Seven Tips for Improving Your Participation and Contributions During Meetings


An unfacilitated meeting can be led (or misled) from any chair in the room. If you are the meeting host, or even participating in someone else’s meeting, here are seven quick tips to ensure that you add optimal value.

Improving Meeting Participation

Improving Meeting Participation

  1. If it is your meeting, ask a facilitator to lead the group through major decision-making, prioritization, and solution finding activities. Having a facilitator enables you to participate fully and gives the responsibility for policing the process to a neutral person.
  2. Strive to organize your thoughts before speaking. Then express your idea simply, logically, and concisely. People are more receptive to ideas they understand. Long, complex explanations work against you.  Some meeting participants have been known to make great contributions.  Some meeting participants have been known to make long contributions.  Rarely will you witness a great, long contribution.
  3. Respect others, knowing that there is usually more than one right answer. Different views force us to develop new ideas and more ideas equates to higher quality decisions.  The best way to win a debate is to fully understand the other party’s position, so listen carefully.  When you talk, you are repeating something you already know.  When you listen, you learn something new.
  4. Use encouraging and positive comments during your meeting. Negative comments create defensive reactions that distract from business goals.  There is no need to play favorites or even cheer a particular person’s contributions, but speak positively about the overall value and velocity of everyone’s contributions.
  5. Use structured activities that lead to solid outputs and deliverables. Methodological tools ensure equitable participation and systematic progress toward results that can be documented.  If it is not documented, then it did not happen.  Do NOT rely on informal, unstructured discussion.  Discussion, percussion, and concussion are all related—to the headache of uncertainty about “What actually happened in that meeting?”.
  6. Focus on one issue at a time and close it down before moving on. Most groups can solve any problem if you maintain focus on the appropriate question.  However, getting a group of people to focus at the same remains the biggest challenge during any meeting.  Avoid war stories and unrelated issues.  Past experience is no guarantee of the future state.  Out of scope discussions are a waste of time, distract the desired focus, and mislead others. The cause of most project failures is scope creep, and the same problem applies to meetings, especially when they are unstructured.
  7. Rescue wayward meetings by challenging participants to think clearly.  Unclear speaking and writing is indicative of unclear thinking.  Teach them how to think, and always build consensus around WHY something is important, before discussing WHAT the options are, followed by HOW we should proceed.

Reply with any questions you might have by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiatives, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need to lead more effective groups, teams, and meetings.

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. 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 numerous 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.

Related articles

How to Build Stakeholder Analysis and Galvanize Consensual Understanding


Define Organizational Stakeholders

Stakeholders are identified by examining the way that they interact with the organization in providing or receiving services or benefits. Stakeholders may include  external or internal persons, groups, systems, and other organizations that interact with the organizational group or a specific process.

Power and Gain

Power and Gain

Process Stakeholders

Process stakeholders are identified by examining  contributions to the process (inputs) and their benefits or what they receive from the process (outputs). The three-step approach below helps identify process stakeholders.

Step One – Identify inputs

  1. What are the inputs to the process or, what goes into the process? Consider using the FAST Creativity Exercise to help prevent omissions.
  2. Who provides each input identified in Activity 1 (immediately above). Associate the source(s) of each input.
  3. How is the input used? Describe the activities and how each is performed.

Step Two – Identify outputs

  1. What are the outputs of the process? These are usually “things” or nouns such as a form, report, or event (eg, deposit).
  2. Who uses or benefits from the output of the process—associate the client(s) or customer(s) of each output.
  3. How is the output created? Describe activities that are dependent on the outputs and how each is further transformed into something of value.

Step Three – Identify stakeholders

  1. Each input/ output can be linked to one/ more stakeholder by one/ more activity within a process. A stakeholder relationship shown in the table below clarifies the relationship between stakeholder, input, output, and activity within the process.
Stakeholders’ Relationships

Group Stakeholders

Stakeholders can be grouped together according to how they use or interact with the inputs and outputs. From the table above members and employers can be grouped together as one stakeholder group called “Payers” as they interact with the collection process in the same manner.

Acknowledge Stakeholder Interests

The motives and needs of the stakeholders determine their interest in the process and indicate how they can contribute/ derail the success of the project.

Define Stakeholder Strategy Plan

The stakeholder strategy plan is a blueprint for the BPI (ie, Business Process Improvement) team’s interaction with stakeholders. The focus on the stakeholder’s contribution shows how the team can use the stakeholder’s interests to support the project and make it successful.

The plan identifies

  • What the project wants to achieve with each stakeholder
  • Stakeholder issues and interests
  • How stakeholders will be managed
  • The frequency of communication
  • The changing content of communication over the life of the project

The plan is dynamic meaning that it must be constantly updated to reflect changes in stakeholder opinions over the life of the project. The template below supports development of the stakeholder strategy plan.

Stakeholder Strategy Plan Answers . . .

Stakeholder Name:_____________________________

  • The objectives of the strategy plan are . . .
  • It is important for the project to have a stakeholder plan because . . .
  • The purpose of the process is to . .  . So that . . .
  • Give a short description of the stakeholder group:
  • The members of this stakeholder group are . . .
  • Describe this group’s role in the process.
  • Identify inputs the group provides:
  • Identify outputs the group uses:
  • The stakeholder thinks that the current process . . .
  • The stakeholder thinks this because . . .
  • The stakeholders interest in the current process . . .
  • The stakeholder’s power in the current process . . .
  • The stakeholder thinks that the BPI project . . .
  • The stakeholder’s likely reaction:
  • The stakeholder wants . . . from an improved process.
  • It is important for the stakeholder to support the project because:
  • Without the stakeholders support . . .
  • The stakeholders support . . .
  • The stakeholder can contribute to the success of the project by . . .
  • The stakeholder can hamper the project by . . .
  • The BPI team wants the stakeholder to . . .
  • The three things that are important to the stakeholder are:
  • The team can guarantee . . .
  • We need to tell the stakeholder . . .
  • We need to tell them because . . .
  • The best way to communicate with this group is to  . . .
  • This will cost (prepare a budget):
  • We need to meet with this group because/ when:
  • At what points in the project is it critical to meet with each stakeholder?
  • How do we deal with confidentiality issues?
  • Can each team member be privy to all information?
  • Can each stakeholder be privy to all information?
  • What is the strategy to ensure that confidential information stays that way?

Develop a Communications Action Plan

The communications action plan identifies exactly how and when a project team will communicate with each target audience (or stakeholder) over the life of the project. The plan is flexible, as it is updated over the life of the project and recognizes the need for intervention and ad hoc meetings. Match the communications plan with your project milestone and plan outreach to the stakeholders and staff at critical points of your project.

Consider the need for different types of meetings. One-way communications may be appropriate when the team needs to reveal the decisions made and share information. Facilitated workshops can be used for decision-making and to encourage participation ad ownership. Ad hoc meetings may be held to deal with negative situations and to negotiate among stakeholders. The communications action plan provides significant input for the change management plan.

Determine Stakeholder Risks

The amount of power each stakeholder/ stakeholder group enjoys now and the extent to which this power will change is a good indicator of the level of resistance the stakeholder will have to the project. The more pain that the stakeholder is asked to absorb and the more power/ status (s)he loses, the greater the resistance. The figure below can be used to predict the amount of resistance from the stakeholder group.

Mitigate Behavior

From our analysis, we can develop an action plan to encourage the positive behaviours and limit the negative behaviors. A stakeholder analysis recognizes the fragility of the human condition and sensitivity to its environment. Your team must constantly monitor and evaluate stakeholders’ reactions by revisiting the stakeholder analysis at each milestone in your project.

Conclusion

Stakeholders (internal and external) have invested interests in your project and can provide positive support. It is the project team’s responsibility to identify stakeholder contributions and extract it from them. The project team needs to be aware of the impact a project may have on each stakeholder and their power base, and develop strategies that are appropriate for advancing their project.

Let us know what you think by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiatives, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need to lead more effective groups, teams, and meetings.

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. 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 numerous 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.

Related articles

Six Benefits by Improving Your Facilitative Leadership and Meeting Skills


As you amplify and increase your facilitative leadership skills, you and your team participants will become more successful.  What is our measurement of success?  Let us consider six substantial areas of success including:

  1. Consensual Understanding and Higher Quality Decisions
  2. Flexibility and Breaking through Stalemates and Deadlocks
  3. Impactful Groups through Improved Working Relationships
  4. Integral Decision-Making
  5. Knowledge Transfer and Increased Organizational Effectiveness
  6. Saving Time and Increased Personal Effectiveness

Let us look at each briefly in a more detail:

Strengthen Your Skills

Strengthen Your Skills

  1. Consensual Understanding and Higher Quality Decisions:  Properly facilitated, participants understand both WHAT is decided and WHY.  Since groups are capable of generating more options than the aggregate of individuals, they arrive at higher quality decisions that are capable of reconciling seemingly contrary points of view.
  2. Flexibility and Breaking through Stalemates and Deadlocks:  Structured approaches afford a higher degree of flexibility, than approaches without structure.  With structure, and topical flow, meetings can take the “scenic route” because there is a back-up plan to provide a respite from the stream of consciousness approach taken by unstructured meetings.  By exploring newly created options and challenging working assumptions, teams can breakthrough their stalemates and deadlocks by rediscovering common ground or by creating options during the meeting that did not walk in to the room at the start of the meeting.
  3. Impactful Groups through Improved Working Relationships:  Conflict becomes properly managed rather than ignored.  Complex issues may be addressed face-to-face as they should, rather than through a series of e-mails and innuendo.  Proper facilitation will demonstrate the opportunity and method for discovering win-win solutions.  As stakeholders’ ideas are sought, meeting activity will become more collaborative and innovative
  4. Integral Decision-Making: Defined as better alignment with organizational goals and objectives.  Structured decision-making must appeal to organizational goals and objectives supported by the meeting; typically the project, program, business unit, and enterprise.  Alignment with the “holarchial” perspective ensures that proposed actions are appropriate and supports prioritization based on the impact of proposed changes across the entire enterprise.  Effective decision-making reflects the integral perspective.
  5. Knowledge Transfer and Increased Organizational Effectiveness:  Learning organizations understand the need and power behind the transfer of knowledge from those who know to those who do not know, but should.  Facilitated environments provide the opportunity for challenge, reflection, and documentation that underlies shared understanding and amplifies organizational effectiveness.  Facilitative leadership also makes it easier to develop new leaders.
  6. Saving Time and Increased Personal Effectiveness:  Session leaders (aka facilitators) will more done faster.  As staff is treated as colleagues, commitment and motivation increases.  By becoming expert on method and tools rather than content, they can continue to use tools that generate consistent and repeatable results.  Meetings only fail because either the participants do not have the talent, do not have the motivation, or do not know how.  The role of the facilitative leader shows them how.

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.

A Facilitator’s Profile is Much Like an Innovator’s Profile (Design Thinker)


“Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need weird shoes or a black turtleneck to be a design thinker . . .” so goes the article from Harvard Business Review June 2008 (pg 87).  The author suggests that five characteristics found in design thinkers (ie, innovators) that relate uncannily to core competencies required for effective facilitation.  Included (in alphabetical order) are Collaboration, Empathy, Experimentalism, Integrative Thinking, and Optimism.

Door of Opportunity

Door of Opportunity

Collaboration:  Increasing complexity of options and decision-making demands the involvement of many, rather than one.  Lone genius has been replaced with cross-disciplinary subject matter experts.  Select subject matter experts have the talent to succeed, the initiative and motivation to succeed, but frequently do not know how to succeed in a group setting.  Many are subject matters across disciplines with experience drawn upon multiple backgrounds and organizations.  At IDEO for example, they engage engineers, marketers, anthropologists, industrial designers, architects, and psychologists, among others.

Empathy:  Understanding that there is more than one right answer, seeking the best among multiple perspectives lends itself to creating an answer that did not walk into the meeting; rather one that is created during the meeting.  To support creation, empathy in the form of active listening with a neutral session leader becomes critical.

Experimentalism:  Challenging subject matter experts to make their thinking visible, from the heart, can advance the rationale behind their thoughts that breeds both consensual understanding and breakthrough solutions.  Through observation and questioning, session leaders can inspire and transfer ownership of the meeting output.

Integrative Thinking:  While analytical methods are certainly helpful, integrative approaches support innovation.  A neutral facilitator can help a group understand multiple perspectives and build a solution(s) to reconcile seemingly contradictory points of view.  For example, one participant may prefer black and another prefers white.  Instead of viewing them as opposing thoughts, how can we integrate both black and white?  Immediate answers include options such as two-tone, plaid, polka dot, shades of grey, etc.

Successful session leaders rely on confidence in method rather than expertise around content to generate higher quality solutions.  Practically speaking however, optimism and confidence come from experience, so don’t forget to try, practice, and some more.  There is usually more than one right answer.  You may not be the best facilitator in the world, but you are the best facilitator your group can find.

Trust that in the role of session leader, they need you more than anything else, to lead with Collaboration, Empathy, Experimentalism, Integrative Thinking, and Optimism.  Through method you can open the doors of perception that makes it easier for your group to develop breakthrough solutions.

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.

The Positive Psychology of Chenille Stems: How to Make Everything Seem Easier


If you seek innovation and breakthrough during your group meetings or workshops, do not clone yourself.  Constantly strive to blend and mix various ingredients and participants.  But be prepared to keep them all stimulated.  We call it the “Zen” of the experience—that is appealing to all the senses to stimulate and maintain vibrancy.

Stimulate the Senses

Stimulate the Senses

As you know, moods and judgments can be influenced by unrelated experiences of sight and sound.  For example, we typically feel happier on sunny days and perhaps more relaxed when listening to certain types of music.  Heat and humidity are known to provoke more fighting, violence, and even riots.

You are encouraged to use multiple colors to break up the monotony of a single color hue.  You are encouraged to use icons and illustrations to break up the monotony of recording notes purely in the narrative format.  Likewise, use matrices, tables, and templates to stimulate your participants.

Our popular break timers blend a musical background that could best be described as eclectic—everything, from Frank to Frank as in Frank Sinatra to Frank Zappa.  We even suggest the use of Purell®, citrus fruit, and fresh air to alert participants who may be dozing off.  Likewise we encourage the use of 30-30, or 30 second stand-up and stretch breaks every 30 minutes.

In a similar fashion, we have used chenille stems (aka pipe cleaners) and foam stickers for nearly twenty years now.  While not all participants use them, research by Joshua Ackerman, Christopher Nocera, and John Bargh shows that the weight, texture, and hardness of the things we touch are unconsciously factored into decisions that have nothing to do what is being touched.

Most people associate smoothness and roughness with ease and difficulty.  Note the expressions “smooth sailing” and “rough seas ahead.”  According to the researchers, people who completed a puzzle with pieces covered in sandpaper described their interaction as more difficult and awkward than those with smooth puzzles.  Chenille stems offer both silky smoothness and flexibility, characteristics we seek from our participants and meetings.  Let the chenille stems make everything seem better, they seem to work, and research confirms why.

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.

 

A Consensually Built Picture Can Resolve a Thousand Arguments


Most of us have heard that a picture tells a thousand words.  Consensually built pictures, especially around complex topics and interactions, can be used to help solve and resolve a thousand arguments.  We are reminded by the IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) Quick Tip Bulletin #58 about the value of one picture type, called a Context Diagram.

A Context Diagram, also known as a Scoping Picture or Picture of the Business (area) may look complicated and un-informing to the uninformed, but a picture of the business quickly enables a session leader to tighten the reign on scope creep issues that plague many meetings and workshops.Illustrative Context Diagram

The example shown above illustrates “who” the business interacts (here, an organization or business called “Home Finance”) with, “what” the business receives from them, and “what” the business gives to them. Frequently the “whats” are known as inputs and outputs. Inputs and outputs are used in requirements gathering to narrow the scope of discovery and discussion. The picture helps both the participants and the facilitator focus on the deliverable.

Our simple agenda is shown below, and captures the answers to three simple questions before the modeling is complete:

  1. WHO do we work with to support our purpose (eg, Actors or Agents)?
  2. WHAT do we get from them (inputs)?
  3. WHAT do we give them (outputs)?

Modify this “plain vanilla” agenda as you see fit.  Use the FAST 7-step introductory sequence and 4-step review and wrap for the bookends. Have an ample supply of Post-It® Notes available, in at least three different colors, sizes, or shapes to distinguish the WHO from the inputs and outputs. Once complete, and consensually validated, you can proceed further with follow-up meetings or workshops to further define and illustrate WHO the business uses to support their purpose, and what activities (Activity Flow or Functional Decomposition workshop, leading to use cases such as SIPOC) and information (Logical Modeling or Entity Relationship Diagram) are also required to support their business purpose.

Here is the simple agenda that typically takes two to four hours to complete. Refer to your FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership manual for more details.

  • INTRODUCTION
  • PURPOSE OF THE BUSINESS AREA
  • WHO INTERACTS (Actors)
  • WHAT COMES IN (Inputs)
  • WHAT GOES OUT (Outputs)
  • MODEL AND VALIDATION (Walk-thru)
  • THE SCOPE DEFINED (Narrative)
  • REVIEW AND WRAP

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.

14 Facilitator Typologies to Avoid (Humorous, Although Uncannily Real)


In light of upcoming Holiday Spirit, here is a quick and somewhat humorous listing of fourteen different facilitator typologies or “personalities” you might seek to avoid. My favorite is “The Pretender.”

14 Typologies to Avoid

14 Typologies to Avoid

  • The “I Can’t Hear You” Guy—The facilitator who refuses to listen, probably because they are too busy analyzing, judging, and processing information.
  • The Blabber—The facilitator who loves the sound of his or her own voice, and actually believes they are adding value when speaking about content rather than context.
  • The Centerpiece—The facilitator who makes he or she the real content of the workshop, because of course, it’s all about them.
  • The Drill Sergeant—The facilitator who is rigidly stuck on the agenda and puts the clock above quality content.
  • The Guardian—The facilitator who makes certain that all conversation goes through him or her and not from participant to participant, so as not to lose control.
  • The Ice Cube—The distant and aloof facilitator who is unwilling to personalize the experience, sometimes becoming accusatory.
  • The Know-it-all—The facilitator who always has the answer. The know-it-all whom can’t say “I don’t know.”
  • The Marathon Man—The facilitator who piles activities on top of one another, doesn’t allow for breaks, and ignores the need for groups to pause, reflect, and absorb topics and ideas.
  • The Molasses Man—The facilitator who is painfully slow and doesn’t have an innate feel for pacing, variety, or style.
  • The Parrot—The facilitator who relentlessly recaps information, restates ideas, and summarizes the obvious (although sometime justifiable for groups that are challenged to focus and “be here now.”)
  • The Passenger—The facilitator who lets people talk too long and gives up the reins of facilitation to whomever is speaking at the time.
  • The Pretender—The facilitator who doesn’t ask real questions but only “pretense questions” that are really designed to give the facilitator an excuse to pontificate.
  • The Storyteller—The facilitator who tells far too many cutesy stories or “war stories” and never gets deep into the content.
  • The Tunnel Driver—The facilitator who keeps doing the same thing or uses the same method hour after hour.

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.

Facilitating For-Profit Meetings Requires Structure Not Found in Kum Bay Yah


Facilitating business requirements captures substantially different challenges than facilitating community forums and other project-based meetings. While active listening serves both scenarios, the deliverables needed to support most business initiatives are quite different from social and community settings.

Frequently, business facilitators are not seeking agreement, rather harmony.  The difference follows. Agreement suggests that everyone is singing the same note, perhaps even with the same instrument. Boring. Reminiscent of the railroad industry in 1899 trying to protect itself, rather than redefining its role and service industry as transportation or logistics (eg, 3PL or Third Party Logistics Providers).

Harmony implies we are seeking an outcome where everyone’s musical note or expression is heard, from whatever instrument they play. The key to successful facilitation is building and leading appropriate structure so that the deliverable captures all of the instruments and all of the tones, like a symphony.  The sound of cicadas every few years represents agreement. The music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky reflects a symphonic movement.

When seeking agreement for your deliverable, as in in decision-making for example, the right structure makes it easier for your participants.  Consider the PowerBall approach when you can help drive a group toward a simple decision surrounding a well-articulated question (eg, What should we buy?).

For complicated situations, use the Scorecard approach that separates fuzzy from SMART criterion, applies weightings, and generates a quantitative score for comparing your options. For highly complex situations like portfolio management, always embrace the SWOT analysis (introduced to the FAST curriculum in its current form in 2004). In the facilitator’s world, our approach to SWOT is like comparing a Tchaikovsky composition to playing the same note over and over on a kazoo.

Decision-Making Matrix

Decision-Making Matrix

As facilitators, our business constraints rarely afford the time and luxury of sitting around the campfire singing Kum Bay Yah and building trust. Therefore it is imperative that we build our structure in advance and lead the method best suited to reconcile the business challenges and trade-offs you might expect.  Everyone agreeing will keep you in the box, suffocating innovation. But with harmony you don’t even see the box, as you lead to the creation of a solution that no single participant envisioned when they entered your workshop.

Let us know what you think by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiatives, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need to lead more effective groups, teams, and meetings.

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. 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 numerous 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.

Related articles

An Active Listening TIP — Listening For the WHY, Benefits Everyone


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.

Listening For the WHY

We all know that listening is an important skill. We instruct our students to engage in “active” listening. But, what do we hear?

Listening for WHY

Listening for WHY

Most listening is the act of being attentive to What the speaker says. Our tip today is to listen for Why the speaker is saying what they are saying.  Participants have a natural tendency to speak in symptoms (eg, “I’m fatigued”) rather than the cause (eg, “I’ve been working 70 hours a week.”)

WHY is the Cause (or, the “Because”) of the WHAT

The Why is very often apparent in personal conversation. You might ask yourself (while a stranger is speaking to you) about why they are telling you about a particular fact or story. Determining the motivation for the speaking is as important if not more so than what is said.

Many of us already know this about our children. When a teenager says “I hate you,” he/she is really saying:

  • I’m frustrated
  • I didn’t get my way
  • I don’t have power to influence you or change your opinion
  • I’m embarrassed
  • I’m going to hurt you because you hurt me

Chances are they do not really “hate” you.

The Tip

Without trying to be amateur psychologists here, listen for the why when:

  • A workshop participant is angry and/or confrontational
  • A participant waxes on about something seeming irrelevant, or just waxes on, and on
  • A participant is abnormally active or withdrawn

In our classes we advise to confirm what and why the speaker says. We are also suggesting that as facilitator, you need to confirm why the speaker has said they said in addition to what is being said.

The why usually represents the most important message coming from the person speaking because next steps and actions for groups are built around the cause rather than the symptom.

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.

Seven Top Skills for Managing Change in an Enterprise or Organization


To improve or enhance your personal capacities and to help you understand what skills to seek in others that support effective change, we have isolated seven top skills.

Change Management

Change Management

These skills are those most frequently identified by employers according to Syracuse University public-affairs professor Bill Coplin, author of “10 Things Employers Want You To Learn In College.” With our focus on change and business process improvement, we have modified them and listed them in order of priority as they apply to facilitating and managing change:

  1. Integrity—“Do what you say you are going to do.” Without integrity and work ethic, all the other skills could be dangerous. Coplin incudes self-motivation and time management.
  2. Communications—the greatest and most innovative ideas are impotent if they are not adequately explained to others. Coplin separates verbal or oral communications from written and also emphasizes editing and proofing one’s work.
  3. Team Work—change never occurs in a vacuum and effective change relies on distributed ownership. Stakeholders need to embrace the change or it will fail. Coplin mentions one-on-one, relationship building, and influencing people through leadership.
  4. Infomediary—effectively receiving, archiving, and distributing information that each stakeholder needs to plan, operate, and control and the change effort to their level of satisfaction. Colin refers to gathering information and keeping it organized.
  5. Measurement—“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” so become adept with quantitative tools, statistics, graphs, and spreadsheets. Know how to objectively measure why something is important.
  6. Questioning—Few skills are harder to teach and yet as important as knowing the right question to ask. Subject matter experts abound in most organizations, they need to be stimulated by the right question in the proper context, and they can deliver.
  7. Problem Solving—While Coplin emphasizes identifying problems, developing possible solutions, and launching solutions, we would add the importance of properly analyzing the problems as well. Do not leap from identification to solution without a thorough understanding of the implications of the problem.

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,838 other followers