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.

Facilitators’ Overview of the HBR Book Entitled “Executing Your Strategy”


Executing Your Strategy” published by Harvard Business School Press and written by two FAST alumni, provides instruction on how to transform strategy into projects. Writers Morgan and Malek (both previous professors at Stanford University Advanced Project Management School), spoke with us about the importance of professional facilitation to successfully both “plan your work” (strategy) and “work your plan” (project).

They make a compelling argument for INVEST imperatives (or, domains) that you may find valuable when managing your projects:

  1. Ideation—communicating purpose, identity, and intention
  2. Nature—aligning strategy with culture and structure
  3. Vision—clarifying goals and metrics
  4. Engagement—portfolio management
  5. Synthesis—program and project execution
  6. Transition—benefiting mainstream operations

Executing Your StrategyFor additional detailed support and understanding of each domain, see the book, “Executing Your Strategy”.

Most importantly, from a facilitator’s perspective, they highly recommend building a Center for Strategic Excellence that anchors itself upon effective, neutral facilitators and structured facilitative methodology. Hopefully you are doing your best around your organization to nurture supportive facilitative leadership around you, your staff, and your program office.

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 a facilitative leader.

Questions about Heterogeneity Factors that Impact the Amount of Meeting Risk (5 of 5)


This is the fifth of a five-part discussion, providing a method for evaluating the relative risk of a meeting or workshop.

Method

The method follows the steps below:

  • Review the risk assessment questions from prior worksheets or those that follow.
  • Use the FAST risk analysis worksheets to capture your answers and compute a score.
  • Use this score as a basis for the risk-skill matching described in the risk-skill map section.

QuestionsHeterogeneity Factors

HETEROGENEITY

The heterogeneity factors are an indicator of the diversity, complexity, and nature of the business organization.  These factors look at the ability of the business to cooperate with each other and logistics involved in coordinating all the potential participants.

  1. Number of Units: Number of departments (other than project team) involved with the project? How many functionally different organizational units significantly participate in the project?  If the project is for an IT organization, then IT is one of the business organizations.
  2. Participants: Number of potential participants? What will be the total number of people potentially involved in providing information in all of the likely workshops?
  3. Locations: Number of participant geographic locations? Count the number of physically distinct (over two hours commute apart) locations in which the participants work.
  4. Multinational: Are multinational participants scheduled to participate? Are participants from overseas scheduled to participate?  Will sessions occur both domestically and internationally?  Does the system require the inclusion of international design and support?
  5. Prior Experience: Have the participant organizations ever worked on a project together before? Have these particular participant organizations worked together on a project before?  Have they participated in a common system development or process engineering?
  6. Business Change: Must the business organization change to meet the requirements of the project solution? The business organization requires what degree of change to implement the proposed solution?  Will the organization remain largely unchanged (minimal) or must functions, responsibilities, and personnel be realigned to meet the design of the process (major)?  This question refers to the final doer in the system.
  7. Project Knowledge: How knowledgeable is the business in the area of the project process? What degree of project sophistication does the business area possess?  Compared to similar efforts, is the business experience similar (very); does the business understand the key ideas and issues (knows concepts); or is the level of the project process new to the business?  This question refers to the people responsible for specifying the information—not necessarily the final doer.
  8. Business Knowledge: How knowledgeable are the business representatives in the business process? Do the business representatives have a good practical understanding of the business application (very); or is the understanding “academic” (knows concept); or at a lower level (limited)?  This question refers to the people responsible for specifying the information—not necessarily the final doer.
  9. Team Knowledge: How knowledgeable is the project team in the proposed solution? Similar to question 8 but asked about the project team.

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 a facilitative leader.

Questions about Political Factors that Impact the Amount of Meeting Risk (4 of 5)


This is the fourth of a five-part discussion, providing a method for evaluating the relative risk of a meeting or workshop.

Method

The method follows the steps below:

  • Review the risk assessment questions from prior worksheets or those that follow.
  • Use the FAST risk analysis worksheets to capture your answers and compute a score.
  • Use this score as a basis for the risk-skill matching described in the risk-skill map section.

QuestionsPolitical Factors

POLITICAL FACTORS

The political factors are an indicator of the political and personality climate surrounding the project.  These factors heavily influence the success of a facilitated approach.

1. Business Attitude: What is the attitude of the business? The general attitude of the business toward the system is: understands the FAST process and its value (good), does not fully understand the process and is somewhat reluctant (fair), has no appreciation for the process and is anti-project (poor).

2. Management: How committed is upper management to the project? This question concerns upper level business management’s support and backing for the project.  Adequate commitment defines those behaviors needed to maintain a non-hostile atmosphere toward the project.  If the attitude is not enthusiastic, investigate and resolve.

3. Controversy: What is the level of controversy surrounding potential specifications? How controversial is the potential solution for the project?  Are there multiple solutions with very strong support for each and little chance of compromise?  Is a potential solution going to cause a controversial reorganization?

4. Participant Level: What is the job level of the participants? Sessions become more politically charged the higher the job grade involved.  Specify the general job grade level of participant.

5. Cooperative Users: How cooperative are organizational groups with each other? If this includes various organizational units, are they cooperative or competitive?  To what degree do they talk to each other?  This question refers to the people responsible for specifying the information—not necessarily the final doer.

6. Flexibility: The participants have how much flexibility and judgment in the final decision? The participants exercise what degree of flexibility and judgment—very high (67% – 100%), average (34% – 66%), or very little (0% – 33%).

7. Processing Flexibility: The participants have how much flexibility and judgment in process design? This question is similar to question 6 above but pertains to the participant’s freedom in process and analysis

8. Design Flexibility: The participants have how much flexibility and judgment in detailed design? This question is similar to questions 6 and 7 previously but addresses the participant’s freedom in detailed design content.

9. Stability: How stable is the organization? This question is looking for the capacity to identify and coordinate players in the project without frequent changes.  This question refers to the people responsible for specifying the information—not necessarily the final doer.

  • If the organization changes very little and the key players will be in their position the entire duration of the project—answer very stable (0).
  • If periodic reorganizations happen that may replace some of the key players—answer periodic reorganizations (1).
  • If reorganizations happen every 6 months or less in either organization—answer frequent reorganizations (2).
  • If reorganizations happen frequently in both the business and data processing side due to changes in management, unstable organizations, or major shifts in the business—answer very unstable (3).

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 a facilitative leader.

Questions about Complexity Factors that Impact the Amount of Meeting Risk (3 of 5)


This is the third of a five-part discussion, providing a method for evaluating the relative risk of a meeting or workshop.

Method

The method follows the steps below:

  • Review the risk assessment questions from prior worksheets or those that follow.
  • Use the FAST risk analysis worksheets to capture your answers and compute a score.
  • Use this score as a basis for the risk-skill matching described in the risk-skill map section.

QuestionsComplexity Factors

COMPLEXITY

The complexity factors measure the existing structure of the business and the volatility of the requirements.  This measures how difficult it will be to understand and organize the requirements.

  1. Project Type: The project may best be described as? not applicable (ie, a planning session), replacement for an existing process, modification for an existing process, or a new process. Is the project a replacement or a new effort?  If it is a replacement, is the current process primarily automated or manual?  A new effort would indicate that the business process is new.
  2. Replacement Percentage: What percentage of existing functions can be replaced on a one-to-one basis? For replacement projects, what percentage of the existing functions needs no change to processing rules and process flows?
  3. Project Complexity: What is the project complexity? From an engineering perspective what is the degree of complexity of the project?  Is this technically less complex, about the same, or technically more complex than other projects?
  4. Changes: How severe are the procedural changes with the proposed project?  From a business processing perspective, what degree of change will the new project introduce to the overall conduct of business?  When viewed through the eyes of the person carrying it on, will the project dramatically change the way business works?  Will revised business procedures be required for workflow?
  5. First Time: Are the proposed methods or procedures first of kind for the project team? Has the project team used the proposed methods and procedures before?  For example, if using a new methodology and a new tool to support it, does the project team have experience with it?
  6. First for Business: Are the proposed methods or procedures first of kind for the business? This question is similar to question 5 above but from the business side.  Does the business have experience with the methodology?  This question refers to the people responsible for creating the request—not necessarily the person working with the workflow.
  7. Business Acceptance: Will the business readily accept the proposed methods and procedures for developing the requirements? Will the business resist the methods used to extract and present the information?  If so, answer “no” to the question.  This question refers to the people responsible for specifying the information—not necessarily the final doer.
  8. Team Acceptance: Will the project team readily accept the proposed methods and procedures for developing the requirements? Will the project team resist the methods and procedures for information gathering and presentation.  If so, answer “no”.
  9. New Technology: Is new or unfamiliar technology needed? Can the business (the final doer) easily make the switch to the new equipment required by the project, or will an extensive training and installation effort be required?
  10. Success Dependent: Is the project’s success dependent on new technology? Does performance of new technology play a key role in the success of the project?
  11. Structure:  What is the rating of predetermined structure for the new project? The predetermined structure rating is:
    1. high—requires little or no procedural changes at the doer level,
    2. medium—requires a moderate or average level of procedural change at the doer level,
    3. low—requires a high amount of procedural changes and doer education.
  12. Outside Purchase: Are purchased or outside sources being used? Is the project based on outside purchases?  If so, to what degree?  Purchased software may also include reusable functionality modified in-house.
  13. Vendor Support: How good is vendor support of the outside purchases? What is vendor’s track record concerning support in general and the specific purchase in particular?  What support is available for in-house modified technology or software?

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 a facilitative leader.

Questions about Size Factors that Impact the Amount of Meeting Risk (2 of 5)


This is the second of a five-part discussion, providing a method for evaluating the relative risk of a meeting or workshop.

Method

The method follows the steps below:

  • Review the risk assessment questions from prior worksheets or those that follow.
  • Use the FAST risk analysis worksheets to capture your answers and compute a score.
  • Use this score as a basis for the risk-skill matching described in the risk-skill map section.

QuestionsSize Factors

SIZE FACTORS

The size factors measure the overall project size of effort, scope, and number of workshops.  This is an important factor in determining risk due to the complexity of planning and coordinating large projects and the required resources.

Project Life Cycle

All questions in this size section refer to the entire life span of the project your meetings support—initiation through implementation.

  1. Work Hours: Total work hours (1,000s) for the project? This question refers to the estimated effort in thousands of work hours to develop the complete system.
  2. Duration: What is the project’s estimated duration? This is the elapsed (calendar) time to complete the project.
  3. Number Projects: Number of projects supporting the initiative or program? If a staged or prototype project, how many stages?
  4. Dependency: Is there another project on which this project is likely or totally dependent? This question focuses on the “weakest link” theory.  It asks if the implementation has one key project that must go right above all others for the initiative to be successful.  If yes, does intuitive feel for the situation say the risk associated with that project is high?
  5. Interfaces: How many existing “systems” will the new solution interface? Count the number of existing, distinctly different, systems that will provide or receive information to or from the new solution.
  6. Workshop Quantity: Estimated number of workshops required for the project? Count the estimated number of different FAST workshops required to complete the project.
  7. Different Types: How many different types of workshops are required? Count the number of different types of workshop agendas required.  If the project requires six workshops all using the same approach, count only 1 (one).  If the project requires multiple approaches and different types of workshops, count as appropriate.
  8. Beginning Phase: In which phase are the workshops starting? Identify the beginning phase of the project.

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 a facilitative leader.

Primary Types of Meetings and the Boundaries to Closely Manage


There are three primary types of business meetings: information sharing, instructional or directional task-related meetings, and facilitated or developed task-related meetings.

Information Sharing

Information Sharing

Information sharing meetings involve mostly one-way communication with information presented from the speaker to the group.  This type of meeting includes the symposium, instructional groups, staff meetings, and other presentations that attempt to communicate essential information to a group.  Interaction from participants to the meeting leader is normally limited to questions and comments.

Task-Related

Task-related meetings use the knowledge and experience of group members to accomplish a work task, such as problem-solving, decision-making, fact-finding, planning, etc.  These meetings are highly interactive, and involve two-way communication between all participants.  Task-related meetings also tend to fall apart more quickly with poor meeting management.  The two variations include:

  1. Directed—the leader runs the meeting and controls the agenda.  These are the most common types of meetings.
  2. Facilitated—an impartial facilitator runs the meeting and controls the agenda and technique.  These are the least common, but are growing in use, as they are the most effective for decision-making and building consensus.

The Model Meeting

To effectively manage a meeting, a meeting leader must pay attention to the dynamics of the group.  Having a model to work from helps the leader understand the group’s behavior to keep meeting dynamics in balance.  This enables the leader to sort problems from non-problems and respond appropriately.

Why a Model?

Looking back on the list of the 14 most frequently mentioned problems in meetings (see “Some of the Challenges and Costs Associated with Hosting Meetings”), we can attribute all of them to one primary cause; a lack of structure.  If this sounds like an oversimplification, it is, but only partially.  You may be asking yourself, “If structure has been the only problem with meetings, why are meetings in corporate America a waste of money?”  That is the effect of meeting dementia.  Take a closer look at the components of the model meeting.

Meeting Boundaries

Meeting boundaries provide the limits or scope, which separate the meeting and its components from the external environment.  Clear and unbroken boundaries are essential to good meeting management.  It is the meeting leader’s responsibility to keep the boundaries from being violated (broken) resulting in a breakdown in structure.  There are two types of meeting boundaries:

  • Time boundaries
  • Physical boundaries

Time Boundaries

Time boundaries govern the start time and stop time of the overall meeting, as well as the length of the meeting.  Meetings starting late seem to be an accepted norm.  All meetings should start at their scheduled time and not exceed the stop time.

Barring a major catastrophe, every meeting must start precisely on time.  Meetings that start late are in trouble right from the start.  This sends a message to the participant that degrades the perceived importance of the meeting.  The meeting is taken less seriously, and sets the stage for additional boundary violations.

If the meeting begins late because the leader is not ready, he or she loses credibility that is hard to recover.  Meetings that start late because the leader is waiting for latecomers are just as bad.  This communicates positive reinforcement to the latecomers, while negatively reinforcing those that came on time.

Running overtime must be avoided at all costs.  In cases where the discussion is crucial, continue only after obtaining consensus from the group.  Otherwise, summarize and reschedule another meeting to conclude the discussion.

How many meetings should have ended long ago?  Meeting length should never exceed 45 to 50 minutes unless it is a facilitated workshop.  By setting up your meetings for 45 or 50-minute increments, you are providing a courtesy to the participants, affording them time to refresh between meetings.

Meetings more than one hour long take too much energy and have an opportunity to drag.  Workshops, properly facilitated, can last for a number of days, but the reason for the extended length generates a deliverable.  Standard meetings taking longer than one hour should be broken into multiple sessions of an hour or less.

Physical Boundaries

Physical boundaries are those, which physically separate the meeting space from the rest of the outside world.  It is an accepted fact that the physical environment has an impact on the psychological environment.  Studies show that a formal atmosphere inhibits the mood for both groups and individuals.  The best meeting results occur when people feel comfortable and informality is balanced with focus on the work-task.  Psychologists refer to this as a state of “relaxed concentration”.  It is the meeting leader’s responsibility to see that proper physical boundaries are established and maintained.

Until next week, continue to fortify your skill set with tools and improvement suggestions available in many of our prior postings.

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)

 

Some of the Challenges and Costs Associated with Hosting Meetings


 

Meetings are frequently a fix for poor leadership. Most would rather go to a movie than sit in a two-hour meeting. Even poor movies have a beginning, middle, and end.

Meetings are very expensive. Today’s business world is asymmetric, and holding meetings to share information is a poor use of precious resources. Information updates are better conducted through dashboard devices than staff meetings.

Meeting Challenges

The best reason to pull people together is to build something that we cannot do apart, to arrive at consensus, to decide on something. For most session leaders (aka facilitators), weekly meetings are best replaced by full day(s) workshops. We focus on improving facilitation because we know the use of facilitators greatly improves meetings.

Role of Meetings

We live in a meeting society. Along with billions of people, our world also contains more than 200 nation-states, 4 million local communities, 20 million economic organizations, 200 million extended families, and hundreds of millions of other formal and informal groups. In order for groups to exist, individuals that make up these groups must meet and interact.

Current Trends

The increased growth in the number and length of meetings is due to the accelerated rate of change that now rules today’s business environment. The rapid and constant change in technology, particularly information technology and business process management, has dramatically increased the volatility of the global market place. As technology takes over more routine functions, and allows faster access to data, managerial skills shift, calling for increased communications clarity and small group skills.

Flatter Structures

Another trend emerging as a result of an accelerated environment is the growth of more efficient and flatter organization structures. These organizations have fewer management layers and, therefore fewer levels of decision-making. Flatter structures result in more group decision-making by specialists from disparate areas within the organization. Consequently, the ability to effectively communicate ideas in meetings has taken on increased importance.

Participative 
Management

A byproduct from replacing hierarchy with holarchy is an increasing emphasis on participative employee ownership. This movement is based on the premise that:

  • The quality of decisions are improved if all employee expertise is considered, and
  • The act of employee participation leads to better acceptance of the decisions.

50 Percent Productive

Studies have estimated that meetings are at most 50 percent productive. Thus the typical manager wastes approximately 240 hours per year (about 30 days) at a cost to the average Fortune 500 Company of greater than one billion USD per year. By using proper meeting management, a company could recover 25 to 35 percent of these costs, or hundreds of millions per year.

Intangible Costs

The intangible costs associated with poor meeting management are overlooked at all levels of management. Meetings serve as opportunities for senior management to appraise and search out potential leaders within an organization. As lower level managers take on more responsibilities, they spend more of their time in meetings with executives at higher levels. Their success as executives is tied to their ability to make the most out of meetings.

Psychological Costs

Participating in a poorly run meeting is frustrating, resulting in apathy, resentment, and a lack of commitment toward the meeting’s outcome. This attitude carries over to the workplace, in many cases, subverting good ideas that come from the meetings.

Meeting Dementia

Poorly run meetings have been around so long and are so prevalent that people and organizations have developed what can be called “meeting dementia.” This is the view that poorly run and unproductive meetings are the norm, and that’s just the way it is. This viewpoint seems to have been inherited by observing others who have lead poorly run meetings, who in turn learned from others making the same mistakes, and so on.

The Problems

The major problems with meetings, surprisingly, don’t have to do with personalities or the inability of group members to get along with one another. The problems are typically task-related—ie, people do not know the mechanics of HOW TO lead effective meetings.   The following list highlights 14 of the most frequently mentioned problems by over 1,000 managers:

  1. Getting off subject
  2. No goals or agenda
  3. Too long
  4. Poor preparation
  5. Inconclusive
  6. Disorganized
  7. Ineffective leader/ lack of control
  8. Irrelevant information discussed
  9. Time wasted
  10. Started late
  11. Ineffective for making decisions
  12. Interruptions (inside and out)
  13. Dominators
  14. Rambling discussion

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)

 

4 Considerations Providing & Participating in Effective Training


Training activities enhance knowledge base and also offer employees a reason not to leave an organization. Professional development remains a highly effective retention method.

Unfortunately, when organizations make budget cuts, training and education frequently suffer first. While intended to help control costs, less knowledgeable employees will not be able to maintain competitive advantage, and innovation suffers as well. Wise budgeting increases employee knowledge and retention, even when budgets are tight. Consider the following:

  1. Seek knowledge not degrees. An MBA provides general management knowledge, but not the specific knowledge required for immediate implementation. Topic focused training such as HOW TO LEAD BETTER MEETINGS, provides a quicker return on investment, and can be applied within days of completing the curriculum.
  2. Live classes may be better. Despite the tendency toward e learning, there is not substitute for quality interaction with expert instructors. If you hire from outside, you can call upon training as you need it, and not be required to support full-time staff around each and every business topic.

    Effective Training

  3. Provide feedback. Mentoring is known to have tremendous impact within organizations so ensure that employees get the feedback they need to take the training they need most. Strive for impact, powerful and immediate. Each and every person has opportunities to leverage strengths and shore-up weaknesses. They don’t always prioritize them correctly however. Depend on a mentor or an outsider  (eg, coach) who can provide honest, neutral feedback.
  4. Make it easy. If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right. Consider hosting private classes that pull together teams and help develop esprit de corps (ie, teamwork) in addition to individual learning. Alternatively, invest in a fast-track employees future and permit them to travel for the training, reducing the headaches of office demands while in training.

Effective training provides physical, emotional, and intellectual relief. When budgets are tight and work demands per employee increase, do not forget the importance of your people, their needs, and the opportunity for win-win by providing effective training.

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 Interview Meeting Participants


FAST alumni know that the single most important ingredient to meeting and workshop success is thorough preparation. There is no “silver bullet” to save a session leader who is ill prepared. The most important activity while preparing for a meeting is to know where you are going—ie, ‘What is the deliverable?’ The next most important activity is interviewing the participants to begin managing their expectations and need to arrive ready to contribute and be productive.

Interview Method

Interview participants to understand as much as possible about them, the people they work with, and their business. Speak with all the participants, preferably one-on-one for about 30 minutes each. Speak with each face-to-face, or at least by way of a teleconference.

Interview Sequence

Interviewing Meeting Participants

First meet the executive sponsor, the business partners, the project team, and then the participants. Keep your interviews around twenty to thirty minutes each. Conduct the interviews privately and assure participants that their responses will be kept CONFIDENTIAL.

Interview Objectives  

Interview the participants to advance understanding:

  • To become familiar with their job, their business, and their expectations
  • To confirm who should, or should not, attend and why
  • To help them show up better prepared to contribute
  • To identify potential issues, hidden agendas, and other obstacles
  • To identify scheduling conflicts and other concerns
  • To transfer ownership of the meeting purpose, scope, and deliverables

 Interviewing Questions

The following are well-sequenced questions that you should ask. Begin each interview explaining your role and the purpose of the interview. Ask for permission to take notes. Use open-ended questions, sit back, and listen to the person—discover their value and value add to the initiative you are supporting.

  • “What do you expect from the session?”
  • “What will make the workshop a complete failure?”
  • “What should the output look like?”
  • “What problems do you foresee?”
  • “Who should attend the workshop? Who should not? Why?”
  • “What is going to be my biggest obstacle?”
  • “How does the deliverable and agenda make sense to you?”
  • “What should I have asked that I didn’t ask?”

Interviewing Focus

The precision and sequence of the questions is important. They are all open-ended. They help manage “right-to-left” thinking; ie, ‘expect’ and ‘output.’ Next they focus on the hidden politics; ie, ‘failure,’ ‘problems,’ and ‘obstacles.’ They end with a strong, closing question that emphasizes the humility of the roles of facilitator.

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).

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