Considerations on How to Facilitate between Europeans and Asians


Purpose

An alumnus wrote about preparing for an executive workshop between Europeans and Asians between two different companies. The deliverable intends to capture a strategy document of their alliance to work with each other in their supply chain. Specifically the alumnus inquired about anything in particular to avoid or encourage.

Specific Solution

Speak with the participants to confirm their explicit expectations and then manage accordingly. When conducting confidential, one-on-one interviews, participants will speak more openly about “anything in particular to avoid or encourage.”

General Considerations

  1. Icebreakers: Consider ice breaker activities that allow participants to share some of their social values, such as asking about a favorite childhood memory or describing their favorite holiday (ie, vacation) destination and activities.
  2. Names: Since an effective facilitator will not use people’s names, rather substitute open hands and eye contact to draw in participation and to pass the talking stick. During breaks and social times, or when discussing administrivia such as evening plans, strive to use people’s last names and titles, including respect toward academic and medical titles. During private introductions, handshakes are a reasonable default standard, perhaps with a slight bow—avoid hugging, arm humping, and shoulder thwacking as too much physical contact.
  3. Protocol: Emphasize the difference in roles. For example, we treat our parent different than we treat our children. We may treat customers different from suppliers. During the workshop, emphasize leaving titles and roles on the other side of the threshold so that everyone has permission to speak freely. When the Joint Chiefs meet, they may wear sweaters over their military stars, so that four-star generals do not claim superiority over three-star generals in a workshop environment. If the armed forces can encourage equality of voice, so can we.
  4. Punctuality: Punctuality is important. Keep your stated promises about when to start, including after breaks and meals. If not, your broken promise will frustrate participants and cause some to challenge the integrity of the session leader. If the session leader claims punctuality but permits delayed starting time, they may be seen as someone who cannot be trusted. Be sure to use FAST timers to get people to return from breaks and start on time. If necessary, offer a ten-minute break every fifty minutes, but start on time.
  5. Rhetoric: Avoid slang, colloquialisms, and American jargon. It is not uncommon for Europeans and Asians to speak in English and understand each other better than an American. While facilitating and providing reflection, stick closely to verbatim words and expressions rather than “interpreting.” If the participants felt there was a better term or expression, they would have used it the first time. Unless the participant asks for language assistance, be patient and avoid volunteering content, unless asked.
  6. Breakout Groups: Use breakout group frequently during the agenda, especially during the ideation step within brainstorming. Carefully plan your groups in advance, based on knowledge you obtain during interviews, and be certain to appoint a CEO (ie, chief easel officer) for each group. Strive to creatively assign group titles or names that harmonize with the theme of the workshop (eg, star constellations). Simply calling out 1,2, 3 indicates that the activity was not important enough to plan further. Understand methodologically that some times it is appropriate to create homogenous groups (ie, think alike) and other times it may be advantageous to create heterogeneous groups (ie, embrace pluralism).

Method

Be certain to secure pre-meeting buy-in about the purpose, scope, and deliverables from the workshop. Ideally, explain your agenda through a metaphor or analogy. Next, assure that the method will engage the participants and not drag on and bore them. If you keep them engaged and focused, you will clearly have made it easier for them to build and decide. Do not discount the importance of a formal review and wrap-up. Plan on an approach the group accepts in advance to manage action steps or roles and responsibilities. Invest some time in the FAST Guardian of Change so that they agree on their primary messaging to other executives and stakeholders at the conclusion of the workshop. Moreover, be sure to obtain some feedback on your performance, so that you may continuously improve your talents as an effective, facilitative leader.

Remember friends, nobody is smarter than everybody. For detailed support, see your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MGRush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI).

How to Facilitate Quick and Simple Prioritization Using a PowerBall Method


Purpose

To help a group quickly and simply prioritize.

Rationale

Apply the Pareto Principle (aka 80-20 Rule) to help a group deselect and to eliminate as many options as possible so the group can stay focused on the most important or attractive options.

CAUTION

Be aware that the optimal approach suggests that you prioritize the criteria, not the options directly.

Method

The following steps should be read with an understanding that some of the material and examples used to support prioritization and other approaches discussed elsewhere on this blog site and in the FAST curriculum.

  • Establish the purpose of what the team is doing (ie, Purpose of _______ is to . . .    So that . . .)
  • Build a list of options (eg, Brainstorming). Set the list of options aside.
  • Build a list of criteria (be prepared to define each “criterion”).
  • Look at the criteria to see if any options are in violation. For example, if Sally is allergic to flowers, then “buying her flowers” is probably an option that should be eliminated.
  • Consider asking the participants if they can live with the remaining options. If someone objects, then eliminate that particular option.
  • Once they can live with the remaining options, you have consensus.
  • To improve the quality of the decision, unveil the visual support for PowerBalls and the accompanying definitions, and prioritize the criteria.
  • Find the option(s) that best align with the most important or mandatory criteria.

The definitions shown here work in almost all situations, namely:

  • 5 or a solid ball means high “Pay any price.
  • 1 or an empty circle means low or “Want it free, not willing to pay extra for it.”
  • 3 or a half-filled ball means moderate or all the other stuff  between high and low, meaning we are “willing to pay a reasonable price” without being forced to define “reasonable.”

Separate the most/ least important criteria. Code the remaining as moderate by default, without discussion. Attempt to force fit one-third of the candidates as each high, low, and moderate—but be flexible. Appeal to the high criteria and isolate the option(s) that best satisfy the prioritized criteria. To further optimize or guide discussion (if required), appeal to some of the fuzzy factors that may be difficult to measure objectively.

When you need help creating a robust definition of something that may be argumentative, turn to the Definition Tool for support

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.

Five Compelling Business or Organizational Reasons to Hold a Facilitated Session


Purpose

The most important action most people take every day is to make choices, to decide.  Productivity is amplified if decisions are properly made about when to work alone, speak with one other person, or to pull together a group of people, typically called a meeting.

The advantages to a facilitated meeting or workshop include:

  1. Higher quality results: groups of people generally make higher quality decisions than the smartest person in the group.  Facilitated sessions encourage the exchange of different points of view enabling the group to identify new options, and it is a proven fact that any person or group with more options at its disposal makes higher quality decisions.
  2. Faster results: facilitated sessions can accelerate the capture of information, especially if the meeting participants (aka subject matter experts) arrive prepared with an understanding of the questions and issues that need to be discussed.
  3. Richer results: by pooling skills and resources, diverse and heterogeneous groups develop more specific details and anticipate future demands, subsequently saving time and money in the project or program life cycle.
  4. People stimulate people: properly facilitated sessions can lead to innovation and the catalyst for innovative opportunities because multiple perspectives generate a richer (360 degree) understanding of a problem or challenge, rather than a narrow, myopic view.
  5. Transfer of ownership: facilitated sessions are oriented toward further action by creating deliverables that support follow-up efforts.  Professional facilitators use a method that builds commitment and support from the participants, rather than directing responsibility at the participants.

Description

Conducting facilitated sessions includes preparatory time, actual contact time during the session, and follow-up time as well.  Therefore, successful sessions depend upon clearly defined roles, especially distinguishing between the role of facilitator and the role of methodologist (that are also discrete from the role of scribe or documenter, coordinator, etc.).  Carefully managed sessions also embrace ground rules to ensure getting more done, faster.

Much effort may be provided before the session to ensure high productivity, including:

  • Researching both methodological options and content to be explored
  • Review and documentation of minutes, records, findings, and group decisions that affect the project being supported with this particular meeting or workshop session
  • Completion of individual and small group assignments prior to sessions

When conducted properly, meetings with groups of people are strenuous for everyone involved, which is why they may be called workshops or workouts.  Therefore, avoid an overly ambitious agenda and plan for at least two, ten-minute breaks every four hours. Use our FAST ten-minute timers to ensure that breaks do not extend to eleven or twelve minutes. Strive to provide dedicated resources, such as a facilitator professionally trained in structured methods.

Discourage unplanned interruptions, especially through electronic leashes. “Topless” meetings are increasingly popular, meaning no laptops or desktop devices (eg, smart phones) except for accessing content needed to support the session. “No praying underneath the table” is another expression used to discourage people from using their gadgets on their laps, presumably beyond the line of sight of others, when in fact, everyone can see what they are doing anyway. For serious consensual challenges or multiple day sessions, sessions should be held away from the participants’ everyday work site to minimize interruptions and everyday job distractions.

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.

Five Problems with Meetings and What to Do about Them


Ever develop that sense of deja vu about not getting anywhere during a meeting?  Here’s what to do about it.

1.  Lack of clear purpose

All too frequently, meetings are held for the primary benefit of the meeting leader, typically the groups’s executive or project manager.  The session leader has decided in advance to schedule a series of weekly meetings for their own convenience. They anticipate needing the time of others to raise the fog high enough that they can determine what they need to get done over the next week, until the next meeting.

SOLUTION ONE:  Codify the purpose and deliverable of the meeting in twenty-five words or less.  If you are unable to clearly articulate why you are having the meeting and its desired output (ie, “What does ‘done’ look like?”), then you are not prepared to be an effective leader.  If you are the participant, demand a written statement about the purpose, scope, and deliverable of the meeting in advance, or don’t attend.

2.  Unprepared participants

Lack of clear purpose (mentioned above) is the main reason people show up unprepared.  It’s unclear in advance what “showing up prepared” looks like.

SOLUTION  TWO:  Beyond a clearly written statement about the meeting’s purpose, scope, and deliverable, participants need advance understanding about the agenda.  The agenda explains how the meeting will generate results.  Detailed questions determine agenda topics (eg, What are our options?).  Ideally, participants should know the questions to be asked in the meeting before it begins, so that they can attend ready and prepared.

3.  Biased leadership

Nothing will squelch the input of participants faster than a leader who begins to emphasized their personal answer.  Participants will want the leader to expose their entire position before they begin to speak so that they know where they stand, and avoid embarrassment about being “wrong”.

SOLUTION THREE:  Leaders should embrace neutrality.  If they want others’ input and opinions, then ask and listen.  If they don’t want others’ ideas, they shouldn’t have a meeting.  There are more cost effective means for informing and persuading.  Being neutral is like being pregnant, you either are or you’re not—there is no grey area.

4.  Scope creep (strategic and tactical blending)

All too often, meetings dive deep into the weeds (ie, HOW or concrete methods) or challenge the purpose (ie, WHY or ultimate intention).  Nobody wants more meetings, they only want results.

SOLUTION FOUR:  To avoid scope creep in the meeting it is important to have a written statement about the scope (see item number one above).  Then it needs to be policed, so that participants don’t go too deep into the weeds, and that others are not permitted arguing the reason for a project when project approval is beyond the scope of the meeting.  For pertinent strategic issues that are beyond scope of the meeting, capture them in a “Refrigerator” (aka “Parking Lot”) to preserve them until you can meet in a workshop environment and discuss strategic issues, their implications, and what needs to be done about them (recommendations).

5.  Poor or non existent structure

This problem applies both at the meeting level (ie, agenda) and within an agenda step.  Structure provides the method for delivering.  Most leaders are competent at soliciting ideas (ie, creating a list) but are frail during the analysis.

SOLUTION FIVE:  Determine in advance:

  • What are they going to do with the list?
  • How do they categorize?
  • Should they categorize or push on the measurable details?
  • If prioritizing, have they separately identified the criteria?
  • How are they going to lead the group to apply the criteria to the options leading to a prioritized list?

It’s not easy to lead a successful meeting.  No one ever said it was.  Success begins with clear thinking and an understanding about how to avoid the five most common problems with meetings.

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 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.

How to Honor and Recognize Diversity, Ensuring Meeting and Workshop Inclusiveness


The primary responsibility of a facilitator is to protect the participants.  Secondarily, the facilitator helps drive the group toward its desired deliverable.  Since the deliverable is built to serve the participants, the people should take priority over the issues.  To some extent, both people and issues are managed by creating an environment that is conducive to productivity.  Easier said, than done.

Additionally the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) aspires for you to:

  • Encourage positive regard for the experience and perception of all participants

    Cultural Plurality

  • Create a climate of safety and trust
  • Create opportunities for participants to benefit from the diversity of the group
  • Cultivate cultural awareness and sensitivity”

Dr Edward de Bono provides expert insight about parallel thinking; ie, there can be more than one correct answer.  Listening to others, their perspective, and rationale will create a more robust product.  Since we are all guilty of selective perception, the aggregation of all points of view provides stronger understanding and insight than any single point of view.  When facilitating a group of nine people for example, we are looking for the tenth answer.  The FAST technique refers to this concept as N+1, where N equals the quantity of participants, we are always seeking the +1 perspective.

Remember to embrace and enforce meeting and workshop ground rules to create a climate of safety and trust.  See our earlier discussion (http://wp.me/p1ki0r-5Q) for more specific comments and suggestions.

Diversity, or plurality as we prefer to call it (suggesting the beauty of a mosaic rather than the fracturing of something), is undoubtedly the key to innovation.  Embrace de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats (modified to Seven Thinking Hats with the FAST technique to also include the “Process” or royal purple view) or others means of facilitating perspective found in your FAST manual or in other expert sources such as Roger von Oech‘s Creative Whack Pack (most recently made available for the iPhone®).

Consider special ice breakers, break out sessions, or team building exercises that emphasize the value of plurality.  Scannell and Newstrom offer hundreds of options (eg, http://www.amazon.com/More-Games-Trainers-Edward-Scannell/dp/007055045X) among other expert tools.  Take this opportunity to leverage the tactile sense, and consider some of the professional Legos® activities or others designed to prove the value of plurality and its positive impact on the quality of deliverables.

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).

Related articles

How to Create and Sustain a Participatory Environment


The primary responsibility of a facilitator is to protect the participants.  Secondarily, the facilitator helps drive the group toward its desired deliverable.  Since the deliverable is built to serve the participants, the people take priority over the issues.  To some extent, both people and issues are managed by creating an environment that is conducive to productivity.  Easier said, than done.

Additionally the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) encourages you to “Demonstrate effective participatory and interpersonal communication skills . . .

  • Apply a variety of participatory processes
  • Demonstrate effective verbal communication skills
  • Develop rapport with participants
  • Practice active listening
  • Demonstrate ability to observe and provide feedback to participants”

The “zen” of the experience warns us that participants will respond to stimuli differently.  Psychologist Howard Gardner identified eight distinct types of intelligence.  He claims that all humans have the spark of genius buried within, but they manifest differently among us.  The eight types include:

  1. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (“Body Smart”)
  2. Interpersonal Intelligence (“People Smart”)
  3. Intra-personal Intelligence (“Self Smart”)
  4. Linguistic Intelligence (“Word Smart”)
  5. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (“Number/ Reasoning Smart”)
  6. Musical Intelligence (“Musical Smart”)
  7. Naturalist Intelligence (“Nature Smart”)
  8. Spatial Intelligence (“Picture Smart”)

You can begin to appreciate the value of applying a variety of participatory tools to solicit input from your participants.  Clearly and factually, not all of them will respond effectively to a strictly “verbal” environment.  Thus it is critically important to interview your participants in advance.  How else will you understand them and the method that may best serve them?  As we say in FAST class, there is no “silver bullet” to be an effective facilitator.  If you don’t show up prepared, your performance will likely be sub optimal.

Once we understand our participants better, and can improve the selection of tools that we choose to use in our meetings and workshops, effective facilitation relies heavily on active listening.  When conflict develops, people frequently do not listen to the other person or side of the story.  The facilitator’s role becomes indispensable to provide reflection on what is being said, because more participants will listen to the facilitator.  Don’t forget to confirm however, that you got it right.

Or write, as in, capture the reflection in writing.  If you capture the participants’ primary thoughts (frequently referred to as a causal link as in “I think that . . .”) in writing, such as a large Post-It® on an easel, it becomes easier to have them reflect on what was written down or captured.  Your participants can then confirm the accuracy or offer up corrections or additions as appropriate.

When providing feedback and reflection, scan the room and observe reactions, typically non-verbal.  Determine if it appears that the group understands and perhaps agrees, or if there is resistance —perhaps due to misinterpretation or misunderstanding that you can help clear up through active listening.

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.

How to Plan Appropriate Group Processes


The role of session leader (aka facilitator) is frequently filled by the same person who also provides the role of methodologist.  Since there is usually more than one right answer (or methodology, that leads to the deliverable), how do you determine the optimal approach? As you may know from your FAST training, a robust decision-making method suggests creating your options and then to separately evaluate them against a set of prioritized criteria; including SMART criteria, fuzzy criteria, and other important considerations.

Additionally the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) encourages you to “select clear methods and processes that

  • Foster open participation with respect for client culture, norms and participant diversity
  • Engage the participation of those with varied learning / thinking styles
  • Achieve a high quality product / outcome that meets the client needs”

You can support the plurality concept of the IAF’s first point by carefully selecting and blending your meeting participants.  Keep in mind the type of change effort you are leading.  If your deliverable contributes evolutionary advances to the project cause, you may want to get done quickly, with people who know each other and work together effectively.  If your deliverable contributes toward revolutionary advances, then invigorate your blend of meeting or workshop participants.  Remember, if you want the same old answer, then clone yourself.  If you need something truly innovative, then invite people who may be viewed as outsiders or confederates, and depend on them to help stir things up.  We know empirically that more options typically yields higher quality decisions.

Support their engagement and participation (second bullet above) with the frequent and extended use of break out teams and sessions.  Groups get more done as their sizes are reduced.  Break out teams give quiet people permission to speak freely.  Provide creative team names (eg, stellar constellations or mountain names) and appoint a CEO for each team (ie, chief easel operator).  Be well prepared with your supplies and handouts.

Manage teams closely by wandering around and listening.  Keep the teams focused on the question(s) as you would with a larger group, preventing scope creep that yields unproductive time.  When you pull the teams back together, use FAST’s Book-end tool to aggregate and collapse the perspectives into one, unified response.

Next the International Association of Facilitators encourages you to “prepare time and space to support group process

  • Arrange physical space to support the purpose of the meeting
  • Plan effective use of time
  • Provide effective atmosphere and drama for sessions”

When confined to one room, typically arrange easels in different corners.  With virtual meetings, convert local call-in centers (eg, a group conferencing in from another city) into discrete sub teams.  If possible, plan on separate rooms for break-out sessions, pre supplied with easels, markers, handouts, etc.

Minimize the allotted time.  It’s shocking what teams can complete in three minutes with clear instructions. Even with a three-minute assignment, by the time you have appointed CEOs, instructions, and participants have assembled and then returned; a three-minute assignment quickly turns into five minutes, five minutes turns into ten, etc.  Again, minimize the allotted time, but be flexible and afford more time if the teams remain productive and need more time that adds value.

The more you do in advance to prepare your instructions and the physical space, the more you can expect back in return.  If you are blasé and assign teams numbers, and randomly assign participants 1,2, 3, etc.—then expect blasé results.  If you are creative and involved, you can expect the same type of behavior from your participants.

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 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.

How to Structure the Introduction to Meetings and Workshops


Three Components

Just as the life-cycle of a meeting or workshop has three steps (ie, Get Ready, Do It, and Review), we find that within each meeting, three components need to be carefully managed to ensure success.  All agendas should include a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Many meetings fail because they neglect to include all three components.  Even a lousy book or movie includes a beginning, a middle, and an end.

The Beginning

Planning Predictable Results

Manage (and rehearse) your introductions carefully.  You want to make sure that your participants feel that their meeting has clear purpose and impact. Remember, to use the integrative and plural first person of ‘we’ or ‘us’ and avoid the singular ‘I’ so that you can begin to transfer responsibility and ownership to the participants since they own the results.

Have your room set-up to visually display the purpose, scope, and deliverable of any workshop.  If you cannot convert these three guiding principles into 50 words or less (for each), then you are not ready yet to launch the workshop. Let us repeat, if you do not know what the deliverable looks like, then you do not know what success looks like.

Consider displaying the purpose, scope, and deliverable on large Post-It paper, along with a set of ground rules appropriate to your politics and situation.  The following sequence is typically optimal for a robust introduction.

  1. Introduce yourself and explain the importance of the meeting, how much money or time is at risk if the meeting fails. Try to avoid using the word “I” after this moment. It is tough to drop the ego, but at least be conscious whenever you do use the first person singular.
  2. Present the purpose, scope, and deliverable and seek assent.  Make sure that all the participants can live with them. If they can’t, you probably have the wrong agenda prepared since it is designed specifically for your deliverable.
  3. Cover any of the administrivia to clear participants’ heads from thinking about themselves, especially their own creature comforts. Explain how to locate the lavatories, fire extinguishers, emergency exits, and other stuff particular to your group and situation.
  4. Cover the agenda and carefully explain the reason behind the sequence of the agenda steps, and how they relate to each other. Relate all of the agenda steps back to the deliverable so that participants can envision how completing each agenda step feeds content into the deliverable, thus showing progress for their efforts as they get closer to completing the meeting.
  5. Share some (not more than eight to twelve) ground rules. Consider supplementing your narrative posting of ground rules with some audio-visual support, including some humorous clips, but keep it brief and appropriate. See your FAST alumni site for some wonderful downloads.
  6. For a kick-off, have the executive sponsor explain the importance of the participants’ contributions and what management hopes to accomplish. For on-going workshops, consider a project update but do not allow the update or executive sponsor to take more than five minutes.  Your meeting is not a mini-Town Hall meeting (unless it actually is).
  • NOTE:  For multiple day workshops, remember to cover the same items at the start of subsequent days (except executive sponsor or project team update).  Additionally, review content that was built or agreed upon the day(s) before and how it relates to progress made in the agenda.

The Middle

The agenda steps between the Introduction and Wrap comprise the middle steps. Most of our other blogs are focused on what you can do between the introduction and wrap to help a group build, decide, and prioritize.  We also provide a separate blog that deals exclusively with a robust approach to the Wrap-up.  See How to Manage the Parking Lot and Wrap-up Meetings for HOW TO manage the end of a meting or 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 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.

Documentor Support


Who are the Best Documentors?

Many people are unsure what a documentor should do and what characteristics are needed for a good documentor.  A good documentor should be easy to work with, willing to keep quiet (ie, follow the role of content neutrality), have good handwriting, understand the situational terminology, be willing to work for you during the session, and understand the purpose and deliverable of the structured meeting notes.

 Good documentors can be found typically in three places:

  1. Trained session leaders frequently make strong documentors.  Supporting one another is also a good way for new session leaders to get cross-training.
  2. Project members from other, especially related projects.  These people understand the terminology and how notes get used (eg, input to requirements or design specs).  They must be chosen carefully because they need to remain quiet and cannot become involved with the discussions.
  3. New hire trainees or interns provide a win-win opportunity.  These people tend to work hard at being good documentors.  They frequently have enough background in terminology that they do not get lost in the discussions.

Be careful when selecting and training documentors.  Remember, if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen!

How to Train Documentors?

The following steps provide a method for training documentors:

  1. Provide them a copy of your annotated agenda.  Walk through each of the agenda steps, their role, the volume of documentation you expect, and what to do with it.  Provide them with examples from prior workshops or deliverables to illustrate how their captured input will be used.  Examples can be from previous sessions or created by the session leader, preferably relying upon your metaphor.
  2. Documentors often feel intimidated when they see a bunch of templates and do not understand their purpose.  Explain the purpose of the deliverables from each question you intend to ask in the workshop.  Your FAST Reference Manual includes descriptions of the deliverables from each step in the workshop of the Cookbook Agendas.  Your note-taking tools should not get in the way of documentation.  Let them modify the format of note-taking if it is appropriate.
  3. Develop a picture of the final deliverable of the workshop.  You can use simple flow-chart or templates or arrows and icons to represent the final document structure.  This helps the documentor to move the note-taking out of the abstract into something concrete.
  4. Walk through the technique and methods with the documentor prior to the session to ensure that that their role is clearly understood—address any questions they have.
  5. Training does not end with the start of the workshop.  During the workshop, check with the documentor often to ensure that there are no problems and that the appropriate outputs are being properly documented.

For additional facilitative leadership support, see your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership training  session offered around the world (see http://www.mgrush.com/ for a current schedule).

How to Design a Meeting Agenda that Helps Create the Output (Deliverable) You Need


Purpose

To design a new meeting or  workshop agenda that will effectively lead a group to its deliverable, use these steps. Following them will increase your meeting success. Before we begin, let us remember the definition of a solid structured meeting (eg, FAST) agenda:

Agenda Design Steps

Agenda Defined

An agenda is a series of steps that structure a group discussion during a meeting or workshop.  The FAST technique’s pre-built or cookbook agendas provide solid versions of known and proven information gathering, sharing, and decision-making methods. The modifications you apply to basic agendas will enable:

  1. A facilitator (ie, the session leader) to lead the discussion, with . . .
  2. Subject matter experts (who are experts about content but NOT experts about context or  meeting technique), who build understanding . . .
  3. That extracts required information (ie, the meeting output or deliverable including for example, decision-making or prioritization), thus
  4. Enabling other stakeholders (ie, project team) to use the information and decisions to support and further advance project objectives and organizational goals.

Methodological steps to create a new meeting or workshop agenda are:

  1. Identify the purpose, scope, and deliverables of the meeting—what are you building and what level of detail is required?
  2. Codify the deliverables—what is the specific content for the output of the workshop, what is the optimal sequence for gathering it, and who will use it after the meeting is complete?
  3. Identify known information—what is already known about the project, problem, or scope?
  4. Draft your likely steps—compose a series of steps from experience or analytical methods that would be used by other experts to make this decision, solve this problem, or develop the required information and consensual view.
  5. Review steps for logical flow—walk through the steps to confirm they will produce the desired results.
  6. Identify likely meeting participants—determine the most likely participants and identify their level of understanding about the business issues and the method you have drafted for them to develop the information during the the agenda steps.
  7. Identify any agenda steps that the participants cannot complete—modify or eliminate the steps that your specific participants may not understand, will not value, or are inappropriate for their level of experience.
  8. Identify what information is needed to fill the gaps from step number seven above, and determine how to get this additional information (eg, off-line)—what information or analysis is required to substitute for the missing information identified in step number seven above, that your meeting participants cannot complete?
  9. Detail the final agenda steps to capture required information for the open issues—build the appropriate activities to produce the information without making the participants perform unnecessary activities (eg, do NOT do team building if they already function together properly).
  10. Review—confirm steps number one and two above and then carefully review the detailed activities to confirm that they satisfy the purpose and provide the needed information without over challenging or intimidating your participants.
  11. Perform a walk-through, including documentation format or templates, with other business experts, executive sponsor, and project team members.
  12. Refine—make any changes identified in the walk-through and begin to build out your annotated agenda as suggested by the FAST technique.

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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