A Facilitator’s Profile is Much Like an Innovator’s Profile (Design Thinker)


“Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need weird shoes or a black turtleneck to be a design thinker . . .” so goes the article from Harvard Business Review June 2008 (pg 87).  The author suggests that five characteristics found in design thinkers (ie, innovators) that relate uncannily to core competencies required for effective facilitation.  Included (in alphabetical order) are Collaboration, Empathy, Experimentalism, Integrative Thinking, and Optimism.

Door of Opportunity

Door of Opportunity

Collaboration:  Increasing complexity of options and decision-making demands the involvement of many, rather than one.  Lone genius has been replaced with cross-disciplinary subject matter experts.  Select subject matter experts have the talent to succeed, the initiative and motivation to succeed, but frequently do not know how to succeed in a group setting.  Many are subject matters across disciplines with experience drawn upon multiple backgrounds and organizations.  At IDEO for example, they engage engineers, marketers, anthropologists, industrial designers, architects, and psychologists, among others.

Empathy:  Understanding that there is more than one right answer, seeking the best among multiple perspectives lends itself to creating an answer that did not walk into the meeting; rather one that is created during the meeting.  To support creation, empathy in the form of active listening with a neutral session leader becomes critical.

Experimentalism:  Challenging subject matter experts to make their thinking visible, from the heart, can advance the rationale behind their thoughts that breeds both consensual understanding and breakthrough solutions.  Through observation and questioning, session leaders can inspire and transfer ownership of the meeting output.

Integrative Thinking:  While analytical methods are certainly helpful, integrative approaches support innovation.  A neutral facilitator can help a group understand multiple perspectives and build a solution(s) to reconcile seemingly contradictory points of view.  For example, one participant may prefer black and another prefers white.  Instead of viewing them as opposing thoughts, how can we integrate both black and white?  Immediate answers include options such as two-tone, plaid, polka dot, shades of grey, etc.

Successful session leaders rely on confidence in method rather than expertise around content to generate higher quality solutions.  Practically speaking however, optimism and confidence come from experience, so don’t forget to try, practice, and some more.  There is usually more than one right answer.  You may not be the best facilitator in the world, but you are the best facilitator your group can find.

Trust that in the role of session leader, they need you more than anything else, to lead with Collaboration, Empathy, Experimentalism, Integrative Thinking, and Optimism.  Through method you can open the doors of perception that makes it easier for your group to develop breakthrough solutions.

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

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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

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

How Experience and Qualifications Amplify the Fallacy of Planning (i.e., “Overconfidence”)


Research by Ana Guinote and Mario Weick shows that people in positions of power are particularly ineffective planners.  People who feel powerful focus on getting what they want and ignore the potential obstacles that stand in the way.  The planning efforts of powerful people rely frequently on “best case scenarios” and lead to far shorter time estimates than more practical plans that take into account what may go wrong.

Overconfidence

Overconfidence

Good time management starts with the deliverable and breaks it into manageable pieces, understanding the activities required to support each, and an estimate based on multiple factors such as group size, functionality, and experience.  However, most leaders are relatively poor at estimating the time they will need to complete any task.  Psychologists refer to this as both the planning fallacy and the bias of overconfidence.  Fallacies and biases put us at increasing risk of reaching our objectives on time.

You can learn more accurately how to predict the length of an activity and become a better estimator and planner, if you consider the potential obstacles and two other factors. 

1. Reflect on your past experiences and how long similar activities have taken in the past, and

2. Break the activity into smaller pieces or tasks (e.g., questions or steps) and factor in the time for each task.

For example, Brainstorming as an activity should be broken into three tasks, namely:

1. Diverge or List—estimate time based on whether or not you are using break-out teams, ELMO rule (Enough, Let’s Move On), etc.

2. Analyze—estimate based on the tool to be used (e.g., PowerBalls or Decision Matrix) and allow time for scrubbing the list.  Estimate separately for some time for thorough definitions, capturing omissions, and deleting sub-optimal input.

3. Converge or Decide—estimate based on providing substantial reflection (i.e., active listening) around the rationale for decisions made and allow extra time for testing the decision against the initial purpose of the decision.

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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

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

A Consensually Built Picture Can Resolve a Thousand Arguments


Most of us have heard that a picture tells a thousand words.  Consensually built pictures, especially around complex topics and interactions, can be used to help solve and resolve a thousand arguments.  We are reminded by the IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) Quick Tip Bulletin #58 about the value of one picture type, called a Context Diagram.

A Context Diagram, also known as a Scoping Picture or Picture of the Business (area) may look complicated and un-informing to the uninformed, but a picture of the business quickly enables a session leader to tighten the reign on scope creep issues that plague many meetings and workshops.Illustrative Context Diagram

The example shown above illustrates “who” the business interacts (here, an organization or business called “Home Finance”) with, “what” the business receives from them, and “what” the business gives to them. Frequently the “whats” are known as inputs and outputs. Inputs and outputs are used in requirements gathering to narrow the scope of discovery and discussion. The picture helps both the participants and the facilitator focus on the deliverable.

Our simple agenda is shown below, and captures the answers to three simple questions before the modeling is complete:

  1. WHO do we work with to support our purpose (eg, Actors or Agents)?
  2. WHAT do we get from them (inputs)?
  3. WHAT do we give them (outputs)?

Modify this “plain vanilla” agenda as you see fit.  Use the FAST 7-step introductory sequence and 4-step review and wrap for the bookends. Have an ample supply of Post-It® Notes available, in at least three different colors, sizes, or shapes to distinguish the WHO from the inputs and outputs. Once complete, and consensually validated, you can proceed further with follow-up meetings or workshops to further define and illustrate WHO the business uses to support their purpose, and what activities (Activity Flow or Functional Decomposition workshop, leading to use cases such as SIPOC) and information (Logical Modeling or Entity Relationship Diagram) are also required to support their business purpose.

Here is the simple agenda that typically takes two to four hours to complete. Refer to your FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership manual for more details.

  • INTRODUCTION
  • PURPOSE OF THE BUSINESS AREA
  • WHO INTERACTS (Actors)
  • WHAT COMES IN (Inputs)
  • WHAT GOES OUT (Outputs)
  • MODEL AND VALIDATION (Walk-thru)
  • THE SCOPE DEFINED (Narrative)
  • REVIEW AND WRAP

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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

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

A Holiday Message of Action for Facilitators from Mother Teresa


A large minority of the world celebrates Christmas this time of the year.  Since the traditional greeting in the English language is “Merry Christmas”, it begs the question, HOW.  While the thought may be genuine, and the words rich with historical precedence, HOW DOES a facilitator go about making today (and tomorrow) merry? The solution begins with attitude, and attitudes that shape our behavior will be positively impacted by letting go of our own egos.

How do you do that? Follow the sage advice of Mother Teresa in her sentiments below and you will find it a lot easier.  After all, she facilitated nourishment for thousands of “participants” by simply being of service.

Removing the Weight of the World

Removing the Weight of the World

Treat today as if you won’t exist tomorrow.
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;

Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;

Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, there may be jealousy;

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;

Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;

Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;

It was never between you and them anyway.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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

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

14 Facilitator Typologies to Avoid (Humorous, Although Uncannily Real)


In light of upcoming Holiday Spirit, here is a quick and somewhat humorous listing of fourteen different facilitator typologies or “personalities” you might seek to avoid. My favorite is “The Pretender.”

14 Typologies to Avoid

14 Typologies to Avoid

  • The “I Can’t Hear You” Guy—The facilitator who refuses to listen, probably because they are too busy analyzing, judging, and processing information.
  • The Blabber—The facilitator who loves the sound of his or her own voice, and actually believes they are adding value when speaking about content rather than context.
  • The Centerpiece—The facilitator who makes he or she the real content of the workshop, because of course, it’s all about them.
  • The Drill Sergeant—The facilitator who is rigidly stuck on the agenda and puts the clock above quality content.
  • The Guardian—The facilitator who makes certain that all conversation goes through him or her and not from participant to participant, so as not to lose control.
  • The Ice Cube—The distant and aloof facilitator who is unwilling to personalize the experience, sometimes becoming accusatory.
  • The Know-it-all—The facilitator who always has the answer. The know-it-all whom can’t say “I don’t know.”
  • The Marathon Man—The facilitator who piles activities on top of one another, doesn’t allow for breaks, and ignores the need for groups to pause, reflect, and absorb topics and ideas.
  • The Molasses Man—The facilitator who is painfully slow and doesn’t have an innate feel for pacing, variety, or style.
  • The Parrot—The facilitator who relentlessly recaps information, restates ideas, and summarizes the obvious (although sometime justifiable for groups that are challenged to focus and “be here now.”)
  • The Passenger—The facilitator who lets people talk too long and gives up the reins of facilitation to whomever is speaking at the time.
  • The Pretender—The facilitator who doesn’t ask real questions but only “pretense questions” that are really designed to give the facilitator an excuse to pontificate.
  • The Storyteller—The facilitator who tells far too many cutesy stories or “war stories” and never gets deep into the content.
  • The Tunnel Driver—The facilitator who keeps doing the same thing or uses the same method hour after hour.

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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

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

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


Facilitating business requirements can be substantially different than facilitating community forums and other project-base support meetings. While the tool of active listening provides an important component for both scenarios, the deliverables needed to support most business initiatives are quite different from social or community settings.

Frequently, business facilitators are not seeking agreement, rather harmony.  The difference follows. Agreement suggests that everyone is singing the same note, perhaps even on the same instrument. Boring. Reminiscent of the railroad industry in 1899 trying to protect itself, rather than redefining its roles and service value in transportation or logistics (eg, 3PL or Third Party Logistics Providers).

Harmony implies we are seeking an outcome when everyone’s musical note or expression is heard, from whatever instrument they play. The key to successful facilitation is building and leading appropriate structure so that the deliverable captures all of the instruments and all of the tones, like a symphony.  The sound of cicadas every few years represents agreement. The music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky reflects a symphonic movement.

Even when seeking agreement as your deliverable, for example in decision-making sessions, the right structure makes it easier for your participants.  Consider the PowerBall approach when you can help drive a group toward a simple decision surrounding a well-articulated question (eg, What should we buy?).  For complicated situations, use the Scorecard approach that separates fuzzy from SMART criterion, applies weightings, and generates a quantitative score to support discussion focused on comparing your options. For highly complex situations like portfolio management, always embrace the SWOT analysis (introduced to the FAST curriculum in its current form in 2004). In the facilitator’s world, our approach to SWOT is like comparing a Tchaikovsky composition to some kids playing the same note over and over on a kazoo.

Decision-Making Matrix

Decision-Making Matrix

As facilitators, our business constraints rarely afford the time and luxury of sitting around the campfire singing Kum Bay Yah and building trust. Therefore it is imperative that we build our structure in advance and lead the method best suited to reconcile the business challenges and trade-offs you might expect.  Everyone agreeing will keep you in the box, suffocating innovation. But with harmony you don’t even see the box, as you lead to the creation of a solution that no single participant envisioned when they entered your workshop.

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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

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

 

An Ice Breaker TIP — Newspaper or Magazine Headlines about Accomplishments


This is one TIP from our collection of practical tips, tools, and techniques. Our tips are gathered from our experience, training classes, and alumni contributions.

Warming Up A Group

This ice breaker is useful for people that are unfamiliar with each other, or for familiar groups that need some new dimension to their relationships for the purpose of the workshop.  It may take up to one-half hour for a group of nine, so manages your time accordingly.

Newspaper or Magazine Headline

Newspaper or Magazine Headline

  • 2 minutes: Have each person write their name on a small piece of paper. Collect the names in a container (e.g., bowl, box). Have each participant pick a piece of paper.
  • 5-10 minutes: Allow a few minutes for each person to find the person named on their piece of paper and “interview” them.
  • 3 minutes: Have the participants write a newspaper or magazine headline that describes an event or accomplishment of the person named on their piece of paper. Consider a specific newspaper or magazine that most members of the group are likely to read. Either emphasize a personal or professional accomplishment, but consistently emphasize the perspective you choose.  Consider the headline appearing on a specific page or within a specific column of the magazine or newspaper that is well appreciated or frequently read by the participants.
  • 5-10 minutes: Have each person read the headline for the person named on the piece of paper.

Alternative

Move the headline to some point in the future (eg, five years from now) when it becomes the aspiration of the participant rather than an actual accomplishment.

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

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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

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

An Active Listening TIP — Listening For the WHY, Benefits Everyone


This is one TIP from our collection of practical tips, tools, and techniques. Our tips are gathered from our experience, training classes, and alumni contributions.

Listening For the WHY

We all know that listening is an important skill. We instruct our students to engage in “active” listening. But, what do we hear?

Listening for WHY

Listening for WHY

Most listening is the act of being attentive to What the speaker says. Our tip today is to listen for Why the speaker is saying what they are saying.  Participants have a natural tendency to speak in symptoms (eg, “I’m fatigued”) rather than the cause (eg, “I’ve been working 70 hours a week.”)

WHY is the Cause (or, the “Because”) of the WHAT

The Why is very often apparent in personal conversation. You might ask yourself (while a stranger is speaking to you) about why they are telling you about a particular fact or story. Determining the motivation for the speaking is as important if not more so than what is said.

Many of us already know this about our children. When a teenager says “I hate you,” he/she is really saying:

  • I’m frustrated
  • I didn’t get my way
  • I don’t have power to influence you or change your opinion
  • I’m embarrassed
  • I’m going to hurt you because you hurt me

Chances are they do not really “hate” you.

The Tip

Without trying to be amateur psychologists here, listen for the why when:

  • A workshop participant is angry and/or confrontational
  • A participant waxes on about something seeming irrelevant, or just waxes on, and on
  • A participant is abnormally active or withdrawn

In our classes we advise to confirm what and why the speaker says. We are also suggesting that as facilitator, you need to confirm why the speaker has said they said in addition to what is being said.

The why usually represents the most important message coming from the person speaking because next steps and actions for groups are built around the cause rather than the symptom.

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

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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

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

Avoid Asking “How Do We Solve Global Hunger?” with Improved Methodology


Meeting participants are all too frequently confronted with questions that are too difficult to answer. When the facilitator receives a blank stare or extended silence after asking a question, there is a strong likelihood that the question is much to broad or vague, and thus difficult (rather than easy, as in facilitaere) to answer. Strive before your meeting to understand that Y = f (X) + (X) + (x) + (x), implying that your big question (Y) is a function of many questions, large (X) and small (x). Break it down to make it easier.

SINGLE-QUESTION APPROACH

The Single Question

The Single Question

Purpose

The following can be used to develop new questions that lead to a workshop method or agenda and the questions that ought be addressed during the meeting.

Larson developed the Single-Question agenda and here it is modified from Larson’s five-step agenda.  The approach is predicated on decomposing the big question that will provide the main answer or solution to a problem.  This quickly focuses groups on the essentials of the problem.

The Big Question           

What is the single question, the answer to which the entire group needs to know to accomplish its purpose?

Example:   A workshop to design a newsletter would begin with the single (and broad) question, “What is the content and format of this newsletter?”

Sub-Questions

What sub-questions must be answered before we can answer the single question we just formulated?  While preparing, talk to participants and find out what questions they need to have answered during the meeting.  Test your questions prior to the meeting for clarity, precision, and completeness.

Example:   Our newsletter workshop question can be answered when the following sub-questions are answered.

  • What are their interests?
  • What do they already know?
  • What do they want to know?
  • What is the purpose of the newsletter?
  • Which media would they prefer?
  • Who is the newsletter audience?
  • Why would they read a newsletter?

Sequencing                  

Sequence them in order—which need to be answered first, second, and so on.  This begins to yield topical flow—facilitators lead with coherent agenda steps that reflect a comprehensive list of questions.  The sequence is based on which answers help in answering subsequent questions.

Example:   For our newsletter, the questions might need to be answered in the following order.

  1. What is the purpose of the newsletter?
  2. Who is the newsletter audience?
  3. Why would they read a newsletter?
  4. What are their interests?
  5. What do they want to know?
  6. What do they already know?
  7. Which media would they prefer?

Organizing                  

Next group the questions. Participants participate better when we “chunk” information to create natural breaks.  Group the questions so that a single, definable product is developed at the end of each set of questions—or question.

Example:   In our newsletter example, we have four key products, Overall Purpose, Audience, Content, and Media.

  • Question 1 defines the Overall Purpose.
  • Questions 2 and 3 define the Audience.
  • Questions 4, 5, and 6 define the Content.
  • Question 7 defines the Media.

Example:  Our newsletter workshop simple agenda would be . . .

  • Introduction
  • Purpose of the Newsletter
  • Audience
  • Content
  • Media
  • Review and Wrap up

Comments

Advantages—Good if under time pressure and you need to build a 
solid agenda from scratch.

Disadvantages—Very difficult in conflict-ridden or very 
complex situations.

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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

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

Benefits and Best Practices Using Structured Facilitative Workshops


Structured workshops are increasingly popular among lean sigma and requirements gathering projects that frequently support business process improvement and product development.   Why?  When properly conducted, they are simply faster and more effective than typical business meeting discussions.  Remember that the terms discussion, percussion, and concussion are all related so if you ever have a headache when departing a meeting, likely it was unstructured.

Benefits and Best Practices

Benefits and Best Practices

Benefits Claimed

  1. By adopting a structured approach, an organization can establish a scalable, consistent process that can be measured and continuously improved.
  2. Overall project life cycle can be shortened by two to four weeks, thus helping business stakeholders realize project benefits early.
  3. Session participants demonstrate a high level of active engagement, claiming and that structured sessions enabled good use of their time.
  4. Structured approaches also produce higher quality outputs, allowing for issues and risks to be identified and resolved earlier in the life cycle, when the cost to resolve them is smaller.
  5. Structured approaches help enhance the perceived value of the session leader role as a valuable provider of context rather than a mere producer of documentation.
  6. Workshop approaches result in clear reduction in time and effort. Many companies claim project life-cycle savings that exceed USD $100,000 and some exceeding one million dollars.
  7. Workshop approaches successfully shift project development activities from being template driven to conversation driven, thus helping build better teaming and collaboration amongst participants.

Best Practices A number of best practices developed during facilitated sessions include:

  1. Defining consensus as a standard that can be supported rather than the ideal resolution that makes participants “happy”, help set a better expectation that should prevent all participants from losing any sleep (a personal standard).
  2. Energize and engage participants by explaining the importance of the session in the beginning and strive to quantify the impact of the meeting on the project valued in cash assets at risk or FTE (full-time equivalent) being deployed.
  3. Use a neutral facilitator. The facilitator must be neutral to content discussed, allowing the participants freedom to edit and modify their own contributions.  Neutrality provides trust that enables higher level of participation and contribution by participants.
  4. Using a pre-defined deliverable, agenda, and participant list.  The deliverable and agenda for each session and participant buy-in ought be articulated in advance to transfer ownership to the session participants prior to the meeting. Thorough preparation helps the participants to focus on topics, questions, and activities that help the facilitator better control the context.
  5. Using a refrigerator (aka “parking lot” or “issue bin”) to store items out of scope or beyond reach for the time available helps separate the co-mingling of strategic issues, tactical maneuvers, and operational issues.
  6. Using a well prepared deliverable and agenda, the facilitator can better control the scope of conversations, preventing circular and irrelevant discussions.
  7. Write it down.  If it is not written down, it never happened. Strive to capture verbatim comments and complete necessary edits after the meeting. This helps to build more confidence among participants. Making the documentation immediately visible to participants minimizes one-on-one follow-ups and email conversations.

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

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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

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

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