How to Justify Structured Meetings & Workshops with Professional Facilitators


A highly productive meeting or workshop can generate positive impact within an organization and among its stakeholders–permeating their culture.  Here are a few straightforward facts, implications, and recommendations for the use of structured meetings, led by professional and trained facilitators.

Structure and Professionalism Lead to Higher Quality Outputs

Structure and Professionalism Lead to Higher Quality Outputs

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 MG Rush to instruct HOW TO get a group of people to focus on the right question (topicality) at the right time (sequencing).  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 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 productivity during an information technology project, compared to using serial interviews and aggregating requirements through unstructured discussions.
  • Frequently it has been observed that ‘requirements’ are not ‘bad’, rather expenses are driven by requirements that are missed or inadvertently omitted.

Recommendations:

At minimum, embrace a structured approach for critical meetings and workshops.

  • 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 thousands of hours leading meetings 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 highlights 14 of the most frequently mentioned problems by over 1,000 managers (alpha sort):

✓ 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 or Community of Practice (CoE or CoP).
  • 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:

  • ❖ 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—using a neutral facilitator to guide participants through a structured, yet flexible approach, towards a common goal (ie, deliverable).
  • 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.  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.  The workshop itself is a concentrated environment with extensive use of visuals striving for win-win situations, defined as consensus.  The resolution phase completes the documentation, resolves open issues, and communicates with stakeholders about next steps.
  • Other questions about terms?  See Glossary that you may download at https://mgrush.com/facilitators-glossary/.
  • More curriculum content?  See FAST Abstract/ Agenda at https://mgrush.com/facilitation-training-course-overview/professional-facilitation-training/

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

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

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

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

Here is a Facilitator Toolbox for Building Team Charters and Project Plans


You can create additional time for yourself by facilitating team members to build their own activities and support requirements to help you reach your project objectives.  Modern leaders facilitate the development of consensually owned team charters, including work breakdown structure (WBS).  Project Tools (below in italics) will help you build robust team charters and projects plans. For your benefit, each link takes you to more detailed explanations supported by a specific method and the activities to deliver up your desired output.

Team Charter

Projects Intended For Results

Projects Intended For Results

Facilitative tools to generate the step-by-step deliverables for most team charters include:

  1. Business case, project purpose, or opportunity statement: Purpose Is To . . . So That
  2. Project scope or boundaries: Is Not/ Is  (alternatively—Context Diagram Workshop, found in the FAST Professional Facilitator Reference Manual)
  3. Triple Constraints (ie; time, cost, and scope/quality): Flexibility Matrix
  4. Success criteria: SMART Criteria/ Categorizing (through common purpose)
  5. Opportunity assessment: Situation Analysis (FAST Professional proprietary and quantitative SWOT analysis)
  6. Project plan activities (high-level): Roles and Responsibilities (eg, RASI)
  7. Team selection: Interviewing Controls/ Managing Expectations

Project Plan

The work breakdown structure follows a facilitative approach that supports a consensually agreed upon plan of action:

  1. Target audience/ other affected stakeholders: Brainstorming
  2. WBS (work breakdown structure):
    Moving from WHAT (ie, abstract) to HOW (ie, concrete)
  3. Detailed measure of success:  Success Measures
  4. Project plan activities (detailed-level):
    Roles and Responsibilities
  5. Budget, timeline, and resource alignment: Alignment
  6. Stage gates and milestones: After Action Review
  7. Risk assessment and guidelines:
    Project Risk Assessment
  8. Communications Plan: Guardian of Change
  9. Open issues management: Parking Lot Management
  10. Issue escalation procedure: Issue Log

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

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

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

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

Seven Tips for Improving Your Participation and Contributions During Meetings


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

Improving Meeting Participation

Improving Meeting Participation

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

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

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

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

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

Related articles

How to Facilitate Alignment to Confirm the Balance within an Action Plan


Purpose

Building consensus around proper alignment helps groups identify gaps, omissions, overkill, and to confirm the appropriateness and balance of their action plan.

Alignment Illustration

Alignment Illustration

Rationale
Building consensus around alignment can be very challenging, especially if you facilitate exclusively in the narrative world (ie, written words). The FAST method suggests the use of icons (see PowerBalls) that are both appropriate and powerful.
Method
Create a matrix with your options (eg, actions) and the targets (eg, goals). Common items that may be aligned include the comparison of strategies to objectives. Facilitating alignment consists of three steps:

  1. First complete the matrix with a linear approach, but be careful to always ask the open-ended question, “To what extent does ‘x’ (ie, option, action, or strategy) support ‘y’ (ie, target, goal, or objective) ?”
  2. Having defined the PowerBalls (preferably with a legend that is visible throughout the activity for your participants to reference), label each cell with either a high, low, or moderate PowerBall symbol, indicating the extent to which the option supports the target.
  3. After completing the matrix, ask the group to confirm completeness. Add anything missing or modify the plan as required (i.e., Create a new option or calibrate an existing option).

Note: The solid balls indicate high, the empty circles indicate low, and the half-filled balls indicate moderate.  We like to define High as mandatory, must have at any price.  We define Low as “would like to have but not willing to pay extra.”  The stuff in between is Moderate, the stuff for which we would be willing to “pay a reasonable amount.”  The equivalent to the MoSCoW tool would be: Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won’t have (null).

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

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

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

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

Related articles

How to Build Stakeholder Analysis and Galvanize Consensual Understanding


Define Organizational Stakeholders

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

Power and Gain

Power and Gain

Process Stakeholders

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

Step One – Identify inputs

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

Step Two – Identify outputs

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

Step Three – Identify stakeholders

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

Group Stakeholders

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

Acknowledge Stakeholder Interests

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

Define Stakeholder Strategy Plan

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

The plan identifies

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

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

Stakeholder Strategy Plan Answers . . .

Stakeholder Name:_____________________________

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

Develop a Communications Action Plan

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

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

Determine Stakeholder Risks

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

Mitigate Behavior

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

Conclusion

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

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

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

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

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

Related articles

How to Build Your Meeting Agenda to Deliver the Output You Need


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

Agenda Defined

Simple Meeting or Workshop Agenda

Simple Meeting or Workshop Agenda

An agenda is a series of steps that structure a group discussion throughout a meeting or workshop.  The FAST technique provides field-tested agendas that work effectively to accelerate information gathering and improve decision-making methods.  A robust and  effective agenda will enable you . . .

  • . . . the facilitator (ie, the session leader) to lead the discussion, with . . .
  • Subject matter experts (who are experts about content but NOT experts about context or meeting technique), who build consensual understanding using evidence-based information.
  • That makes the next steps clear (ie, the meeting output or deliverable including for example, decision-making or prioritization), thus
  • Enabling other stakeholders (ie, project team) to use the information and decisions to accelerate and advance project objectives and organizational goals.

The steps to create a new meeting or workshop agenda include the following:

  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? Better stated, “What does done look like?”
  3. 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.
    • Consider internal life-cycle methods, cultural expectations, and what other projects have used in the past within your organization.
    • Study the FAST curriculum and consider its pre-built planning, analysis, and design workshops with agendas that have been proven to work for others in the past.
    • Do some research and find out what others are doing; competitors, competitive industries, competitive alternatives, and the most current academic approaches.
    • Talk to others, especially project team members and business community subject matter experts to determine some of the major components they would include in a simple agenda.
    • Send us a sample for analysis and feedback if you are a graduate of the FAST Professional curriculum.
  4. Review steps for logical flow—walk through the steps to confirm they will produce the desired outputs.
  5. 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 your agenda steps.
  6. 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.
  7. Identify what information is needed to fill the gaps from step number six 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 six above that your meeting participants cannot provide?
  8. 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).
  9. Review—confirm steps number one and two above and then carefully review the detailed activities with stakeholders to confirm that they satisfy the purpose and provide the needed information without over challenging or intimidating your participants.
  10. Perform a walk-through, including documentation format or templates, with other business experts, executive sponsor, and project team members.
  11. Refine—make any changes identified in the walk-through and begin to build out your annotated agenda as suggested by the FAST curriculum.

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

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

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

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

Excellent Questions to Ask When Building a Strategy Execution Map


The process of discovering/inventing a Strategy Execution Map may proceed in 4 phases:

  • Development: This is the most critical phase.  In this phase, facts, perceptions, and opinions are collected and packaged into a format that can be shared with all participants.  If the major stakeholders and influencers feel they have been heard, their participation will be more enthusiastic and unconditional.
  • Design: This phase describes the process end-to-end and establishes a common vocabulary to tell the participants what to expect.  This phase also includes a description of the common biases that inhibit communication and decision making.
  • Analysis: In this phase decision makers, subject matter experts, stakeholders and influencers come together to create their strategy execution map.  This phase needs the free flow exchange of ideas and openness to diverse points of view.  Debates must be encouraged.
  • Implementation: In this phase, offline meetings may be used to consolidate, ‘clean up’, and publish their final Strategy Execution Map.

    Strategy Execution Map Phases

    Strategy Execution Map Phases

Here are some questions to ask during the development phase:

What strategy do we need to achieve our mission and vision?

  • What are our mission and vision? Is there a societal sustainability component?
  • Where is our written business plan? What is in it?  How is it communicated to the workforce?  How is it updated?  Who has the decision responsibility for the plans?  Are the decisions made via collaboration or directive?  If by collaboration, who are they?
  • Are there any major transformational shifts on the horizon? Any mergers and acquisitions that have been announced?  How does the mergers and acquisitions fit with the strategy?  What are the drivers for this decision?
  • Do we have a standard framework and definitions for the strategic development and execution process?
  • What is our unique value proposition? What unique value do we bring to the marketplace?  What do we do differently and better than everyone else?  What are the primary sources of our competitive advantage?  Why do/should customers buy from us rather than from our competitors?
  • Who are our key competitors? How do we expect to compete and win?  How are we going to consistently outperform our competitors?  How are we going to grow our company?
  • Are there market opportunities or customers that have been rejected recently and why?
  • What are the barriers to entry in our market? How difficult will it be for others to copy our strategy?  How are we going to stay ahead of the game, ahead of old, new, and future competitors?  How will we create a long-term, sustainable competitive advantage?  What are the key uncertainties?

What is the business model for our business area/product/service line and how does this business work?

  • What is our revenue generation model; ie, how is this business going to generate positive cash flow and turn a profit? What are the key drivers of financial success?
  • Is our business in a growth, decline or status quo phase?
  • What are our key performance indicators that we track and take action on?
  • What is our traffic generation model; ie, how are we going to attract new customers? How are we going to market and sell our product or service?
  • What is our customer retention strategy? How are we going to keep our customers and increase share of pocket?
  • What are the working assumptions for your business model? Organizational?  Market?  Customers?  Employees?  Regulatory?  Community?  Others?

What capabilities and culture do we need to achieve our strategy?

  • How should we assess our capability risk?
  • What key skills individual, team, and organizational capabilities do our vision, strategy, and competitive advantage require?
  • What kind of culture do we need to compete and win in our chosen markets?
  • How are we going to deploy our organizational levers to best create and reinforce our core capabilities and desired culture?
  • How robust is our leadership pipeline?

What resources do we need to execute our strategy?

  • Human resource needs: how many people and what kinds of skills? What is our plan for recruiting, developing, and retaining this talent?  What is our current retention rate?  Are we able to retain the right people?  Do we have the right people in the right jobs?
  • Financial resources: how much capital do we need for setting-up and/or operating the company? What combination of debt and equity?  How will we manage our cash flow?
  • Is our organization structure promoting collaboration or conflict or compartmentalized thinking?
  • What are the governance models at the enterprise, initiative, and project levels?
  • Do any of our policies conflict with each other? Is there a gap between a policy and its implementation?
  • What intellectual capital do we need?
  • What are our key processes that add value to the outputs we deliver to the customer?
  • Are we fully leveraging the potential of information technology? Are our systems integrated or are they compartmentalized?  Which of our systems causes a bottleneck?  Are there single or multiple sources of truth for critical data?  What data is typically missing or incorrect or not available in a timely manner?

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

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

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

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

To Become a More Humane Human, Understand the WHY Behind WHAT People Saying


Road Rage.  Have you been irritated by someone else’s driving?  Of course, we all have.  Today I realized however that I am likely guilty of doing the precise thing that others have done to piss me off.  However, when I did it, there was justification—of course.  When they did the same thing however, they were wrong, dumb, stupid, and worthy of decapitation.  So what’s the difference?

Have you ever made a right turn in an automobile very slowly, because your grandma was in the back seat, or you didn’t want the pie to spill, or the house number you were seeking was right around the corner?  Imagine so.  But when someone makes the turn incredibly slowly in front of you, they are being rude and inconsiderate, correct?  So what’s the difference?

Understand the WHY Behind the WHAT

Understand the WHY Behind the WHAT

The difference evidences itself when you seek to understand WHY.  Chances are, the person that upset you had good reason in their own mind, and was not attempting to be intentionally inconsiderate.  They were not malicious at all.  They simply had their own reasons.

We should always stay mindful of the phrase in St Francis’ Peace Prayer—Seek to understand, rather than being understood.  The Dalai Lama also has a nice way of expressing similar sentiment when he states (paraphrased)—“When you speak, you are saying something you already know.  When you listen, you may learn something new.”

As facilitators, we cannot afford to let down our guard.  Keep the ego in the hallway.  Challenge meeting and workshop participants to justify their positions by explaining WHY they are making a particular claim.  Chances are, we will discover something new.  By active listening through the reflection and confirmation of their rationale, we can begin to build consensus.

Would it bother you if I turned slowly around a corner if you already knew that I had an infirmed occupant or something that might spill?  I imagine not, as you would likely have some compassion, not because you liked WHAT I was doing, but because you understood WHY I was doing it.

To build consensus, make sure everyone understands WHY claims are being made.  They likely hear what the other person said (or did), but since it upsets them, they fail to understand nor strive to understand WHY.  That’s your job as facilitator.  Build consensus around WHY since most WHAT everyone believes is not simply black or white, rather it is conditional.  It’s your job to get the group to understand under what conditions someone’s erratic thoughts or behavior may in fact echo the same thing you would do if you were in their shoes.

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

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

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

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

How to Free Your Data from a Single Cell and Make Your Deliverables More Robust


In our prior posting, we learned that one key to facilitating effective analysis mandates the facilitator to ask open-ended questions, not simple, close-ended (ie, yes or no) confirmations.  For example, and pardon the simplicity, do not ask “Does the sport of curling involve any sweat?”  Someone will make a compelling argument that it does, albeit minimal perhaps.  The better question, simply re-phrased:  “To what extent does the sport of curling involve sweat? (a lot, little, or somewhere in between)”.

When building a roles and responsibilities matrix for example, the classic approach identifies who is going to be ‘Responsible’ for some apportioned activity or assignment and the appropriate cell is given a large, red “R”.  At minimum you might ask four questions, such as:

  1. What role will be responsible for this assignment? (eg, Business Analyst)
  2. At what estimated point in time will it be completed? (eg, date specific)
  3. How much financial resource will be required to complete it? (eg, $,$$$)
  4. What is the estimated FTE required to bring it to completion? (FTE = full time equivalent, such as 0.25 which is one person, full-time, for three months)
Power of the Cell

Power of the Cell

You can amplify this approach even further by splitting your four cells into sixteen.  See the picture above.  We can now ask, generate, and record sixteen pieces of information on a large Post-It® for each assignment.  Note how we take the four basic criteria above and expand them into four additional details (for illustrative purposes only):

  1. What role will be responsible for this assignment? (eg, RASI Chart)
    1. What role is ultimately being held Accountable and paying for this initiative? (eg, EVP)
    2. What role will be Responsible for this assignment? (eg, Business Analyst)
    3. What roles will be Supporting this assignment? (eg, Project Manager)
    4. What roles need to be Informed about this assignment? (eg, Customer)
  2. At what estimated point in time will it be completed? (eg, date specific)
    1. When does concerted effort begin? (eg, date specific)
    2. What is the projected half-way point? (eg, date specific)
    3. At what estimated point in time will it be completed? (eg, date specific)
    4. When will the effort be reviewed such as Retrospective or Look Back? (eg, date specific)
  3. How much financial resource will be required to complete it? (eg, $,$$$)
    1. What are the estimated research costs? (eg, $,$$$)
    2. What are the estimated acquisition costs? (eg, $,$$$)
    3. What are the estimated operational costs? (eg, $,$$$)
    4. What are the estimated termination costs? (eg, $,$$$)
  4. What is the estimated FTE required to bring it to completion? (FTE = full time equivalent, such as 0.25 which is one person, full-time, for three months)
    1. What is the maximum number of people required at once? (eg, Quantity)
    2. What special subject matter experts are required? (eg, Title[s])
    3. What is the estimated FTE required to bring it to completion? (eg, FTE)
    4. Codify any special issues not described above. (narrative, perhaps coded)

Having left a meeting with the amount of detail described above is comforting, but knowing that it was consensually built and is now owned by the meeting participants is reassuring.  When applied to a project plan, using questions similar to the ones shown above, you will deliver up a more detailed GANTT chart than most people build in their cubicles alone.  Hand this off to an intern who claims to be “expert” with Microsoft Project Manager® and tell them to bring you back a fully resource allocated project plan so that you can go on to your next meeting.

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

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

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

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

How to Facilitate a Decision Matrix that Documents the Supporting Rationale


Purpose

This tool supports decision-making at all levels.  It can be viewed as the ‘logic’ behind all decisions, providing the rational for both the support and reasons to de-select or de-emphasize one of the options.

Method

Once “Purpose” to the object (ie, topic) has been agreed upon, we can use the “Creativity” tool or narrative “Brainstorming” to develop lists of both the options being considered and the criteria to be used to evaluate the options.  By applying “PowerBalls” and carefully wording our questions, we can now assess the impact of each criterion on each of the options with a simple matrix.  For example, if we want to know which sports to target in a marketing campaign, we might develop two lists and populate the matrix as shown below:

Basic Decision Matrix

Basic Decision Matrix

  • At the intersection of each criterion and option, stipulate precisely the following at the start of your facilitated effort: “TO WHAT EXTENT DOES ‘X’ IMPACT (OR RELATE) TO ‘Y’?”
  • From the example above we might determine that from the perspective of a sports drink company, that ‘Basketball’ is a more desirable option than ‘Curling.’
  • CAUTION: AVOID THE CLOSE-ENDED QUESTION “Does ‘X’ involve ‘Y’?”  There is always a subject matter expert who can draw the correlation.  Conceding ‘Relativity’ we are not after “Does it?”.  Rather, we are focused on the degree, intensity, level, or to what extent does it.

Benefits

Always provide your executive sponsor or steering team with a decision matrix to back-up your decision.  This simple but highly effective visual tool preempts their common question, “Why did you select ‘X’?”  The matrix provides your rationale and trail of logic.  If they want to change the decision, it forces them to adjust the logic and enables your team and project to be consistent with future decisions.

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

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

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

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

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