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.

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.

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


Facilitating business requirements can be substantially different than facilitating community forums and other project-base support meetings. While the tool of active listening provides an important component for both scenarios, the deliverables needed to support most business initiatives are quite different from social or 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 on the same instrument. Boring. Reminiscent of the railroad industry in 1899 trying to protect itself, rather than redefining its roles and service value in transportation or logistics (eg, 3PL or Third Party Logistics Providers).

Harmony implies we are seeking an outcome when 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.

Even when seeking agreement as your deliverable, for example in decision-making sessions, 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 to support discussion focused on 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 some kids 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.

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.

 

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 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.

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.

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.

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 plan. 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.

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

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

Do not forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and detailed tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

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