Meeting Participation Tips (Part 1 of 3—The Beginning)


Great meetings include certain, repeatable characteristics.  A high level of participation frequently indicates the opportunity for a great meeting.  What encourages participation?

We share select characteristics with you through the sequence they would occur in a well-conducted meeting; namely the beginning, the middle, and the end.  The following is not meant to be exhaustive, as supporting detail is found in other blogs.  However, we find the following to rank among the most important items for inciting high levels of meeting participation and collaboration.

 Beginning (aka Preparation) Phase

Meeting results and ownership need to be transferred to the participants from the very beginning.  Optimally, meting participants should review the purpose, scope, and objectives (ie, deliverables) before the meeting begins.  They need to verify that they understand and find them acceptable, or have an opportunity to provide their input to changes something before the meeting begins.  They should also review the method and tools that will be used to ensure that they find the approach sound.  Remember, they will be held responsible for the outcome.

Meeting Participation (Preparation)

A glossary or lexicon should be included in the pre-read or handout so that individuals can refer back to the operational definitions of terms as challenges arise.  People within groups frequently find themselves in violent agreement with each other, and it’s imperative that all the participants agree on what is meant by the terms being used in the purpose, scope, and objectives.  Typically, the glossary should be maintained by the project team, project management office, program office, or strategic center of excellence.  Teams do not normally have time to argue about the difference between a vendor and a contractor or a bill and an invoice.   Unless the definitions are part of the deliverable, they should be determined in advance.

When meetings or workshops are held to support projects, it’s invaluable for participants to know and understand the purpose and objectives of the project, the reason the project was approved (ie, program goals), and the goals and objectives of the mandating organization (ie, the strategic plan of the business unit and/ or enterprise).  Ultimately, all arguments should be resolved by which position best supports reaching the enterprise objectives. Optimally, the meeting room should have large, visible copies of enterprise mission, values, and vision.  Handout material should include the more detailed goals (ie, fuzzy and directional) objectives (ie, specific and SMART).

Biographic sketches of other meeting members can inspire empathy and understanding. With virtual meetings, be certain to include photographs that show the face behind the voice.  If you provide supplemental reading material, strive to customize a cover letter for each participant highlighting the pages or sections upon which they should focus, rather than suggesting they give their entire and equal attention to everything in the handout. Prompt each subject matter expert in advance with the questions that will be raised during the meeting most pertinent to them or their role.  Ask them to focus on those questions since you will turn to them for the first response when the question is raised.

Ultimately the session leader (aka facilitator) is responsible for tying together the relevancy of the issues mentioned above, known as managing the context.  The session leader needs to emphasize the importance of the meeting output to the organization, hopefully expressed in terms of how many financial assets or labor hours (eg, FTE) are at risk if the meting fails.

If the session leader and the participants show up prepared, chances of success are highly amplified. The term ‘facilitate’ means to ‘make easy’ and if you embrace the suggestions above and in the next two blogs, you will see meeting participation substantially increase.  More importantly, you will have properly begun transfer of ownership and responsibility from the solo session leader to the group or team, as it should be.

 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).

SMART Versus DUMB Criteria


Purpose

The intent here is to illustrate the difference between clear, or SMART (Specific, Measurable, Adjustable, Relevant, and Time-based) definitions and criteria contrasted with unclear or DUMB (ie, Dull, Ubiquitous, Myopic, and Broad) definitions and criteria.

An Unclear Business Definition
(Example of DUMB Customer ID)

“The ID of the customer”

A Clear Business Definition
(Example of SMART Customer ID)

“A twelve character code that uniquely identifies a customer for our business.  The code will be displayed on all customer shipments and invoices.  Customers and customer service representatives use this code to resolve shipping or invoicing issues.  Finance uses this code to track customer sales performance.  Marketing uses this code for determining customer segment and group performance.  Sales uses this code to identify products purchases by customer.”

The code consists of the following:

  • Character One—either the letter “I” for customers internal to the company or the letter “E” for customers external to the company
  • Character Two—either the letter “U” for United States customers or the the letter “M” for multi-national customers without corporate headquarters in the United States
  • Characters Three and Four—two letter state code for the United States, Canada, and Mexico or two letter country code for other countries
  • Characters Five through Ten—system-generated numeric ID that is to unique to each customer
  • Characters Eleven and Twelve—system generated numeric ID that is unique to each customer distribution center

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 Converge Your Brainstorming Input—Key Measure (continued)


Brainstorming‘s third activity, frequently called ‘convergence’, may take the form of decision criteria. Criteria can take different forms, as shown below.

Purpose

Here we define how an organization will measure its progress as it reaches toward its future vision.

Defined—key, measures, objectives, goals, and considerations:

  • A key is something of paramount or crucial importance.
  • A measure is a standard unit used to express the size, amount, or degree of something.
  • An objective is a desired position reached or achieved by some activity by a specific time. Objectives provide measurable performance [ ≣ ].
  • A goal is a directional statement that may remain fuzzy or subjectively measurable [ ☁ ].
  • A consideration is an important management issue, constraint, or concern that will affect reaching the objectives
    [ ✓ ].

Rationale

Key measures must support measurements toward the vision of the organization. They enable a group to better shape and define the most appropriate strategies, activities, or tactics (ie, WHAT to do to reach the vision). In the Six Sigma arena, objectives are frequently referred to as CTQ, or Critical to Quality measurements.

Expected Output

Clearly and properly defined objectives result from this step, along with a list of goals and other considerations.

  • CTQ would substitute the following questions for the SMART test:
  1. Is it specifically stated with upper and lower specification limits?
  2. Is it directional so that we can objectively determine whether it is increasing, decreasing, or staying the same?
  3. To what extent is it linked to specific customer needs connected to the objectives of the project?

Method

Use ideation to develop candidate key measures: Describe the rules of ideation in Brainstorming. Define the terms (generally—methods of determining progress). List all candidate measures, perhaps stimulated by voice of the customer or customer types, and focus on items that overlap. When the group exhausts the list, review each candidate and separate into potential categories by coding them as shown. objectives [ ≣ ], goals [ ☁ ], and considerations [ ✓ ] Review potential objectives [ ≣ ] and make them SMART. Do not show the SMART definition however until after you have captured the raw/ draft input. Consider using homogenous break-out groups to convert raw input into final form, SMART objectives (ie, Specific, Measurable, Adjustable [and challenging], Relevant [and achievable], and Time-based). Separately list and fully define the remaining goals and other important considerations.

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 MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

How to Facilitate an After Action Review


Purpose

Here is a workshop approach for reviewing a project, program, or initiative.  While given various names, we will refer to this workshop as the After Action Review.  It provides a group reflection by those involved to learn what happened so that we can improve future performance.

The After Action Review has also been referred to with titles such as After-Action Debriefing, a Look Back, a Post Mortem, or a Hot Wash, among others.  The After Action Review ought provide a candid discussion of actual performance results compared to objectives.

The input and perspectives required are the engagement participants who have insight, observation, or questions that will help identify and correct the deficiencies, or leverage the strengths, of the completed project.  An After Action Review is not intended to critique, grade success, or failure.  Rather, it is intended to identify weaknesses that need improvement and strengths that might be sustained.

In a learning culture, collaborative inquiry and reflection are highly valued.  The US Armed Forces approach has five basic guidelines that govern its After Action Reviews, namely:

  1. No sugar coating
  2. Discover the “ground truth”
  3. No thick skins
  4. Take notes
  5. Call it like you see it

With an After Action Review, being open, candid, and frank is highly valued.  Not many groups are capable of complete candor, but it should be encouraged and expected.  Participants are asked to identify mistakes they made as well as observations about others.  Any other use of the confidential discussions should be discouraged or prohibited, such as performance evaluations.  Focus  on what can be learned, not who can be blamed.

This workshop typical takes from one to five days.  It may include twenty to thirty people or more, but not necessarily everyone at once, with participation spread out over the course of the workshop.

Agenda/  Project or Major Activity

Introduction/  Standard introduction with emphasis on the project objectives and impact of the project on the organizational holarchy, including key assumptions or constraints.

Success Objectives/  Results are compared to the SMART objectives.  What worked and hampered are captured as input for later discussion.  Other questions are asked about why certain actions were taken, how stakeholders reacted, why adjustments were made (or not), what assumptions developed, and other questions as appropriate.

Goals and Considerations/  Results are compared to the fuzzy goals and other considerations.  What worked and hampered are captured as input for later discussion.  Questions are asked about why certain actions were taken, how stakeholders reacted, why adjustments were made (or not), what assumptions developed, and other questions as appropriate.

What Worked & Hampered/  Input from above stimulates discussion about options and conditions to be leveraged in subsequent projects.

Issues and Risks/  Assess or build risk management plan and other next steps or actions (eg, Guardian of Change) by the team.

Wrap-up/  Standard FAST review and wrap-up

This workshop can handle more than twenty people, with frequent use of break out groups.  Do not hesitate to partition the workshop so that participants may come and go as required.  The approach is intended to help shift the culture from one where blame is ascribed to one where learning is prized, yet team members are willingly accountable.

Some ground rules and guidelines that have proven successful in past include:

  • Focus on the objectives first
  • Do not judge success or failure of individuals (ie; judge performance, not the person)
  • Encourage participants to raise any and all potentially important issues and lessons
  • Conduct consistently after all significant projects, programs, and initiatives

For learning organizations, it has been suggested that the following are critical to understanding successful After Action Reviews, namely:

  • Some of the most valuable learning has developed from the most stressful situations
  • Use facilitators who understand the importance of neutrality and do not lecture or preach
  • Transform subjective comments and observations into objective learning by converting adjectives such as “quick” into SMART criteria (ie, Specific, Measurable, Adjustable, Relevant, and Time-Based) such as “less than 30 seconds.”

Effective use of After Action Reviews should support a mindset in  organizations that are never satisfied with the status quo—where candid, honest, and open discussion evidences learning as part of the organizational culture.

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 Plan Appropriate Group Processes


The role of session leader (aka facilitator) is frequently filled by the same person who also provides the role of methodologist.  Since there is usually more than one right answer (or methodology, that leads to the deliverable), how do you determine the optimal approach? As you may know from your FAST training, a robust decision-making method suggests creating your options and then to separately evaluate them against a set of prioritized criteria; including SMART criteria, fuzzy criteria, and other important considerations.

Additionally the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) encourages you to “select clear methods and processes that

  • Foster open participation with respect for client culture, norms and participant diversity
  • Engage the participation of those with varied learning / thinking styles
  • Achieve a high quality product / outcome that meets the client needs”

You can support the plurality concept of the IAF’s first point by carefully selecting and blending your meeting participants.  Keep in mind the type of change effort you are leading.  If your deliverable contributes evolutionary advances to the project cause, you may want to get done quickly, with people who know each other and work together effectively.  If your deliverable contributes toward revolutionary advances, then invigorate your blend of meeting or workshop participants.  Remember, if you want the same old answer, then clone yourself.  If you need something truly innovative, then invite people who may be viewed as outsiders or confederates, and depend on them to help stir things up.  We know empirically that more options typically yields higher quality decisions.

Support their engagement and participation (second bullet above) with the frequent and extended use of break out teams and sessions.  Groups get more done as their sizes are reduced.  Break out teams give quiet people permission to speak freely.  Provide creative team names (eg, stellar constellations or mountain names) and appoint a CEO for each team (ie, chief easel operator).  Be well prepared with your supplies and handouts.

Manage teams closely by wandering around and listening.  Keep the teams focused on the question(s) as you would with a larger group, preventing scope creep that yields unproductive time.  When you pull the teams back together, use FAST’s Book-end tool to aggregate and collapse the perspectives into one, unified response.

Next the International Association of Facilitators encourages you to “prepare time and space to support group process

  • Arrange physical space to support the purpose of the meeting
  • Plan effective use of time
  • Provide effective atmosphere and drama for sessions”

When confined to one room, typically arrange easels in different corners.  With virtual meetings, convert local call-in centers (eg, a group conferencing in from another city) into discrete sub teams.  If possible, plan on separate rooms for break-out sessions, pre supplied with easels, markers, handouts, etc.

Minimize the allotted time.  It’s shocking what teams can complete in three minutes with clear instructions. Even with a three-minute assignment, by the time you have appointed CEOs, instructions, and participants have assembled and then returned; a three-minute assignment quickly turns into five minutes, five minutes turns into ten, etc.  Again, minimize the allotted time, but be flexible and afford more time if the teams remain productive and need more time that adds value.

The more you do in advance to prepare your instructions and the physical space, the more you can expect back in return.  If you are blasé and assign teams numbers, and randomly assign participants 1,2, 3, etc.—then expect blasé results.  If you are creative and involved, you can expect the same type of behavior from your participants.

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.

Facilitative Tools That Help Build Team Charters and Project Plans


Valuable time can be realized for the benefit of each project lead by facilitating them to build the activities and details required to reach their project objectives.  For consensual ownership, modern leaders facilitate the development of their team charters, including work breakdown structure (WBS).  The facilitative Tools that you can use are listed below in italics.

Team Charter

Facilitative tools to generate the step-by-step deliverables (Tools shown in italics):

  1. Business case or purpose: Purpose Is To . . . So That
  2. Project scope or boundaries: Is Not/ Is  (alternatively—Context Diagram)
  3. Triple Constraints: Flexibility Matrix
  4. Success criteria: SMART Criteria/ Categorizing with Common Purpose
  5. Opportunity assessment: Situation Analysis (proprietary and quantitative SWOT)
  6. Project plan activities (high-level): Roles and Responsibilities (eg, RASI)
  7. Team selection: Interviewing Controls/ Managing Expectations

Project Plan

Projects Intended For Results

The work breakdown structure and project controls surrounding it, include facilitative approaches that support consensually agreed upon work breakdown:

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

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

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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

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

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