Compelling Reasons for Structured Meetings: Positive Impact on Stakeholders


Background

The dynamism of business wisdom demands the application of knowledge, stuff that is ‘in−formation’ (not static). Compound those dynamics with the challenge of organizing a group of people, where nobody is smarter than everybody. Groups of people fail (or operate at sub-optimal levels) either because they don’t care, don’t have the talent, or don’t know how. In 1985, structured facilitation training (aka interactive design) was introduced by MGRush to instruct HOW TO get a group of people to focus on the right question (topicality) at the right time (sequencing). Knowing that there is typically more than one right answer, and with a sincere and dedicated effort toward continuous improvement, the curriculum has advanced beyond its ‘in−formation’ heritage to focus on group decision making, planning, analysis, and prioritization. Not surprisingly, since nearly all of MGRush’s business develops through ‘word-of-mouth’, they were contacted by an alumni to help justify providing in-house training with its FAST proprietary curriculum on leadership, facilitation, and methodology. Following is the justification.

Situational Fact  

A percentage of meeting time goes unproductive and entire meetings may be construed as ineffective.

  • Meetings are a real expense and the frequency and duration of meetings has been steadily increasing in the USA.
  • Studies have estimated that meetings are at most 50 percent productive.
  • Poorly run meetings are so prevalent that some people and organizations have developed “meeting dementia.”
  • Meetings are essential to developing common understanding and generating higher quality decisions than lone individuals.

Implications

With structured meetings, organizations can avoid 25 to 35 percent of costs, or hundreds of millions U$D per year.

  • While organizations lose money due to ineffectiveness, individuals are forced to work longer hours to compensate.
  • The culture of an organization can be negatively impacted, causing the departure of highly valued contributors.
  • A major insurance company discovered a 400 percent increase in an information technology project productivity, compared to using serial interviews and aggregating requirements through unstructured discussions.
  • Frequently it has been observed that ‘requirements’ are not ‘bad’, rather additional expenses are driven by what is inadvertently omitted or missed.

Recommendations

At minimum on a pilot basis, embrace a structured approach within a limited scope of our operations.

  • Secure management commitment to improving meeting efficacy and supporting workshops where appropriate.
  • Enable the facilities, supplies, and resources to pursue the benefit of structured meetings.
  • Empower select individuals with expert, professional training.

Situational Fact

Employees spend hundreds of hours leading meeting without robust training. Unstructured discussions lead to confusion and sometimes opposing or contradictory interpretations and conclusions.

  • Communication problems are a simple fact. Frequently people are in violent agreement with each other.
  • The following list highlights14ofthemostfrequently mentioned problems by over 1,000 managers (alpha sort):
    Structuring Meetings

    Structuring Meetings

    • Disorganized
    • Dominators
    • Getting off subject
    • Inconclusive
    • Ineffective for making decisions
    • Ineffective leader/ lack of control
    • Interruptions (inside and out)
    • Irrelevant information discussed
    • No goals or agenda
    • Poor preparation
    • Rambling discussion individuals
    • Started late
    • Time wasted
    • Too long

Implications

The problems listed above are real and negatively impact the organization, stakeholders, and culture.

  • Organization may regress compared to their competitors and competitive options.
  • Individuals are not stimulated to think about important and costly options, opportunities, and requirements.
  • Incremental and evolutionary growth becomes accepted rather than revolutionary growth and breakthroughs that get missed.
  • The culture trends toward becoming reactive rather than proactive, following rather than leading.
  • Some participants are satisfied with any decision and remain unconscious about the importance of decision quality.

Recommendations

Promote a new effort toward meeting efficacy and group focus, starting with properly trained leaders.

  • Ratify funds to be allocated both internally for supplies and externally for professional training.
  • Enable resources to provide internal observation, back-up, and feedback to ensure ‘perfect practice’ of new skills learned.
  • Realizing the importance of meeting management and effective facilitation, consider building a Community of Excellence.
  • Appreciate the criticality of ongoing training and anticipate advanced training in the future based on in-house methodologies.

Benefits

Sorry about the long list, but no apologies for the real and sustaining benefits (alpha sort):

  • Ability to test for the quality of the deliverable before meeting concludes (valuable since the worst deliverable of any meeting is another meeting).
  • Agendas, approaches, tools, deliverables and outputs become more repeatable and consistent.
  • Analysts obtain higher quality, more comprehensive information.
  • Coherent communication among workshop participants, project, steering, and dependent teams.
  • Employees learn HOW TO THINK, and become more effective from “board room to boiler room” as principles radiate from the trained session leaders to their participants.
  • 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.
  • Fewer omissions—projects accelerate with increased clarity and reduced uncertainty.
  • Heightened involvement and understanding by all stakeholders.
  • 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 people or groups with more options at their disposal make higher quality decisions.
  • Major reduction of total resources compared to serial interviewing and aggregation techniques.
  • 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.
  • Transfer of ownership: facilitated sessions build further action by creating deliverables that support follow-up.
  • Witness a decline of smart people making dumb decisions.

Glossary

Stakeholders, includes both internal and external customers and project team whom all have a stake in the outcome.

Workshops are meetings focused on a single topic and deliverable, NOT simply informational-exchange, rather they build. Like projects, workshops have at least three phases: preparation, the workshop itself, and resolution:

  1. The key to successful preparation is meeting with management and participants to determine objectives, estimate and plan the workshop, prepare the participants, develop agendas, and complete the logistics.
  2. The workshop itself is a concentrated environment with extensive use of visuals striving for win-win situations, defined as consensus.
  3. The resolution phase completes the documentation, resolves open issues, and communicates with stakeholders about next steps.

❖   Interactive design (defined): A structured meeting designed to extract high-quality information from stakeholders in a compressed time-frame using a proven methodology, visual aids, and a workshop process to enhance communications—uses a neutral facilitator to guide participants through a structured, yet flexible approach, towards a common goal (ie, deliverable).

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.

Ignite Your Will and Find a Way to Improve Your Community


In Brian Aull’s book “The Triad: Three Civic Virtues That Could Save American Democracy” you will discover a wonderful approach about how to live in a democracy, any democracy. The FAST Leadership Technique has promulgated a trivium for over ten years now, as well as do many of the world’s great philosophies (eg, Jainism’s Faith, Right Knowledge, and Right Conduct or St. John’s Apocryphal Thought, Word, and Deed). Let’s take a closer look.Brian Aull

His apparent and quite admirable goal aims to reverse forces that currently “atomize” or fracture society by encouraging selfishness and focus on possessions. With some Preface material about himself and his background, he begins to frame issues that have arisen in his diverse life growing up in the Midwest, striving to prove that his approach is neither “liberal” nor “conservative”, rather sensible. Indeed his is not an academic book, but common sense reflections that make wonder how our politicians, voters, and other stakeholders have managed to twist such a formidable and promising society as was found in the USA in the 20th century.

He makes an urgent call for change that must be driven by its citizens since our political system is stymied and ineffective (no argument here). His valid concern derives from good people who are waiting for something to happen. Aull’s starting point effectively challenges our existing two-party system by discussing the roles of money in politics, the press, and ideological dogmatism.

He follows immediately by contrasting competition and collaboration in a free market, effectively using the “Gallant and Rude” effects. Properly he emphasizes the need to develop a society with a “collaborative functioning of diverse parts.” Thusly he establishes his thesis and call to action for:

  1. A spirit of service,
  2. A commitment to learning, and
  3. Building community

Next he lays out clear arguments for all three with personal passion and examples in a very coherent and easy to read manner. During his discussion about a spirit of service, he compels voters to elect people with good character, measured by their willingness to make decisions for the common good. His explanation and discussion about what comprises “common” alone is worth reading. As he presents his commitment to learning, some may feel disadvantaged to live the in the USA. His building community discussion provides his most persuasive forum, including the frank revelation that his wife “is the daughter of a marriage between an African American man and a white woman.” The benefits derived from building community culminate his call to service and learning, by putting service (ie, will) and education (ie, wisdom) into activity. Beauty and power result from the proper balance of individualism and diversity and realized through a sense of community.

Leveraging both historical and recent experiences, Aull justifies being virtuous, civil, and free. Yet he makes strong arguments that freethinking individuals display enough compassion that good people are more than human, they are humane. Respectfully he discusses a vibrant market system with a social conscience, offering proof through financial performance of such companies. He calls for smaller government, but one that works closer with its citizens to achieve fairness for those who cannot do it alone, especially the infirmed and the elderly. To accomplish such change he wisely encourages fresh approaches to policy and decision-making that is not obligated to patronage and lobbyists. His explicit recommendations about voting, Congress, and lobbying command close attention.

Aull provides an excellent discussion about Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and the “invisible hand.” Read it, after we quote “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the gar greater part of the members are poor and miserable.” Along the way he dispels many myths about free enterprise, while never stepping on individual rights. Imagine how polluted or air and water would be without appropriate consequences for the perpetrators.

He provides a wonderful definition of prosperity, not as money, but as freedom to accomplish meaningful things without worrying about money. Establishing clear logic he steps into the topic of health care with startling facts. He touches on economics and race issues with highly revealing statistics about slave trade, its long-term impact on the people of Africa, and the wealth created by Europeans and Americans as a result.

Educators will marvel at his persuasiveness to increase pay for effective teachers. Scientists will value his hope and willingness to keep religion honest. Humanitarians will cry for hope, that others read this book, and subscribe to its call to action. You should too.

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.

94 Different Types of Meeting Purposes Based on More than One Dozen Factors


While by no means ‘exhaustive’, we researched and assembled various meeting types from dozens of sources, too many to provide attribution for a brief blog (write us if you want more detail). We discovered it somewhat humorous that the world does not agree on the definition of a ‘type.’ We discovered meeting types are stratified by:

Illustration of the Author After Completing This Article

Illustration of the Author After Completing This Article

  • Audience (eg, shareholder vs. stakeholder)
  • Deliverable (output)
  • Location (onsite vs. offsite)
  • Meeting leader role (manager vs. facilitator)
  • Outcome (desired)
  • Resource (eg, production vs. project)
  • Rules (eg, open vs. private)
  • Size (quantity of participants and size of venue)
  • Style (eg, face to face vs. virtual)
  • Timing (variations included chronology, duration, frequency, and preparation time)
  • Topic (eg, financial review vs. party), and
  • Variants that probably us

Some sources provided context and justified their topology. We especially love the following comment because it is so definitive, albeit wrapped in truth (source-Seth Godin):

“There are three types of meetings. Meetings are marketing in real time with real people. (A conference is not a meeting. A conference is a chance for a circle of people to interact). There are only three kinds of classic meetings:

  1. This is a meeting where attendees are informed about what is happening (with or without their blessing). While there may be a facade of conversation, it’s primarily designed to inform.
  2. This is a meeting where the leader actually wants feedback or direction or connections. You can use this meeting to come up with an action plan, or develop a new idea, for example.
  3. This is a meeting where the other side is supposed to say yes but has the power to say no.”

—OR—

“While there are a variety of reasons for call group meeting (some of which have little to do with decision making or problem solving), for our purposes we will categorize decision-making meetings into one of the following.

  1. Strategy
  2. Problem solving
  3. Operational decisions
  4. Evaluation”

—OR—

“There are six types of meetings:

  1. Organizational meetings;
  2. Regular meetings;
  3. Special or emergency meetings;
  4. Work sessions;
  5. Public hearings; and
  6. Executive sessions.”

We did little to cleanup or edit the following and do not attempt to defend it, rather to share it. Where redundancies were obvious we combined some definitions. Some meeting types were provided without definition. Some types appear redundant, but due to rhetorical differences, we could not be certain if they were identical or not so we left them as discrete meeting types.

The 94 types of meetings we identified are as follows.

  1. Ad hoc Meetings: A meeting called for a special purpose. A good example of an ad-hoc meeting is a team of individuals chosen by the company to join a trade show and represent the company so a meeting is needed to discuss the important things and activities during the event.
  2. Board Meetings: If the meeting participants are solely board and directors members of the organization, definitely it is termed as board meeting.
  3. Brainstorming Meetings
  4. Breakout Meetings
  5. Business Meetings: With customers, clients, colleagues, etc.; often require presentations.
  6. Class Meetings
  7. Client Meetings: Some organizational teams start working on a new project and possibly a new client through a discussion.
  8. Collaborative Meetings: Some of your employees and managers may work closely with suppliers, customers or business partners on projects such as joint product development or supply chain improvements. Bringing external groups into meetings with your employees helps to strengthen business relationships and gives your employees a greater sense of customer focus.
  9. Combination Meetings: A type of meeting according to objective is called combination meeting wherein two or more of the meeting categories are applied in a single meeting session.
  10. Commitment Building Meetings
  11. Community Meetings: To interpret decisions, get input, build relationships, gain trust, etc.
  12. Conference Call Meetings
  13. Conferences: A highly structured, moderated meeting, like a presentation, where various participants contribute following a fixed agenda.
  14. Coordinating Meetings: To assure all know what’s happening when and who is responsible.
  15. Creative Meetings: To define new markets, create new products, etc.
  16. Discussions: A meeting where the leader actually wants feedback or direction or connections. You can use this meeting to come up with an action plan, or develop a new idea, for example.
  17. Emergency Meetings: A meeting called to address a crisis, whether internal or external. Such meetings are often arranged with very little notice. If the emergency meeting conflicts with another appointment, the emergency meeting typically takes precedence. If a serious problem, such as a fire or major financial loss occurs, it’s essential to inform the whole company so that all employees understand the implications and the changes that will occur. In the event of a serious fire, for example, employees may have to work in temporary accommodation with limited access to telephones and other resources. A major disaster or loss may lead to redundancies or even closure. By communicating openly in the meeting, you can reduce feelings of uncertainty in the workforce and avoid the risk of rumors spreading.
  18. Evaluation Meetings: Evaluation meetings are held to evaluate a new process, structural modification, new program, etc. The important issue is to establish a set of evaluative criteria based on the goals of the new program or process.
  19. Event Planning Meetings
  20. Executive Sessions: If allowed by charter, these meetings are closed to the public and press and generally are held for discussion of legal (litigation, advice from counsel, etc.), personnel, or other confidential matters. There are very specific legal provisions for closing the meeting such as recording the vote of council members who authorized the meeting and recording the circumstances of the meeting in the official minutes of the municipality. Executive meetings should be held only in accordance with the strict mandates of the Open Meetings Act.
  21. Family Meetings
  22. Feedback Meetings: Feedback meetings are conducted when the purpose is to let individuals provide reactions and feedback to one or several participants on a certain presentation or project.
  23. Feedforward Meetings: When there is a need to make status reports and present new information, participants gather for a feedforward meeting. It is otherwise known as reporting and presenting.
  24. Financial Review (or Update) Meetings
  25. Holiday Meetings
  26. Information Sharing Meetings: Where attendees are informed about what is happening (with or without their blessing). While there may be a facade of conversation, it is primarily designed to inform.
  27. Interdepartmental Meetings: To get input, interpret decisions and policies, share info, etc.
  28. Introduction Meetings
  29. Investigative Meetings: Generally when conducting a pre-interview, exit interview or a meeting among the investigator and representative
  30. Investor Meetings
  31. Keynote Speeches
  32. Kickoff (or First) Meetings: The first meeting with the project team and the client of the project to discuss the role of each team member. This initial gathering is called a kick-off meeting. It is also during this time wherein members are assigned individual tasks on the project.
  33. Large Conference Meetings
  34. Leadership Meetings
  35. Management Meetings: A conference among managers and supervisors is called a management meeting. If the meeting participants are solely board and directors members of the organization, definitely it is termed as board meeting.
  36. Manager Meetings
  37. Meetings to Plan Bigger Meetings
  38. New Business Pitch Meetings
  39. New Product Launch Meetings
  40. Off-site Meetings: Also called “offsite retreat” and known as an meeting in the UK.
  41. One-on-one Meetings: A meeting is not necessarily composed of a group of individuals. A discussion of two individuals is called a one-on-one meeting. Your boss may sometimes conduct a one-on-one meeting with you and the other employees individually to talk about your performance appraisal.
  42. Online Meetings
  43. Open Meetings: Best used for internal team collaborations. No designated host needed. Anyone start meetings at any time.
  44. Operational Decision Meetings: Make decisions such as staffing, purchase, or work method decision. The issue here is the establishment of set of criteria (derived from the goal of the decision and claimant issues) by which to evaluate alternatives.
  45. Organizational Meetings: Usually very soon after each election, a meeting may be necessary to establish the procedures concerning conduct of council meetings. Local practices may vary, but generally the meeting should establish: regular dates, times, and locations for routine council meetings; rules of procedure for conducting business at meetings (Robert’s Rules, etc.); and assignment of council member duties (i.e., mayor pro tempore, committee chairpersons, etc.). Many municipalities adopt and publish a schedule of meeting dates for an entire year, while charter sets others.
  46. Party Meetings
  47. Permission Meetings: This is a meeting where the other side is supposed to say yes but has the power to say no.
  48. Pitch Meetings
  49. Planning Meetings: If certain structuring and future resolutions need to be made, a planning meeting can be called.
  50. Political Meetings
  51. Pre-Bid Meetings: A meeting of various competitors and or contractors to visually inspect a jobsite for a future project. The future customer or engineer who wrote the project specification to ensure all bidders are aware of the details and services expected of them normally hosts the meeting. Attendance at the Pre-Bid Meeting may be mandatory. Failure to attend usually results in a rejected bid.
  52. Presentation Meetings: A highly structured meeting where one or more people speak and a moderator leads the proceedings. The purpose is usually to inform. Attendees may have an opportunity to ask questions, but typically their participation is limited.
  53. Private Meetings: Used for managed meetings, where the host has control. Meeting starts when host opens meeting. Host controls who can or cannot enter live meeting and host controls role delegation.
  54. Problem-Solving Meetings: When a specific problem emerges, usually manifesting itself in the form of some type of response from a dissatisfied stakeholder or claimant, a problem-solving meeting is held. These meeting take one of two general forms.
    1. Solve the immediate problem—the focus of this type of meeting is to determine how to satisfy the immediate concerns of the dissatisfied stakeholder. For example, if a specific customer has received a batch of defective parts, the issue might be, How to we get non-defective parts to this customer?
    2. Solve the long-range problem—the focus of this type of meeting is to reduce the likelihood of a given type of problem surfacing in the future, by diagnosing the cause(s) of this recurring problem and developing a solution consistent with these causes that solves the problem. In the above example, the problem might be defining as, How do we reduce the likelihood of defective parts being produced.
  55. Production Meetings
  56. Project Meetings: Project meetings bring together people from different departments working on a specific task, such as new product development or business reorganization. Project meetings take a number of different forms, including planning and progress meetings, brainstorming sessions, or design and review meetings.
  57. Project Planning Meetings
  58. Public Hearings: The council holds public hearings when it is considering a subject having unusually high community impact and when it is considering items for which local, state, or federal regulations mandate such hearings. The main purpose of such a hearing is to obtain testimony from the public. An issue on which a public hearing is held may be the subject of several work sessions and may generate potentially more citizen participation than can be accommodated at a regular meeting with its other normal business items. An additional meeting of the council for a public hearing can be valuable in providing the public an opportunity to learn the current status of a project and give the council, as the public policy makers, clear indications of public sentiment before making a decision. Additional work sessions at a subsequent meeting generally follow the public hearing before final council action on the matter at a regular hearing.
  59. Public Relations Meetings
  60. Quick Business Meetings: To check-in, coordinate, share info, prepare for next steps, anticipate customer or employee needs, answer questions for each other, etc.
  61. Regular Meetings: This is the official, final public action meeting. It is the only meeting where the council may adopt ordinances or regulations. One very important feature of the regular meeting is the public forum aspect. The regular meeting generally includes at least a citizen comment period and often incorporates a formal public hearing on one or more subjects. While allowing public comment to some degree, the regular meeting always allows the public an opportunity to hear the council discussion on each subject.
  62. Religious Meetings
  63. Report Meetings
  64. Research Review Meetings
  65. Sales Conference: A sales conference is an important communication and motivational tool. Sales representatives spend the majority of their time away from the office, often working alone. Holding a sales conference brings your sales team together with other members of the company who affect their success, such as marketing staff, product specialists and senior managers. You can use the conference to launch important initiatives such as a new product announcement or a major advertising campaign, as well as communicating your company’s plans for the next quarter or the next financial year.
  66. Sales Meetings
  67. School Meetings
  68. Seminar: A structured meeting with an educational purpose. Seminars are usually led by people with expertise in the subject matter.
  69. Shareholder Meetings
  70. Skills Building Meetings
  71. Small Conference Meetings
  72. Special Meetings: Regular meetings are scheduled in advance (usually one or two per month) to allow the public, press, and persons having business for the council to attend the meetings. However, special situations may require convening a special meeting often with little, if any, advance notice. Examples of special meeting items include, but are not limited to: emergency ordinances, unexpected matters requiring official action before the next regularly scheduled meeting, emergency equipment replacement, financial problems, and health and safety emergencies. While the occasional need for such meetings cannot be denied, the term “emergency” should be used very carefully to avoid abuse of the special meeting.
  73. Sports Meetings (and Events)
  74. Staff Meetings: Typically a meeting between a manager and those that report to the manager. Staff meetings enable you to keep employees informed on issues that affect their work. Your managers or supervisors hold regular departmental meetings to update employees on progress or deal with any issues affecting their department. If there is a major policy change or other issue that affects the whole company, you may prefer to hold a meeting of all employees to explain the change.
  75. Stakeholder Meetings
  76. Stand-up Meetings: A meeting with attendees physically standing. The discomfort of standing for long periods helps to keep the meetings short, (no more than 10 minutes to plan the day, make announcements, set expectations, assure understanding and alignment, identify upcoming difficulties, etc.).
  77. Standing Meetings: A regularly scheduled appointment, such as a weekly one-on-one with a boss or a department; or a project meeting taking place at intervals until the project is over. Since these meetings recur, their format and agenda become relatively well established. Although it’s important to hold these meetings at routine intervals for convenience and consistency, at times they can be rescheduled.
  78. Status Meetings: A meeting that is leader-led and is done through a one-way communication reporting is called a status meeting.
  79. Strategy Building Meetings: Strategy or planning meetings are called to determine the future direction of the organization or unit. Generally the issues of the mission and current strategies for achieving it are discussed.
  80. Strategy Review Meetings: Using tools like the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) model; the current direction of the organization is assessed. If it is discovered that changes in the environment render the current mission and/or strategy inappropriate, a new strategic plan is developed.
  81. Strategy Testing and Adapting Meetings
  82. Task-Related Meetings: Task-related meetings usetheknowledgeandexperienceofgroupmemberstoaccomplish a work task, such as problem-solving, decision-making, fact-finding, planning, etc. These meetings are highly interactive, and involve two-way communication between all participants. Task-related meetings also tend to fall apart more quickly with poor meeting management. The two variations include:
    1. Directed—the leader runs the meeting and controls the agenda. These are the most common types of meetings.
    2. Facilitated—an impartial facilitator runs the meeting and controls the agenda and technique. These are the least common, but are growing in use, as they are the most effective for decision-making and building.
  83. Team Meetings: A meeting among colleagues working on various aspects of a team project.
  84. Termination Meetings
  85. Topical Meetings: A gathering called to discuss one subject, such as a work issue or a task related to a project.
  86. Training Session Meetings
  87. Trip Planning Meetings
  88. Twelve Step Meetings
  89. Update Meetings
  90. Webinar Meetings: For presentations, trainings and town hall meetings. Meeting starts when host opens meeting and attendees are muted upon entry. Host controls host delegation.
  91. Work Meetings: To produce a product or intangible result such as a decision.
  92. Work Sessions (workshops): These are the most common meetings in most municipalities. Work sessions are essentially “shirt-sleeves” meetings where the council discusses issues informally to achieve more complete understanding of one or more subjects. Many work sessions are held in another room away from the formal council chamber with a “round-table” type seating arrangement to promote informal discussion. These sessions take many forms and cover virtually any subject matter. Typical work sessions will include a variety of items and will generally serve as a background discussion about items scheduled for official action at the next regular meeting.
  93. Year Beginning Meetings
  94. Year End Meetings

Much is left to wonder . . . but after this exhausting effort, we would prefer a holiday, party, or sports meeting.  Why do you conduct and attend meetings (please check all that apply):

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.

Core Competency: Planning Intends to Change Minds, Not Simply Make Plans


Facilitating a planning session makes you a change agent. Even President Eisenhower (then General) was known to say, “ In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” While an effective facilitator keeps their group focused on the meeting output (ie, deliverable), the real work begins when the meeting is over, because what we really plan for are new outcomes.

What President Eisenhower was suggesting is that three-ring binders may sit on a shelf and gather dust, but the key deliverable from planning sessions occurs in the fifteen cm (six inches) between our ears.

To change (as a verb) can mean a lot of things including, among others, to:

From Planning to Rewards

From Planning to Rewards

  • Adapt
  • Adjust
  • Alter
  • Amend
  • Differentiate
  • Doctor
  • Evolve
  • Innovate
  • Modify
  • Productize
  • Redesign
  • Refine
  • Remodel
  • Reorder
  • Reorganize
  • Reshape
  • Restyle
  • Revamp
  • Revise
  • Transfigure
  • Transform
  • Tweak
  • Vary

Every one of us has been involved in change, and if you are reading this, you are probably involved in a change effort right now. Congratulations, the ability to lead a group of people to change, agree, and take ownership and maintenance of the future state represents tremendous success for the session leader who got them there.

Groups that are proactive in their approach to change make more money than those who simply react. Many studies point to innovation as the modern driver of profitability. As a core competency, groups who become adept at change, which can convert their creativity into profit (innovation defined), learn the value of effective facilitation. The facilitator, remaining unbiased and neutral about HOW TO change, serves as the primary catalyst and accelerator of change, corporate learning, and financial growth.

The more we mature in the role, the more we understand that corporate reality is subjective and decisions are driven by the perception of reality, from each person. Therefore we embrace learning to ‘homogenize’ our separate realities into our common, objective reality—that is unfortunately accepted by everyone but owned by no one. As context experts, our role during meetings gets people closer to shared understanding, to acceptance of what is truly objective, and to own their commitments and consequences when our meetings conclude. When performed seamlessly, our role helps individuals that help groups that help organizations to exceed their goals and maximize their financial rewards. And to think, it all started with a planning meeting.

In the words of Giuseppe di Lampedusa in The Leopard, even: “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”

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.

Understanding the Time and Place for Individual Versus Group Decisions


The continuum of leadership behavior provides one context for understanding the best time and place to make individual decisions contrasted with making group decisions. That continuum, as illustrated below, ranges from the completely subordinate-centered approach to the completely leader-centered approach. In between these extremes are another four types that blend or offset the “center” perspective.

Range of Meeting Leadership Styles

Range of Meeting Leadership Styles

Both approaches can provide value, while specific advantages depend on some of the factors discussed below. Frequently, advantages of group decision making include:

  1. Improved quality of decisions, proven over and over because of contributing factors such as . . .
    • Ability to generate more ideas and options
    • Self-monitoring that forces participants to keep each other honest
    • Fewer errors in using information that is available
    • Availability of more information
    • Reduction of potential individual bias
    • Willingness to manage higher levels of risk
  2. Increases ownership through higher levels of understanding, acceptance, and likelihood to make necessary adaptations during implementation.
  3. Participating individuals are strengthened, learn more, and can more readily re-apply the same rationale when they are making subsequent individual decisions.

There are some downside considerations as well including:

  1. Potential to take more time
  2. May create or heighten expectations, perhaps making them unobtainable
  3. Could be at variance with management or senior staff
  4. Quality of the output or decision might be hampered if the group is dominated by an individual(s), submits to forced selection or voting (leading to “losers” and consequent abandonment of ownership), or congeals into what Janis (1972) describes as “Groupthink.”

Groupthink describes a state or condition when the group regresses into poor thinking and social pressures. Janis claims that three factors increase the likelihood of groupthink, namely: insulation from qualified outsiders, leaders who promote their favorite position, and strong cohesion. You may be witnessing groupthink if you observe some of the following symptoms:

  • Excessive optimism and illusion of invulnerability
  • Tendency to dismiss contrary points of view accompanied with collective efforts to rationalize their own position or discount the positions of others
  • Unquestioned beliefs in the group’s supposed moral superiority and ignoring the consequences of their decision(s)
  • Prejudicial comments and stereotyping outsiders not in the meeting
  • Audible and non-verbal pressure on participants to conform
  • Censorship of deviations from what has congealed to be ‘consensus’

Research shows however, that decision by consensus tends to result in higher quality decisions than command-control, manipulation, persuasion, voting and other means of compromise.

What is Consensus?

Consensus must be carefully defined. A robust method will make full use of all the resources in the group, can be relied on for acceptable ways to reconcile conflict, and will generate the ownership a group needs to ensure that what goes on in the meeting is carried out after the meeting has concluded. We highly recommend that ‘consensus’ DOES NOT mean we are making everyone happy. Rather, we are striving for a common acceptance and level of understanding that would include ‘yes’ answers by all participants to the following questions:

  1. Can you live with this (decision/ plan/ output/ outcome, etc.)?
  2. Will you support it professionally and not subvert it when the meeting concludes?
  3. Will you personally lose any sleep over it?

Resulting in Synergy

We could define synergy as the increased effectiveness of working together where the outcome becomes greater than the sum of the parts. We are seeking an answer that did not walk into the meeting, rather it can be created during the meeting. For a meeting with nine people for example, we are looking for the tenth answer. Synergy frequently results among groups that are seeking consensus, built around a common goal. When supported by strong facilitation, participants agree on a clear and common goal (typically the meeting deliverable), share openly, listen carefully, think clearly, and they are likely to achieve synergy.

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.

What Important Key is Missing from Most Group Approaches to Problem Solving?


A lot of wise, published, and acclaimed authors simply do not ‘get it.’ Presumably, most spend time in classroom environments and doing research, but less frequently do they practice what they preach. If they did, we would not discover such an essential aspect missing from their many espoused approaches to group problem solving. Notice the traditional approach calls for steps that are quite similar to the following:

Something is Missing Here

Something is Missing Here

  1. Problem identification
  2. Problem diagnosis
  3. Solution generation
  4. Solution evaluation
  5. Choice

What is missing from this approach, that must appear transparent to most writers, but is not, captures a sense of Purpose behind the solution—what are we trying to accomplish. Using a simple example in our private lives, we may identify (1) the need for new underwear, realizing that the existing choices remain sub-optimal (2). Therefore we go to the store where we find various packs on the shelves (3). Given the price, size, style, color, quantity, brand, etc. (4) we make our choice (5).

However, our choice is hugely dependent on the purpose of the underwear. Are they for everyday use, formal wear, athletic wear, etc.? Our purpose will strongly influence our choice, but Purpose is frequently omitted from most group approaches. Seemingly, the authors lack experience in real meetings to see how important it is to build consensus around WHY we are doing something before we discuss WHAT we should do (and eventually HOW it will be done).

Conflict

We have frequently seen meetings begin to unravel until we re-directed the group back to the purpose. Without consensually agreed upon purpose, there is no common ground for appeal to reconcile arguments and necessary trade-offs.

From an academic perspective, various methods have been described to resolve meeting conflict, such as:

  • Compromise (lose-lose)
  • Forcing (voting, or win-lose)
  • Integrative (win-win)
  • Smoothing
  • Withdrawal

Our entire curriculum is devoted exclusively to discovering an integrative, win-win solution. Each of the methods above yield different consequences measured by . . .

  • Solution acceptance
  • Solution quality
  • Team or group maintenance (or ownership)

Follow the guidelines suggested by our FAST facilitative leadership curriculum and you will discover that ownership begins with common purpose. If you fail to facilitate agreement about purpose before you tackle the problem, you risk solution acceptance, solution quality, and team maintenance that are essential components to any solid approach that claims to be a valid group problem solving method.

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.

Smart People Make Dumb Decisions: How To Improve Your Group Decisions


According to experts in an emerging field called the Science of Choice, everyone can learn to make higher quality decisions. First understand the primary cause of poor individual decisions—overconfidence. Then realize that one of the reasons that groups make higher quality decisions than the smartest person in the group is the ability to force participants to think outside of their normal comfort zone.

Natural decision making for individuals relies on an “inside view”. Not surprisingly, we call our meeting participants “subject matter experts” because their inside view is also known as the subjective view. For example, two people eating from the same bowl of chili may arrive at different conclusions. One may find the chili excessively ‘hot” (as in spicy) and the other, not. Both are correct from their subjective points of view, so how do we as facilitators “objectify” their assessment?

Participants, especially when focused on specific situations, tend to use information that is cheap; ie, costs little in terms of time to access and out of pocket costs. They make their judgments and predictions based on a narrow set of inputs. Perhaps, for example, there was only one habanero pepper in the chili, and it ended up in only one of the bowls. Participants do not consider the full range of possibilities. Frequently in planning modes, people paint a “too optimistic” view of the future, largely due to overconfidence.

Overconfidence is central to the inside view and leads to at least two illusions that can dramatically lower the quality of decisions:

Smart People Make Dumb Decisions

Smart People Make Dumb Decisions

  1. Illusion of Control
  2. Illusion of Superiority

Illusion of Control

People behave as if chance events are subject to their influence. Simply stated, people who believe that they have some control over the situation perceive their “odds of success” are higher, even when they are not. Numerous studies have proven the illusion of control, typically using random chance such as the throw of the dice. Money managers for example behave as if they can beat the market when in fact; very few outperform the major indices.

Illusion of Superiority

Most people consider themselves ‘above average’ drivers. Likewise most professionals place themselves in the top half of performers. Clearly, these judgments are absurd, as at least half of all drivers ought be discovered to be ‘below average.’ Likewise for professionals, as people maintain an unrealistically positive view of themselves, not everyone can be above average. In fact, according to one large study, more than 80 percent of those surveyed considered themselves above average. Remarkably, and scary too, the least-capable people often have the largest gaps between their perception and reality. Those in the bottom quartile of various studies dramatically overstate their abilities, and nearly everyone tends to dismiss their shortcomings as inconsequential.

What is the Solution?

Various researchers have discovered that building consensus provides the best way to overcome individual biases. When building consensus, an outside view is brought into the decision making process that improves on the quality of individual decisions. Here is a methodological approach for facilitators:

  1. Find a Surrogate (Diverge): Ask the group to identify similar situations, comparable industries, significant competitors, or even stir up the group by adding participants with competing points of view.
  2. Assess the Distribution of Potential Outcomes (Analyze): Treat the decision as conditional rather than fixed. Under what conditions might Decision A be more appropriate than Decision B, etc?
  3. Base decisions, especially predictions, on ranges of outcomes and probabilities, and not a fixed set. (Converge): Consider scenario planning and build at least three decisions; perhaps the sunny, cloudy, and stormy perspectives. Study the outcomes including the most common, the average, and check the extremes to help influence a group to consider an ‘outside view.’
  4. Calibrate the decision or prediction as necessary (Document): Remember the biases discussed earlier, as there remains likelihood that the justification of views may remain too optimistic and overconfident. Interesting research within the National Football League (NFL) about counter intuitive decisions such as going for it on fourth down, two point conversions, onside kicks and the like shows that coaches that are willing to break from tradition are more successful by generating more points and victories than those who play it safe.

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.

ScrumMasters and Agile Facilitation Practices Can Benefit All Facilitators


The term ‘information’ captures a sense of flow and dynamism, it is not static. A compound word derived from stuff that moves ‘in-formation’ should concern all facilitators, as rarely do we touch a product or conduct a process during a meeting or a workshop. Rather, we are all working with subject matter experts who provide us their perspective about stuff that is in-formation.

Collaborative practices have been increasingly applied to running agile meetings and Scrum ‘events’ with most recognizing facilitation skills as core to the ScrumMaster role. Some of the developments embraced by many that could apply to your meetings include:

Becoming a More Agile Facilitator

Becoming a More Agile Facilitator

  • Consensus building, NOT voting
  • High participation
  • Providing a variety of stimulating activities
  • Structured collaborative tools
  • Time boxing
  • Visible agendas

Some of the benefits espoused from the agile approach to facilitation practices are shown below:

  • Collective knowledge about product and process decisions
  • Early identification of high-benefit opportunities
  • Encouraging flexibility and adjustments toward unexpected developments
  • Frequent re-assessment to identify appropriate course corrections
  • In-depth exploration of more factors than normally considered

Since we are not ScrumMasters ourselves, we borrow some of this from Cara Turner, who provides richer detail about the relationship of agile methods and neuroscience at her blog site, facilitatingagility.com. Cara, along with numerous authors and scientists she uses in support, refers to eight concepts that all facilitators ought consider, namely:

  1. Conceptual Challenges: Keeping participants conscious to “be here now” burns a lot of fuel. Additionally, keeping multiple concepts in mind, at the same time, is virtually impossible for a group since individuals cannot typically think about more than four concepts at once, and thinking about only two at once is optimal, therefore . . .
  2. . . . Focus: The hardest part of any session is getting a group of people to focus on the same thing at the same time with the same meaning and intent. Be sure to schedule ample breaks.
    1. Conduct frequent breakout sessions to keep energy flowing.
    2. Consider ergonomic stretches and breathing exercises to keep participants vibrant.
    3. If necessary, use time boxing rather than burning out participants. Subsequence meeting can pick up where you leave off, with fresh energy.
    4. Schedule the most important stuff the first part of the meeting, and if it is critically important, schedule that meeting for the first part of the day.
    5. We believe that two ten-minute breaks are superior to the traditional 15 to 20 minute break offered each morning or afternoon. We do post timers however, and do not allow them to become eleven-minute (or more) breaks. Do NOT penalize people who are on time by waiting for people who are not.
  3. Get Graphic: Visual imagery also stimulates making it easier to analyze. Images (ie, iconic) and sketches (ie, illustrative) are more efficient for capturing complex relationships than narrative (ie, written) terms. If you work in a multi-national organization, they also mitigate some of the challenges associated with translations and transliterations.
  4. Mapping Stimulates: The power of patterns remains unchallenged and continues to be supported by most scientific research across a broad spectrum of disciplines. Mapping, such as logical models and process flow diagrams, make it easier to identify omissions and more fully explain the complex relationships that exists among the components being discussed.
  5. The Zen of the Experience (use all the senses): When physical/ spatial, visual, and sound (and optimally even taste and smell) harmonize, we create more vivid associations that improve our memory recall. Who cannot recall the smell, standing at the seashore, of an “ocean breeze”?
  6. Think Deeply: Here the basic challenge advances our short-term thinking to embrace long-term implications and consequences. What are the deeper associations? Because the cost of omissions, that is ‘missing stuff’, is exorbitantly high (especially with information technologies), we need to more fully value and appreciate some of the longer exercises that may be required to bring the discussion to a higher level that removes the myopic view from your participants and forces them to be integrative with their thinking. Simply put, causal diagrams take longer than ideation sessions.
  7. Use Analogies: Educators have known for centuries that learning is amplified when explained via analogy or metaphor. We have ben promoting the concept of an analogy as a way to explain the agenda and how the pieces fit together for nearly thirty years now.
  8. Write it Down: In addition to providing visual stimulation, if it is not written down it will be forgotten. In other words, if it is not written down, it did not happen. Do not waste everyone’s time, please write it down. It is easier to delete later than to recall what was said, “back then.”

Combined, the concepts above make it easier (ie, faciltaere) for your participants to act on knowledge accessed and developed during your meetings and workshops. For additional activities to support your sessions, look at her post or some of the worthwhile bookmarks provided below that support collaborative sorting, experience prototyping, idea generation, and other simulations to build consensus and higher quality deliverables, FAST.

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.

Balanced Scorecard Demands Strategy-Focused Organization & Facilitation


The nineties are arguably the most worldwide productive in economic history. Productivity accelerated, market values rose, and unemployment fell to record lows. However, in a Zook survey, only 13 percent of organizations achieved shareholder returns greater than the cost of capital. History will show a pattern of “excessive exuberance” to quote Alan Greenspan, and a shift from strategy to tactics, such as:

  • First to market
  • Operational excellence
  • Customer relationship management

As companies abandoned strategy, they began to pay the price—proven by the implosion over the next fifteen years, leading us to, today. Compound that abandonment with a shift from a manufacturing era to the age of knowledge. Notice the transformation in the workplace . . .

From To
Functional (silo) Process (integrated)
Incremental change Transformational change
Management Leadership
Production driven Customer driven
Tangible assets Intangible assets
Top down Bottom up

Five principles of successful organizations emerged from Kaplan and Norton’s research on successful Balanced Scorecard adaptors. The five principles describe the key elements of building an organization able to focus on strategy and deliver breakthrough results, and they depend heavily on effective facilitation and group ownership. Note . . .

  1. Align the organization to the strategy—Nobody is smarter than everybody and robust alignment requires multiple perspectives. An effective, neutral facilitator is the best choice for securing alignment among a group of people.
  2. Make strategy a continual process—The journey is more important than the destination, and there is no better guide on a journey than a well-prepared facilitator using an appropriate methodology.
  3. Make strategy everyone’s job—Ownership is key and facilitated sessions can secure individual commitments that must be met to save face. The key output of any facilitated session is agreement on WHO does WHAT and WHEN.
  4. Mobilize change through executive leadership—Big egos demand great skill and facilitators earn their income over and over when forced to deal with executives, who many times embrace being rational as what is best for them, rather than the entire group. Facilitation helps avoid such fallacy.
  5. Translate the strategy into operational terms—Requiring a life cycle of activities a groups transform from the abstract to the concrete, no better leader can be found than one who manages context on behalf of the subject matter experts.

The message is clear, if you want to accelerate results, you better place a high value on the role of facilitator. They can pay for themselves many times over, and frankly, generate more economic worth for the total organization than other role, even the CEO. The CEO who has the answer but is unable to realize these five principles within their own organization, will likely generate sub-optimal returns.

Balanced Scorecard

Balanced Scorecard

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.

Categorize as Quick Wins, Tried and True, Wild and Crazy, or Hail Mary Passes


The Payoff Matrix shown in the “two by two” below provides the classic means of prioritizing your options. Using return (ie, Impact of the Solution) and investment (ie, Cost of Implementation, typically time or money) as the criteria dimensions, it sorts your options into one of four categories:

  1. Quick Win (aka, Quick Hit)
  2. Major Opportunity
  3. Special Effort
  4. Time Waster
Return on Investment Payoff Matrix

Return on Investment Payoff Matrix

Perhaps a more engaging and stimulating way to frame the options, substitutes Probability of Success for the investment or cost dimension. If so, the updated matrix would look something like this:

  1. Quick Win
  2. Tried and True
  3. Wild and Crazy
  4. Hail Mary Pass
Probability Based Payoff Matrix

Probability Based Payoff Matrix

Method

Once you have built the options, code them onto small Post-It® notes. Typically alpha coding (ie, A, B, C, etc.) is preferred to numeric coding (ie, 1, 2, 3, etc.) so as not to permit any subtle bias about the relative importance of each. Consider iconic coding as an alternative to strip away all possible bias (ie, ✚, ♢, ✇, etc.)

Place your dimensions on a large white board. Facilitate from the zero point, or middle of the matrix and work one dimension at a time, asking is it more or less than others previously posted, until the groups is satisfied with the array.

Alternative

Break your team into three groups and have each group complete their own coding, probably on a large sheet (ie, 50cm * 75cm) and bring all three matrices to the front. Create a fourth and final matrix by merging the three, facilitating discussion about the differences until the group is satisfied with the final array.

Next Steps

Complete your prioritization effort with two more steps: assign roles and responsibilities for further development and conduct a Guardian of Change to agree on what participants will tell others after your meeting has concluded.

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.

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