December 8, 2011 23 Comments
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- How To Create and Sustain a Participatory Environment (facilitativeleadership.wordpress.com)
- How to Manage Content Presentations for Consensual Understanding (facilitativeleadership.wordpress.com)
- How To Manage Group Conflict (facilitativeleadership.wordpress.com)
- How to Facilitate Simple Prioritization (facilitativeleadership.wordpress.com)
- How to Facilitate Alignment (facilitativeleadership.wordpress.com)
- Responsibility Matrix, Agenda Design, and Parking Lot Management (facilitativeleadership.wordpress.com)
- How to Facilitate Brainstorming (facilitativeleadership.wordpress.com)
- How to Facilitate Business Process Improvement: A Proven Approach Using Teams (facilitativeleadership.wordpress.com)