June 25, 2015 Leave a comment
Use of the term “workshop” is frequently considered synonymous with the term “meeting.” Yet five practical differences include:
- Meetings consist of loosely related topics that serve to review and monitor, inform, and sometimes endorse (or decide). Participants during meetings are commonly passive while workshops demand their contributions and activity. Meetings result in an updated state of affairs or condition, while workshops create tangible deliverables oractual ‘things.’
- The agenda steps in a meeting are frequently boxed in time. With most workshop activity, front-end loading frequently makes it easier to complete the back-end steps and activities. Therefore, for most workshop activities, we approximate time but allow groups additional time to fully develop their consensual assumptions up-front, when it matters most.
- Regularly held meetings (ie, staff meetings or board meetings) end when time runs out, usually with an understanding that unfinished items will be picked up in the next meeting. When groups are building toward a workshop deliverable, the sequence of the steps is important and they frequently cannot leap ahead or advance until the foundation work is complete.
- Meeting leaders may not be expected to be entirely neutral. Effective leaders will learn to embrace the importance of meeting neutrality and active listening but when required, they may be forced to render an opinion or a decision. Workshop leaders should strive every way possible to avoid offering up content, knowing that the participants must own and live with their decision. Workshop leaders risk total failure if they violate neutrality by stepping on content.
- Workshops tend to last longer than meetings. While the average meeting may last an hour or two, the average workshop may take a few days or even a few sessions with multiple days.
Due to time, participant availability, and meeting real estate space constraints, much workshop activity today may be spread across multiple weeks, turning a potentially natural, multiple-day workshop into regular multiple-week “meetings.” The structural difference between concurrent-day and concurrent-week approaches is that the break periods between activities are longer with the concurrent or multiple week approach.
The session leader needs to be aware of workshop deliverables that are hidden in the term “meeting.” Simply because an event is being called a meeting or lasts for only an hour or two, does not give the session leader the right to show up unprepared or to become a judge of others, their input, and their opinions.
The FAST curriculum contains the information and guidelines necessary for a FAST facilitator to effectively conduct both meetings and workshops. FAST originally stood for Facilitated Application Specification Technique. We promise not to say that again. Think of FAST as the opposite of slow.
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 Solution—Improve 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.