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.


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


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.

How to Build Stakeholder Analysis and Galvanize Consensual Understanding

Define Organizational Stakeholders

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

Process Stakeholders

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

Step One – Identify inputs

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

Step Two – Identify outputs

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

Step Three – Identify stakeholders

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

Group Stakeholders

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

Acknowledge Stakeholder Interests

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

Define Stakeholder Strategy Plan

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

The plan identifies

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

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

Stakeholder Strategy Plan Answers . . .

Stakeholder Name:_____________________________

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

Develop a Communications Action Plan

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

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

Determine Stakeholder Risks

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


Mitigate Behavior

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


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

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.

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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.

Meeting and Workshop Risk Assessment


FAST meeting and workshop risk assessment derives from answering a series of questions about a project, its stakeholders, and meeting participants. Using historical data, calculating the area or areas of greatest risk, our meeting risk assessment method is based on project risk assessment work completed by F. Warren McFarlan and James McKenney of Harvard Business School.

Risk should be assessed for every major meeting or workshop using FAST or other interactive meeting design techniques.  The assessment should be performed as part of the facilitator’s preparation activity.

What is Risk?

Risk is typically assessed for projects at three levels:

Business — Project — Technique

Business risk is defined as the potential exposure to the business if the project is not completed or not completed on time.  Project risk is defined as the likelihood of a given project failing or grossly exceeding its estimates.  Technique risk is defined as the potential for failure or major problems using a specific technique or tool in a given situation.

Our FAST Risk Assessment tool provides a method of quantifying meeting and workshop risk.  FAST Risk Assessment evaluates the potential meeting or workshop risks of four components when conducting either planning, analysis, or design sessions:

Size — PoliticsComplexityDiversity

The Factors

Size is an indication of the overall project size measured by effort, scope, and quantity of meetings and workshops.  Size affects planning and coordinating the required information needed to support the project.  Questions include those covering work hours, duration, quantity of sessions, quantity of different types of sessions (ie, how many different agendas are required), and whether you are located at high-level planning or detailed design in your life-cycle.  The larger the project, the greater potential risk when holding group meetings or sessions.  You need to know that size can be a significant driver of risk and thus structure your sessions appropriately (such as assigning a more experienced session leader or a team of session leaders).

Complexity is an indication of the existing structure of the business and the volatility of the information required to support the deliverable.  Complexity measures how difficult it will be to specify, understand, and organize the information exchange.  Questions include those about the newness of the topic, whether the initiative is a replacement or new (ie, evergreen), engineering or process complexity, the extent of changes required for both internal and external customers, environmental changes required, and acceptance of the methods.  The more complex an existing system is or the newer a business is, the more difficult it is to specify its requirements.  Complexity and newness often generate incomplete or vague requirements.  Adjustments may include developing more thorough agendas or using prototyping for some of the requirements gathering.

Politics is an indication of the political and personality climate surrounding a project.  Highly political groups tend to cloud the issues at hand and make sessions more difficult.  Questions in this area include rating of the attitudes of customers (internal or external), management, and participants; commitment of upper management; level of controversy; past cooperation between customers and staff; amount of flexibility allowed the participants; and stability of the organizations involved.  Highly political organizations or unstable organizations (ie, numerous reorganizations) can make gathering requirements difficult (cutting through the controversies) or short-lived (the participants won’t assume ownership when finished).  This type of risk can often best be handled using FAST—but requires a politically savvy session leader and extensive planning in gaining management commitment and proper resources.

Diversity is an indicator of the nature and familiarity of the customer’s organization.  This factor looks at the participants ability to cooperate with each other and the logistics involved in coordinating everyone.  Questions include those about the quantity of departments participating, quantity of participants, the location of participants (geographical, domestic, and international), their prior experience working together (if any), and the application knowledge of both the participants and project team.  If an organization is cooperative and has few political axes to grind, yet is located around the country and the world, it will be extremely difficult preparing for the sessions as well as scheduling everyone for the workshops.  It becomes expensive to bring people from many locations to one location—especially if the estimated workshop duration is incorrect.  This type of risk calls for a more experienced session leader who has experience with logistics and workshop duration estimating.


Of the four areas, Size and Politics provide the most concern followed by Complexity then DiversityFAST Risk Assessment is not meant to discourage the use of workshops, rather to provide information for applied understanding of your precious resources.  Neither avoiding use of workshops nor ignoring the potential risks involved is the answer.  You should begin evaluating risk and assigning session leaders accordingly.  MG Rush Performance Learning provides a quantitative tool for evaluating meeting or workshop risk.  We developed it in conjunction with Dr. Howard Rubin (developer of ESTIMACS).  Please see your FAST alumni resources for an updated spread sheet that substantially speeds up your calculations and risk estimates.

Remember friends, nobody is smarter than everybody. For detailed support, see your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MGRush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

How to Design a Meeting Agenda that Helps Create the Output (Deliverable) You Need


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

Agenda Design Steps

Agenda Defined

An agenda is a series of steps that structure a group discussion during a meeting or workshop.  The FAST technique’s pre-built or cookbook agendas provide solid versions of known and proven information gathering, sharing, and decision-making methods. The modifications you apply to basic agendas will enable:

  1. A facilitator (ie, the session leader) to lead the discussion, with . . .
  2. Subject matter experts (who are experts about content but NOT experts about context or  meeting technique), who build understanding . . .
  3. That extracts required information (ie, the meeting output or deliverable including for example, decision-making or prioritization), thus
  4. Enabling other stakeholders (ie, project team) to use the information and decisions to support and further advance project objectives and organizational goals.

Methodological steps to create a new meeting or workshop agenda are:

  1. Identify the purpose, scope, and deliverables of the meeting—what are you building and what level of detail is required?
  2. Codify the deliverables—what is the specific content for the output of the workshop, what is the optimal sequence for gathering it, and who will use it after the meeting is complete?
  3. Identify known information—what is already known about the project, problem, or scope?
  4. Draft your likely steps—compose a series of steps from experience or analytical methods that would be used by other experts to make this decision, solve this problem, or develop the required information and consensual view.
  5. Review steps for logical flow—walk through the steps to confirm they will produce the desired results.
  6. Identify likely meeting participants—determine the most likely participants and identify their level of understanding about the business issues and the method you have drafted for them to develop the information during the the agenda steps.
  7. Identify any agenda steps that the participants cannot complete—modify or eliminate the steps that your specific participants may not understand, will not value, or are inappropriate for their level of experience.
  8. Identify what information is needed to fill the gaps from step number seven above, and determine how to get this additional information (eg, off-line)—what information or analysis is required to substitute for the missing information identified in step number seven above, that your meeting participants cannot complete?
  9. Detail the final agenda steps to capture required information for the open issues—build the appropriate activities to produce the information without making the participants perform unnecessary activities (eg, do NOT do team building if they already function together properly).
  10. Review—confirm steps number one and two above and then carefully review the detailed activities to confirm that they satisfy the purpose and provide the needed information without over challenging or intimidating your participants.
  11. Perform a walk-through, including documentation format or templates, with other business experts, executive sponsor, and project team members.
  12. Refine—make any changes identified in the walk-through and begin to build out your annotated agenda as suggested by the FAST technique.

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

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