A Meeting Participants’ Credo


If there was a silver bullet for making facilitators more effective, it would be to get their meeting participants better prepared and contributory. To that extent, we offer you the following to submit to your meeting participants. This credo, or a statement of the beliefs or aims that ought guide participants’ actions, has been modified from “The Ethics of the Management Profession” Harvard Business Review 2008 and reprinted by some as the Hippocratic Oath for Meetings by numerous business organizations, domestically and around the world.

As a participant I serve as society’s fiduciary for_______,  an organization that brings people and resources together to create valued products and services.  My purpose is to serve the public’s interest by enhancing the value my organization creates for society. Sustainable valueis created when the organization produces economic, social, and environmental output that is measurably greater than the opportunity cost of all it consumes. In fulfilling my role .  .  .

Ethically Responsible

  • I recognize that any enterprise is at the nexus of many different constituencies, whose interests can sometimes diverge. While balancing and reconciling various interests, I  seek a course that enhances the value my organization can create for society over the long term. This may not always mean growing or preserving the organization and may include such painful actions as its restructuring, discontinuation, or sales, if these actions preserve or increase value.
  • I pledge that considerations of personal benefit will never supersede the interests of the organization I am supporting. The pursuit of self-interest is the vital engine of a capitalist economy, but unbridled greed can be just as harmful. Therefore, I will guard against decisions and behavior that advances my own narrow ambitions but harm the organization I represent and the societies it serves.
  • I promise to understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct, that of my organization, and that of the societies in which it operates. My personal behavior will be an example of integrity, consistent with the values I publicly espouse. I will be equally vigilant in ensuring the integrity of others around me and bring to attention the actions of others that represent violations of this shared professional code.
  • I vow to represent my organization’s performance accurately and transparently to relevant parties, ensuring that investors, consumers, and the public at large can make well-informed decisions. I aim to help people understand how decisions that affect them are made, so that choices do not appear arbitrary or biased.
  • I will not permit considerations of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, party politics, or social status to influence my choices. I will endeavor to protect the interests of those who may not have power, but whose well-being is dependent on my decisions.
  • I will participate diligently, mindfully, and conscientiously applying judgment based on the best knowledge available. I will consult colleagues and others who can help inform my judgment and will continually invest in staying abreast of the evolving knowledge in the field, always remaining open to innovation. I will do my utmost to develop myself and the next generation of participants so that our organization continues to grow and contribute to the well-being of society.
  • I recognize that my stature and privileges as a professional stem from the honor and trust that the profession as a whole enjoys, and I accept my responsibility for embodying, protecting, and developing the standards of our profession, so as to enhance that respect and honor.

Facilitation Skills

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

How to Facilitate Virtual Meetings: Teleconference and VideoPresence (Part 2 of 3—During/ Real Time)


Core facilitation skills apply to both face-to-face and virtual meetings,  With teleconference or videopresence meetings, the session leader must speak clearly, provide active listening (especially feedback and confirmation), ask appropriate questions, manage time constraints and personality issues, etc.  Our discussion that follows below and in the previous/ next  blog, focus on what is different with virtual meetings.

Purpose

Same time access across multiple locations require may require distributed or electronic meetings, also known as virtual meetings.  With the use of supplemental tools, virtual meetings can also satisfy the dual condition that demands meetings at different times and in different locations.

Rationale

Virtual meetings are used to save travel money or allow for remote participation.  While fine for review and sharing, they should be avoided at kickoffs, phase gate reviews, when consensus is critical, the issues are contentious, or the situation demands high-quality decision-making.

Method

The following suggestions summarize and offer up the differences between face-to-face versus distance meetings.  Remember that active listening is always critical to effective facilitation and it is very tough to provide feedback and obtain solid confirmation without eye contact and observations around the room.

Proper Launch

Getting and keeping people involved and productive will take a concerted effort on your part from start to finish.  Most importantly, get off to a good start by setting a good example:

  • As the facilitator, login first and early.
  • If possible, provide an electronic sign-in sheet that participants must update if they need to leave the meeting (even if only for a short period of time).
  • Greet each person as they come online and assign a ROLL CALL sequence for sound-off (eg, someone drops off  and you hear the ‘three beeps’).
  • Introduce each arrival to subsequent arrivals.
  • Establish and enforce protocol of announcing name (could be nickname) when taking a turn speaking. The ideal protocol may be “last name only” as no verbs or prepositions are required.
  • Provide ground rules and roles as appropriate.
  • Constantly remind participants where you are in the process.
  • Provide a clear end and smooth transition for each step in the agenda as you make progress.

Primary Differences Contrasted with Face to Face Meetings

Use your intuition.  Since you cannot rely on non-verbal feedback (unless using high-resolution video), be firm but flexible.

  • Use people’s names to get their attention.
  • Break-up long stretches of one speaker.
  • When appropriate, go “around to circle” for inclusive participation.  Use the roll call sequence built earlier.
  • Consider “break-out sessions” where two or more get off the main call, call each other(s), and then get back on the session bridge to share their results.
  • For decision-making processes, restate or repeat key issues as they are honed down to a decision point.
  • When possible, use internet-based collaboration tools to create shared electronic notes, flip charts, Mimio, etc. When appropriate allow “side chats” and “ breakouts” to accelerate participant contributions.

Communicating

While also applicable in face-to-face meetings, the likelihood of engaging multiple cultures in a virtual meeting is increased.  Therefore be reminded and reinforced about the “Deadliest Sins of International Misunderstanding” (see “Do’s and Taboos Around the World”).

  • Grammar—remember to facilitate and to stop processing the content.  Someone needs to be listening and that is the role of the facilitator.  Generously paraphrase if necessary to ensure that all participants capture meaning from their perspective.  Document and distribute your notes quickly after meetings to solicit corrections.  Accept the blame for any misunderstandings.  Never interrupt; rather, use active listening to correct for imprecise word or grammar choices.
  • Jargon—likened to a tongue without a brain, avoid “interface” in favor of “work together.”  Police carefully, such as “shotgun approach” and “on the same wave length.”
  • Local color—from idioms to accents, people need to slow down their rate of speech, enunciate clearly, and project a bit louder.  Everyone should avoid local idioms such as “Don’t make waves.”
  • Officialese—your particular concern here ought be acronyms or what many people call acronyms (technically, an acronym needs to spell an actual word).  Even basic English abbreviations may not be understood by everyone, such as “P & L.”  Groups are never too clear, so be certain to use active listening to provide a fuller, clearer reflection of what is being stated.
  • Slang—in Islamic and Buddhist cultures, a simple “thank God” may be considered blasphemous unless meant piously.  Avoid even simple comments that lack clarity such as “go for it”.
  • Vocabulary—don’t forget after providing reflection to confirm that everyone seemingly understands what has been stated.  If you sense that someone is holding back, consider a roll call approach to have each person interpret how the new content affects them.

Capture the Work

With the few exceptions noted, most of the FAST technique is immediately transferrable to the virtual world.  Some additional differences in the video-presence mode are shown below:

  • Before bio-breaks, insert a quick “Plus/ Delta” and ask for immediate feedback.
  • Enforce “Silence or Absence is Agreement” but solicit one-by-one responses for highly critical decisions.
  • If you don’t want to ask each person to respond to a general query (“do you understand the new procedure?”), ask questions so that silence implies consent, and remind them to speak up if “they can’t sleep at night” with the outcome.
  • The larger the group, the more your session leadership skills need to keep people from dominating each virtual meetings

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

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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

Do not forget to order Change or Die if you’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.

Related articles

 

How to Facilitate Ideation Using the Brainstorming Tool


 

Encouraging and developing ideas is the easiest of the three activities required to operate the tool called “Brainstorming.” The other two activities include analysis and convergence (or, decision). Whether you use an easel or a spreadsheet, Post-it® notes or illustrated drawings, the first principle of brainstorming, as it was intended by Alex Osborne, is to encourage capturing lots of ideas without constraint or judgment. Most neophyte facilitators become the first person in the meeting to violate this principle by asking for definition or further explanation, such as “Tell us more about _____.”

Regardless of HOW you gather ideas, embrace the first principle we call “Ideation.” This first step of brainstorming can be reinforced with a discrete set of ground rules such as:

  • No discussion
  • Fast pacing, high-energy
  • All ideas allowed
  • Be creative—experiment
  • Build on the ideas of others
  • Suspend judgment, evaluation, and criticism
  • Passion is good
  • Accept the views of others
  • Stay focused on the topic
  • Everyone participates
  • No word-smithing
  • When in doubt, leave it in
  • The ideation step is informal
  • 5-Minute Limit Rule (ie, ELMO doll — Enough, Let’s Move On)

In our experience, having used all of these rules at one time or another, only the first four (shown in bold font) consistently add value. For example, a few of the ideation rules suggest that someone has made a remark (eg, No word-smithing). If the facilitator carefully polices the very first ground rule (ie, No discussion), then it obviates the need for some of the other ground rules.

The ELMO rule is also not necessary if the activity is closely policed. How long can a group maintain “high-energy”? If the group is working with high-energy at the five-minute mark, do you really want to shut them down? It is likely that energy will begin to die down in the next few minutes anyway, so if closely monitored, the formal rule is not necessary, although typically the facilitator should expect to wind down the ideation activity within six to eight minutes anyway. Larger groups may keep up high-energy for ten to twelve minutes, but it is most unlikely that any group will maintain true “high-energy” for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Once the ideation activity is complete, the real work begins. What are you going to do with the list? The first challenge is normally about definition and what something specifically means. How to effectively facilitate a consensually understood definition, is covered in the next blog.

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.

 

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life


Some of the best books about facilitation, do not mention the term or role of a “facilitator”.  Take Dr Wayne Dyer‘s book for example, “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life.”

We have always argued that effective facilitation begins with clear thinking, that unclear speaking or imprecise writing are indicative of unclear thinking.  Dr Dyer’s transliteration of “The Tao“, also called “Living the Wisdom of the Tao.”

The 17th verse begins and completes as follows:

With the greatest leader above them,

people barely know one exists . . .

 . . . The great leader speaks little,

He never speaks carelessly.

He works without self-interest

and leaves no trace.

When all is finished, the people say,

“We did it ourselves.”

One can easily substitute the term facilitator for leader or include the adjective “facilitative” in front of the term, as in “facilitative leader.”  Modern, facilitative leaders create an environment that is conducive to productivity, where all of the meeting participants feel that they have a personal responsibility to contribute and own the outputs, the deliverables.  Clear learnings that we can import from Dr Dyer’s treatment of the 17th verse also include:

  • Facilitators create an environment that helps everyone act responsibly.
  • Effective facilitators are able to make themselves visible when the group reaches high performance mode.  Although most groups do not reach this level, when they do, the facilitator becomes a scribe.
  • When it is time for accolades, facilitators dissolve in the background, wanting the participants to feel that the accomplishments derive from their own talents.
  • Instead of believing that they know what is best for a group, they trust the group participants and the method to generate what is best for them.
  • The surest way to gain the trust and confidence of participants is to allow them to make as many deacons as possible.  Avoid grabbing the low-hanging fruit by answering simple content.  Put even the simplest items in the form of a question.

Try being more neutral as a business agent, friend, spouse, family member, parent, etc. and be surprised by the results of people who will live up to their own answers.  Remember, there is usually more than one correct answer, the real question is the taste for risk and reward, but that is another topic to be covered on a future Thursday.

Facilitation Skills

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

 

Five Compelling Business or Organizational Reasons to Hold a Facilitated Session


Purpose

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

The advantages to a facilitated meeting or workshop include:

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

Description

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

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

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

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

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

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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

Daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify the skills of a facilitative leader.

Let’s Be Thankful—Where We Are Winning


We post our blog regularly every Thursday.  Since today is Thanksgiving, we thought we’d share some positive and thankful information.  Keep in mind that “information” means to be in formation (ie, akin to work in progress).

Using a Delphi panel and research method over 15 years, the Millennium Project has identified hundreds of indicators of humanity’s progress or regress.  Since you will no doubt be exposed to some of the negative factors reading or listening to the “news”, here are more than one dozen vectors where we are winning, as stipulated in the December 2011 issue of “The Futurist.”

  • Access to clean water (percentage of people with)
  • Adult literacy rate
  • Enrolled in secondary school (percentage of people)
  • GDP per capita
  • GDP per unit of energy consumption
  • HIV prevalence among fifteen to 49 year olds
  • Infant mortality rates
  • Internet access and use
  • Life expectancy
  • People living on USD$1.25 a day (purchasing power parity)
  • Physicians and health care workers per 1,000 people
  • Quantity of countries that have or plan to have nuclear weapons
  • Research and development expenditures (percentage of national budgets)
  • Total debt service in low- and mid-income countries
  • Undernourishment
  • Women in parliamentary governments (percentage of)

Facilitation Skills

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

Related articles

Five Problems with Meetings and What to Do about Them


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

1.  Lack of clear purpose

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

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

2.  Unprepared participants

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

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

3.  Biased leadership

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

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

4.  Scope creep (strategic and tactical blending)

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

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

5.  Poor or non existent structure

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

SOLUTION FIVE:  Determine in advance:

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

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

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

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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

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

How to Categorize (or Cluster) Ideas and Inputs


Purpose

Categorizing creates clusters of related items so that a group can improve its focus.

Rationale

The purpose of categorizing is to eliminate redundancies by collapsing related items into clusters or chunks (a scientific term). A label or term that captures the title for each cluster can be more easily re-used in matrices and other visual displays. Categorizing makes it easier for the team to analyze complex groupings and their impact on each other.

Method

Categorizing can take little or much time, depending on how much precision is required, time available, and importance.  The first method shown is quick and effective.  The other methods may also be effective, but probably not as quick.

Underscore

Take the raw input or lists created during the ideation step and underscore the common nouns (typically the object in a sentence that is preceded by a predicate or a verb). Use a different color marker for each group of nouns, and have the team offer up a term or label that captures the meaning of each cluster that is underscored.

(Optionally)

For each item, ask “Why _____?”  Items that share a common purpose likely have a common objective and can be grouped together.

Transpose

Take the new terms or labels that signify a cluster or grouping and move them to a separate list or table.  The terms may be defined with discussion and illustrated with the list of items that belongs to each cluster.  Use the FAST Definition tool to build additional clarity if required.

Scrub

Go back to the original list and strike the items that now collapse into the new terms created for each cluster in the Transpose step above.  Allow the group to focus on any remaining items that have not been eliminated and decide if they require unique terms, need further explanation, or can be deleted.

Review

Before transitioning, review the final list of clusters and confirm that team members understand the terms and that they can support the operational definitions.  Let the team members know that they can add additional terms to the clusters later, but if they are comfortable with them as is, to move on and do something with the list, as it was built for input to a subsequent step or activity.

(Other Grouping Themes)

Humans visually perceive items not in isolation, but as part of a larger whole.  The principles of perception include human tendencies towards:

  • Similarity—by their analogous characteristics
  • Proximity—by their physical closeness to each other
  • Continuity—when there is an identifiable pattern
  • Closure—completing or filling-in missing features

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

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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

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

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


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

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

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

    Cultural Plurality

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

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

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

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

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

Facilitation Skills

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

Related articles

How to Structure the Introduction to Meetings and Workshops


Three Components

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

The Beginning

Planning Predictable Results

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

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

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

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

The Middle

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

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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

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

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