Archive for the ‘Facilitation delivery’ Category

Facilitator style: a triumph of substance over fashion

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Your preparation (emotional, physical and intellectual), presentation, discipline and way of relating to the group will affect the overall outcome.


This is the fifth article on STEPS (space, time, eventfulness, product & style).  It looks specifically at style as part of session design and staging.

As a facilitator, your task is to guide a group through a process.  In essence, you are the navigator for their collective journey.

Here are some aspects of style I consider when preparing, designing and running meetings, workshops and conversations. (more…)

Critical, crucial, difficult conversations

Friday, August 15th, 2014

These intimidating conversations are characterised by high stakes, opposing opinions and strong emotions.

Talking about things when they’ve gone all pear-shaped

Not long ago, I came across some sites about critical or crucial conversations.  These terms are used interchangeably. The book (which came first) is also a best seller, with many good reviews on Amazon. The more I read, the more I could “translate” from the authors’ content to my own. The points below are from the first link, with the Technology of Participation framework following.

Begin with facts, not accusations: Using descriptive and not prescriptive language, what are the data points behind the emotions and/or conflict?

being-comprehensive-drawingWhat do we know, objectively? Asking this creates divergence. It expands our base of information and awareness.  It helps us be comprehensive.  It brings a sense of multiple views.  Recognising this is the starting point of transformation.

Acknowledge the difference in experiences: Using “I” statements describe how the behaviour was experienced as conflictual or emotive? (more…)

Product, by-product or non-event?

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Attention to producing a tangible outcome (practical result) strengthens the group’s sense of accomplishment and commitment to action.


This is the fourth article on STEPS (space, time, eventfulness, product & style).  It looks specifically at product as part of session design and staging.

Product examples include: • decisions • plans • documents • sculpture • charts • images • models • poems • songs • collages • life-sized layouts of re-designed gardens or other parts of the environment.


Pacing the group for the long (or short) haul

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Sensitive attention to the human dimension of group interaction leads to greater enthusiasm within a group and commitment to the results.  It is about caring for the mood of the group. That is: planning for, and enabling, the most helpful vibe during different stages of a session.


This is the third article on STEPS.  It looks specifically at eventfulness as part of session design and staging.

Working in a group is like a stream as it flows from the mountains to the sea.  Sometimes it’s fast, sometimes it’s slow. There can be quiet pools, and also big boulders.  It all depends on the terrain (the needs of the group and the situation) the stream goes goes through. (more…)

Planning and having the time of your life…

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

kneebone-steps-timePrudent scheduling and disciplined time management set the tone and establish the importance of the session.  This respects the time and effort being committed by participants.

Here are some things I consider in when designing and running meetings or workshops for my clients:


Work out the date/s to suit the needs of participants. Clearly this will vary widely according to your organisational and social context.  Constraints here include:

  • Workloads (always difficult for people who are really busy, or whose diaries are at the mercy of other players)
  • Season (eg: planting, harvest, sports)
  • Special events (eg: public and/or religious holidays, elections)


A place to call your own

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Space has many aspects, from the pragmatic to the profound. In this case, it’s about choosing and/or setting up a place that respects the time, effort and experience of the participants as well as the needs of the event.

This is about making the most of your meeting space to help deliver good results.  As such, it must help people focus on the task at hand.


Image credit: Simon Kneebone & ICA Australia

STEPS (which I have mentioned elsewhere) involves considering space, time, eventfulness, product and style as part of session design and staging.


So tell me, what is the real situation?

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

I’ve often been asked (in both working and training sessions) what do you do when…  I always say there are two answers – the short one is…

Well, it depends…

Ross Gittens wrote an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about the importance of context.  The meaning and importance we give experiences is hugely influenced by the context in which they occur.  Gittens borrows the widely used (eg: media studies, sociology, psychology and economics) concept of framing for this.


A picture frame focusses attention on the picture inside, and sets it apart from its surroundings.  It shapes how we look at the picture.  In addition, framing is a kind of mental shortcut.  Human beings are good at this – frames provide people a quick and easy way to process information.  So, frames can become a mental “filter” to help make sense of incoming messages.


Maximising Meeting (and Workshop) Outcomes

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Some time ago I was talking to a group of project managers about how to get the most out of their meetings and workshops.  The further we went, the clearer it got that my lovingly crafted presentation wasn’t doing it for some of them.

But aren’t meetings and workshops really the same when it’s all boiled down?

Well, the short answer is – it depends.  Here’s the longer answer:

  • In my experience, effective meetings and workshops are both underpinned by the same framework of preparation, design and implementation.  For me, the answer was clearly yes.  I tend to use the words interchangably.
  • Conversely, for some of the group, meetings and workshops were completely different in terms of participants, timing, topics and outcomes.  As such, the only thing these events had in common was the project they were working on.

In addition, this part of the group were looking for some techniques to help them manage their meetings.  Meetings were often a problem, and they wanted a way to just fix them.  This is a more comprehensive version of my response. (more…)

Participation 101

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

As at the time of writing, I had just returned from ten days in Timor Leste.  A small team of us were training extensionistas – government agribusiness extension workers – in Technology of Participation™ facilitation and communication basics. ‡

Tuning in for better training

We all tune in to other people when we talk and work with them.  This helps us to understand where they are coming from.  In other words, the meaning/s behind what they say and do.

As we were working with the participants, it became clear that the training was not connecting with them.  Their starting point was not what we had assumed, based on our previous experience of participants in other sectors. Their education had included little or no interaction or participation.  They therefore had no real idea of what to do in a facilitation context.

Our responsibility was therefore to figure out where they actually were and start from there.  It was up to us to fit with them, and then move along in small steps. (more…)

Write it Down and Hang it on the Wall

Monday, August 11th, 2014

This is a recap of a classic list from Ned Ruerte.  It only looks like a set of tips for running a meeting. Check it out, looking for the underlying framework.  Even if you have no other processes, this should help a lot.

Towards “public memory” and good process

  1. Work on one issue at a time. Let the group choose and word the issue. Write it Down and Hang it on the Wall.
  2. Agree on how to work on that issue.  Tap the group wisdom for how to work before offering your own process. Write it Down and Hang it on the Wall.
  3. When someone offers an idea, Write it Down and Hang it on the Wall.  If they offer it repeatedly, point to where it is written down and hanging on the wall.
  4. If someone attacks a person for a “dumb” idea, ask them where the idea is written down and hung on the wall.  Move to it.  Move the discussion to the idea, away from the person who offered it.  If additions, qualifications, pros & cons, or clarifications are offered, Write it Down and Hang it on the Wall.
  5. When the group is discussing, voting on, or coming to consensus around a solution,  Write it Down and Hang it on the Wall.
  6. When the group moves away from the agreed issue, go to where you wrote it down and hung it on the wall.  Call their attention to it, and give them the choice to change the issue.  Go back to the one they agreed to and show how this one affects the one they agreed to.  Put a time limit on the digression.  Whatever they decide, Write it Down and Hang it on the Wall.
  7. When the group moves away from the agreed process, go to where you wrote it down and hung it on the wall.  Call their attention to it, and give them the choice to change the process.  Go back to the one they agreed to and show how this one affects the one they agreed to.  Put a time limit on the digression.  Whatever they decide, Write it Down and Hang it on the Wall.
  8. When someone says, “We ought to ______,” find out who will.  Write it Down and Hang it on the Wall.
  9. Before breaking up, find out when the group will get back together. Write it Down and Hang it on the Wall.

Ned closes with: “And mostly – if someone is running on about something that is not germane, don’t write anything on the wall. Pretty quickly they’ll learn to focus their comments.”

You may or may not agree with all of Ned’s list. You might have other ways of achieving the same ends.  You may have other examples or things to add.

So, what’s your experience of enabling the group’s public memory?  What’s your take on the principle Ned is pointing to?

Go well!