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.

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.

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 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.

National Intelligence Council Support for Facilitating Scenario Planning


The FAST Professional Advanced Facilitative Leadership training covers a methodology and explains how to facilitate scenario planning.  If you find yourself in that role, consider purchasing the USD$2 Kindle version of “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds” to support your methodology and preparation.

Robert Moran’s excellent summary can be found in “The Futurist” March-April 2013 issue, sponsored by the World Future Society.

Peering into the Future

Peering into the Future

  1. Fusion: an interconnected East and West collaborate to address global challenges and innovation blossoms as nearly everyone prospers.
  2. Genie out of the Bottle: gaping extremes describe the global environment and within countries and communities as the best positioned reap most of the benefits of the new world order.
  3. Non-State: cities, NGOs (ie, non-governmental organizations), global elites, terror groups, and multinationals derive global change and chaos.
  4. Stalled Engines: the Pacific Rim engages in nationalistic brinkmanship and amplified conflict ensues.  Global growth slows and the United States turns inward as globalization unravels.

The report additionally covers a forward view towards individual empowerment, diffusion of power, aging populations, mass urbanization, and accelerating change such as:

  • 3-D printing and robotics revolutionize manufacturing
  • America’s domination begins waning
  • Economic power shifting East and South from the West and the North
  • Global middle class continues to expand
  • Hydraulic fracturing could make the USA energy independent
  • Threat of pandemic looms

The scenarios provide you planning session and decision makers with valid considerations.  To borrow directly from Mr Moran: “With technology empowering the individual, the battle for the twenty-first century could be the battle of the self-organizing swarm against the command and control pyramid.”  Let us know how your session turns out.

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.

Phase One Results from a Facilitated Business Process Improvement Project


The following is extracted from (slightly modified for you, the blog reader) the book, “Change or Die: The Business Process Improvement Manual,” published by CRC Press, the Taylor and Francis Group.  It summarizes the developments that occur during the first phase of a Business Process Improvement (BPI) project that is built upon multiple, facilitated workshops.  For workshop agendas, tools, and details, refer to the book, pages 167 to 171.

Business Process Improvement Planning

Companies and organizations make large investments in the development of strategic plans. For example, the market rate for professional support services to help develop strategic plans may cost four percent of the investment sums sought to support the plan, sometimes more. Over the years, we too have developed templates that we use repeatedly, to bring about consistent results. We use facilitated workshops to extract information and build consensus from senior management about their articulated hopes for the organization.

The strategic plan reflects understanding of why, what, how, and when the client wants to do, how much it will cost, and the estimated return on monies invested. The strategic planning document is a clear statement of the organization’s intent and should be used to benchmark performance.

The BPI strategic plan crystalizes executive sanction before the business process improvement project can move ahead and transition from the process examination team to the implementation team.

The process examination team’s process improvement plan provides clear communication to senior management about the team’s intention for the business process improvement project as a whole, and specifically as to how it supports the organization’s strategic initiatives.

Now is the time to sell the project to the executive team, receive their approval, and release the resources needed for completing a successful project.

Purpose of the Business Process Improvement Plan

The business process improvement provides a reference point against which the process examination team will be evaluated. The business process improvement plan also provides a synopsis of what the BPI team(s) has been working on over previous months. The document legitimizes the critical nature of the proposed business process improvement project.

Now is the team’s first and primary opportunity to sell the project. For success the team must:

BPI Phase One Check-Off

BPI Phase One Check-Off

  • Be prepared to defend the tables, statements, and figures presented.
  • Document known assumptions.
  • Ensure that the methods and results used are auditable and transparent.
  • Establish the accuracy of the data.
  • Include charts and tables.
  • Plan carefully.
  • Prepare an oral presentation with visual supplements for management.
  • Sell the project—your organization’s future may just depend on it.
  • Solicit support from the project sponsor.

Business Process Improvement Plan Elements

The business process improvement plan is the process examination team’s last action item before the project is handed over to the implementation team, and is a culmination of the team’s findings and decisions over recent months. The business process improvement plan includes the following components:

  • Executive Summary
    • The Problem
    • The Solution
    • Resources Needed
  • The Process
  • Vision, Goals, and Objectives
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Project Team
  • Risks and Opportunities
  • Resources
  • Next Steps
  • Conclusion

Executive Summary

Create a snapshot of the project that will capture the imagination of the executives. Concisely state why the project is critical and the results that will be created by its completion. Include the project costs and expected return on the investment. Bear in mind that the executive summary may be all that an executive has time to read, so the summary may serve as the deciding factor of whether the project gets approved or not.

The Problem

Business process improvement is either in response to or in anticipation of a changing environment. The reader needs to identify with and believe that the problem is real and that the organization’s ability to meet its goals and objectives will be compromised if the problem goes unresolved.

State the pain that the process causes to the stakeholders and why it needs to be stopped. Process measurements and workflows provide evidence of what is wrong with the existing process.

The Solution

Develop a lofty purpose for the business process improvement project. State HOW and WHY the business process improvement project will resolve the problems identified.

Resources Needed

The project budget shows the investment needed and by type of expense. The return on the investment made and the period for the returns should be clearly stated. Include the assumptions that went into the number crunching.

The Process

Codify the reasons why the particular process was selected for improvement. Demonstrate that an auditable and transparent methodology was used for the selection of the process to be improved, and include the results of the analysis.

Vision, Goals, and Objectives

Paint a picture of the future process; what it will look like, and how it will assist the organization achieve its strategic objectives. Include the vision, goals, and objectives of the business process improvement project and align them to the organization’s vision.

SWOT Analysis

Strengthen the argument for the process vision, goals, and objectives by showing how strengths and opportunities accommodate the vision. Determine how the weaknesses and the impact of threats will be reduced, converted, or eliminated by the project.

Project Implementation Team

Explain the remit of the implementation team and how and why the members were selected. Explain the selection criteria and present the implementation team charter.

Risks

From the Risk Register highlight the risks with the highest probabilities for impacting the project, and explain the mitigation/ elimination strategies. Summarize the change management plan and the stakeholder analysis and include them with the strategies.

Opportunities

Highlight the opportunities that successful business process improvement presents. Identify any opportunities that have been taken advantage of thus far, such as the quick wins discussed earlier.

Resources

Include the updated project budget and highlight the critical costs. Show the basis of the project rate of return and the payback period.

Next Steps

Present an updated project plan and give an overall view of the next steps and the estimated dates. Highlight the key activities such as business process improvement plan acceptance by management, implementation team training, process design, project testing and implementation, and project completion.

Conclusion

Here provide a review and wrap-up of all the above. No new information should be introduced in the conclusion. All members of the process examination team and implementation teams need to sign off on the document (literally obtain signatures) showing commitment and buy-in of its contents.

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.

 

Facilitators’ Overview of the HBR Book Entitled “Executing Your Strategy”


Executing Your Strategy” published by Harvard Business School Press and written by two FAST alumni, provides instruction on how to transform strategy into projects. Writers Morgan and Malek (both previous professors at Stanford University Advanced Project Management School), spoke with us about the importance of professional facilitation to successfully both “plan your work” (strategy) and “work your plan” (project).

They make a compelling argument for INVEST imperatives (or, domains) that you may find valuable when managing your projects:

  1. Ideation—communicating purpose, identity, and intention
  2. Nature—aligning strategy with culture and structure
  3. Vision—clarifying goals and metrics
  4. Engagement—portfolio management
  5. Synthesis—program and project execution
  6. Transition—benefiting mainstream operations

Executing Your StrategyFor additional detailed support and understanding of each domain, see the book, “Executing Your Strategy”.

Most importantly, from a facilitator’s perspective, they highly recommend building a Center for Strategic Excellence that anchors itself upon effective, neutral facilitators and structured facilitative methodology. Hopefully you are doing your best around your organization to nurture supportive facilitative leadership around you, your staff, and your program office.

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.

Punctuation Precision, Humorously Proven by “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”


Our bias about the importance of rhetorical precision has been discussed and emphasized in other blogs. Hard to believe it took us almost ten years to read Lynne Truss’s book, “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”. Her primary chapter topics include the use or abuse of apostrophes, commas, dashes, and other. To understand the title, capture a copy yourself and note the logic that follows “A panda walks into a café . . .” Here are some of our favorite examples, copied dot for dot from the book, to prove the importance of a single dot of ink and how it could affect building consensus.

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

OrPunctuation

“A re-formed rock band is quite different from a reformed one. Likewise, a long-standing friend is different from a long standing one. A cross-section of the public is quite different from a cross section of the public.”

Or

Is it extra-marital sex or extra marital sex?

Is it a pickled-herring merchant or a pickled herring merchant?

If you are sensitive to details, you will enjoy this book, light reading or reading under a light. As Joseph Robertson wrote in 1785, “The art of punctuation is of infinite consequence in writing (NOTE: facilitative documenting); as it contributes to the perspicuity, and consequently to the beauty, of every composition.” This is one self-help book that gives you permission to love punctuation.

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 the skills of a facilitative leader.

How Facilitated Leadership Can Help You Overcome 7 Common Project Pitfalls


Facilitative leadership provides the best assurance that team leads/ project managers can overcome project pitfalls.  Borrowing from the PMBoK (ie, Project Management Institute Body of Knowledge) and other published sources, following are seven of the most common project pitfalls. A discussion about each follows below.

Using Facilitative LeadershipTo Overcome Project Management Pitfalls

Using Facilitative Leadership
To Overcome Project Management Pitfalls

7 Project Pitfalls

  1. Abandonment of Planning
  2. Feature (Scope) Creep
  3. Omitting Necessary Tasks
  4. Overly Optimistic Schedule
  5. Suboptimal Requirements Definition
  6. Underestimating Testing
  7. Weak Team

Abandonment of Planning 

Do not abandon your plan or the planning effort. No matter how proactive you are, some contributors will under perform, customers will request changes, and technical issues will prevent you from delivering some features on time. It’s not a question of “if” but “when”. As soon as you start to deviate from your plan, intelligently refactor, but stick to it. Never abandon your plan.

Feature (Scope) Creep

As time goes on, customers learn more about their needs and they come up with new features and ways of improving existing ones. Don’t let these changes throw your project plan out of control. Gather the feedback, analyze it, prioritize it, document it, and schedule the changes as mutually agreed upon. You’re not going to build the perfect product in one release. Deliver on your existing commitments, and try to facilitate deeper understanding about many the change requests. Omissions can be quite costly, so don’t immediately discount the value of understanding.

Omitting Necessary Tasks 

A project schedule should not simply comprise the tasks required to develop product and process features. It should also include other derivative activities, such as interacting with customers, writing detailed functional specifications, and receiving technical training. Team-support activities cannot be skipped and therefore should not be ignored when baselining a project schedule.

Overly Optimistic Schedule

Meeting schedules should be aggressive, yet realistic. Demanding an overly optimistic schedule greatly reduces your chance of completing a project on time. Be aggressive with your plan, but remain realistic.

“Even particularly smart people in extremely high-performing situations will consistently underestimate how much time it takes to complete certain tasks.”—Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize

Suboptimal Requirements Definition

While showing illusional progress, coding before requirements gathering actually delays project completions. Spending time early refining requirements can save weeks later on.

Underestimating Testing 

Project tend to underestimate how much effort is required to test a major release. As a rule of thumb, one-third of the entire project should be spent testing and fixing defects for major releases. Consensual understanding of test results and implications is key to stakeholder ownership.

Weak Team

Various resources claim that there is as much as a ten-to-one efficiency ratio between top performers and mediocre ones. Second-rate members contribute to project failures in many ways. They deliver late, do stuff that doesn’t support the project, and allow defects in their work that lacks the level of quality deemed acceptable by you and other stakeholders. Select your team members carefully. At the end of the day, even the best project manager can’t succeed with a weak team.

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).

15 Fun and Quick Tips to Help You Become a More Successful Facilitative Leader


  1. The wisdom of the crowd” effect has long been recognized, but scientists have gone further by showing that the strategy works even when the crowd consists of one person (Scientific American Mind, pg 14, Oct-Nov 2008).

    Fun Facts

    Fun Facts

  2. Brain research on Buddhist monks seems to indicate that “HOW” you think, not “WHAT” you think about, improves brain activity (The Futurist, pg 36, Sep-Oct 2007).
  3. Decision-making is important because making a decision signifies the beginning of activity, and the value of consensus derives from harmonized activities.
  4. Everest in Tibetan is Qomocangma (pronounced, CHO MOL UNG MA) and in Nepalese is Sagaratha.
  5. Extract more value from interactions:  Companies have been automating or offshoring an increasing proportion of their production and manufacturing (transformational) activities and their clerical or simple rule-based (transactional) activities.  As a result, a growing proportion of the labor force in developed economies engages primarily in work that involves negotiations and conversations, knowledge, judgment, and ad hoc collaboration—namely, tacit interactions. By 2015 expect employment among jobs primarily involving tacit interactions to account for nearly one-half of total USA employment.  By 2020, Europe and Japan will experience similar changes in the composition of their workforces.
  6. Facilitating through video or telepresence involves three considerations not found when facilitating audio only meetings, namely:
    a. Clothing; for example, stripes or patterned shirts are not recommended during a videoconference and may not display well at the remote site(s).
    b. Plain colored shirts and pants/skirts are optimal.  Also, avoid wearing white and red.
    c. Restrict movement as much as possible.  Excessive movements are disruptive to viewers at the far site(s). Have a back up plan for your meeting or class in the event of connection failures or equipment problems.
  7. Howard Gardner (Harvard University) has introduced two more types of innate intelligence, bringing his documented total to nine:
    a. Existential Intelligence—Sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why do we die, and how did we get here.
    b. Naturalist Intelligence (“Nature Smart”)
  8. Instead of deBono’s Thinking Hats approach, consider assigning people or groups to emulate other famous people (eg; Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mahatma Ghandi, Michelle Obama, etc) or collections (eg; ant colonies, weather, monastery, mafia, etc) and ask the group—“How would this person or collection address the problem at hand?”
  9. Marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of his seminal work on the theory of evolution, we are reminded NOT the strongest of the species survives, NOR the most intelligent; rather, “the one most responsive to change.”
  10. Note the irony: “I’ll see it when I can believe it.”
  11. Parsimony:  The Golden Rule is only 11 words
  12. Research shows that innovation won’t happen without a diverse work force.  So, don’t clone yourself.
  13. The only qualification for innovation is having been five years old.  On average, a five year old laughs 100 times per day while the 44 year old laughs only eleven times per day.
  14. The original Palm Pilot had only four features: tasks, calendar, contacts, and memos.
  15. The single most powerful word in negotiations is “HUH?”  It says, “tell me more”, without offering rejection or objection.

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).

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