of these four documents can you afford to skip? None of them of course, unless you avoid death by PowerPoint and spare them the deck by referring to content you already provided in the pre-read.

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.

Use a Camera to Back-up and Transfer Meeting Output from a Whiteboard or Easel


This is one TIP from our collection of practical tips, tools, and techniques. Our tips are gathered from our experience, training classes, and alumni contributions.

Record A Whiteboard or Easel for Later Transcription

One approach to recording a whiteboard or easel is to use a digital camera. This approach has the benefit of making easel paper more portable, frees up the whiteboard space for additional writing, and allows transcription to occur “off line.”

Use a Camera

Use a Camera

We use this when meetings are impromptu and the whiteboard is the only practical tool for recording group notes.  Typically we always take digital shots at the end of every session or at the end of each day during a multi-day workshop, regardless of paper or whiteboard

How To . . .

  • Download the photos quickly to your PC so that the information is fresh, should any portion of the photos be illegible.
  • Use a camera with sufficient resolution. We recommend 3 megapixel pictures or larger.
  • Work in a room light well enough that you can avoid the use of camera flash. If you have the option of disabling the camera flash, and have sufficient natural lighting, turn the flash off to avoid the problem mentioned in the next point . . .
  • Be careful to avoid the distortion of the flash. Take the photo at a slight angle. If you are using a flash (or it operates automatically), do not shot your photo straight on. Avoid the bounce of the flash back into the lens.
  • Be sure that the entire span of the whiteboard or easel paper is captured in the photo(s). Even if you intend to capture the board/easel in sections, the big view provides a valuable reference later.
  • Having advised you to capture the entire writing space, zoom in so that you record text legibly. We suggest capturing photos of the board in sections—just in case—to assure legible images for later transcription.
  • If possible, preview the digital photo that you’ve just taken to assure yourself of:

                  (a) the field of view that you intended,
(b) the legibility of the section of the board/easel that you’ve captured, and
(c) that you’ve captured ALL that you intended.

Please note that cell phone cameras are frequently insufficient for the task due to low picture resolution and lower quality lens, but they are improving with each new generation of phone.

TIPS ARE FOR OUR ALUMNI

We publish a compendium of facilitation tips for our alumni. We occasionally publish a tip for public consumption.

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 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.

 

Benefits and Best Practices Using Structured Facilitative Workshops


Structured workshops are increasingly popular among lean sigma and requirements gathering projects that frequently support business process improvement and product development.   Why?  When properly conducted, they are simply faster and more effective than typical business meeting discussions.  Remember that the terms discussion, percussion, and concussion are all related so if you ever have a headache when departing a meeting, likely it was unstructured.

Benefits and Best Practices

Benefits and Best Practices

Benefits Claimed

  1. By adopting a structured approach, an organization can establish a scalable, consistent process that can be measured and continuously improved.
  2. Overall project life cycle can be shortened by two to four weeks, thus helping business stakeholders realize project benefits early.
  3. Session participants demonstrate a high level of active engagement, claiming and that structured sessions enabled good use of their time.
  4. Structured approaches also produce higher quality outputs, allowing for issues and risks to be identified and resolved earlier in the life cycle, when the cost to resolve them is smaller.
  5. Structured approaches help enhance the perceived value of the session leader role as a valuable provider of context rather than a mere producer of documentation.
  6. Workshop approaches result in clear reduction in time and effort. Many companies claim project life-cycle savings that exceed USD $100,000 and some exceeding one million dollars.
  7. Workshop approaches successfully shift project development activities from being template driven to conversation driven, thus helping build better teaming and collaboration amongst participants.

Best Practices A number of best practices developed during facilitated sessions include:

  1. Defining consensus as a standard that can be supported rather than the ideal resolution that makes participants “happy”, help set a better expectation that should prevent all participants from losing any sleep (a personal standard).
  2. Energize and engage participants by explaining the importance of the session in the beginning and strive to quantify the impact of the meeting on the project valued in cash assets at risk or FTE (full-time equivalent) being deployed.
  3. Use a neutral facilitator. The facilitator must be neutral to content discussed, allowing the participants freedom to edit and modify their own contributions.  Neutrality provides trust that enables higher level of participation and contribution by participants.
  4. Using a pre-defined deliverable, agenda, and participant list.  The deliverable and agenda for each session and participant buy-in ought be articulated in advance to transfer ownership to the session participants prior to the meeting. Thorough preparation helps the participants to focus on topics, questions, and activities that help the facilitator better control the context.
  5. Using a refrigerator (aka “parking lot” or “issue bin”) to store items out of scope or beyond reach for the time available helps separate the co-mingling of strategic issues, tactical maneuvers, and operational issues.
  6. Using a well prepared deliverable and agenda, the facilitator can better control the scope of conversations, preventing circular and irrelevant discussions.
  7. Write it down.  If it is not written down, it never happened. Strive to capture verbatim comments and complete necessary edits after the meeting. This helps to build more confidence among participants. Making the documentation immediately visible to participants minimizes one-on-one follow-ups and email conversations.

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.

Guidelines for Selecting Appropriate Structured Facilitation Tools


There are hundreds of tools employed by session leaders to gather information, support decision-making, encourage innovation, build camaraderie, strive for higher quality, or guide a facilitator through an unplanned pathway.  Selection of the “best” tool depends on many of the factors discussed below.

Overview of Helpful Tools

A note of caution—beginning facilitators often have a difficult time feeling comfortable because of the newness of the tools and some experienced facilitators overuse a tool—they may forget that when you are comfortable using a hammer, not everything is a nail.  Some guidelines to follow when using tools:

  • There is more than one appropriate option.  For example, we can capture initial input or meaning from participants through the Brainstorming (ie, narrative), Creativity (ie, drawing), PowerBalls (ie, iconic), or SWOT (ie, numeric).
  • Only use a tool if it is correcting a problem or situation.  The tool must add value or it distracts from the method.  For example, do not lead a team-building exercise if the team is highly functional.
  • Do not ask the group permission to use a tool.  You are the leader and need to set the method—so do it.
  • Never present the tool as a game or a gimmick.  This often leads to resistance.  Be disciplined about your rhetoric explaining the Purpose tool.  For example, do not ask about ‘today’s purpose’ since you are expected to know the purpose of the meeting.
  • Except for team building tools, explain the deliverable from each tool used and how it supports completing the deliverable.
  • Do not be afraid to use a new tool—they have all been field-tested and work well when used properly.
  • Build tool contingencies into your agenda—ie, plan to use a specific tool but if a problem arises, do not be afraid to substitute for something more appropriate.
  • For tools designed to correct situations such as team dysfunction and lack of creativity, remember that most groups did not become dysfunctional in ten minutes and the situation will not be corrected through a ten-minute exercise.  It often takes numerous exercises and a great deal of time to see a real difference.  Do not give up and you will earn their respect for perseverance.

The “Right” Tool

Selecting the best tool to use by understanding the desired outcome.  Avoid becoming so comfortable with one or two that those are the only tools you use.  To select an appropriate tool:

  1. Identify the problem.
  2. Define the desired outcome.
  3. Review the tool selection map on the forthcoming pages to help determine which tool helps achieve your desired outcome.

Team-Building Tools

Suggested steps for effective team-building exercises include:

  1. In advance prepare your materials, prompts, assignments (eg, CEO and team names) and rehearse if the tool is new or complicated.
  2. Provide clear and explicit instructions, preferably posted or written down as handouts.  Emphasize any rules.
  3. Monitor group activity closely, especially in the beginning and make yourself readily available for clarifying areas of fear, doubt, or uncertainty.
  4. Compare the purpose with the output.  Reinforce the learning and how it applies to accelerating the group’s performance toward your meeting or workshop deliverables.

Decision-Making Tools

Use the following matrix to help guide you to the most appropriate decision-making tools based on the type of information 
(ie, qualitative or quantitative) and complexity of the decision 
(ie, concrete or abstract).

Decision-Making Matrix

Decision-Making Matrix

Additional Sources

There are hundreds of tools not included in the FAST reference manual.  Continue to add to your tool chest.  If you are in an enterprise with other facilitators, consider building a Community of Practice (ie, CoP) that archives tools, visual prompts, and retrospective reviews so that your selection is made easier and perhaps not too repetitive for your participants.

For additional exercises and tools for facilitators look at Games Trainers Play and More Games Trainers Play by John Newstrom and Edward Scannell, New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, various.  You can also order the IAF (International Association of Facilitators) Handbook of Group Facilitation and other resources at Amazon.com among others.  There are thousands of tools and resources for facilitators and team-building tools in English and other languages.

Do not forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project.  It has detailed group agendas and suggested tools to make your role a lot easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective.

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, 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).

Daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

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