In deference to Steve Jobs, as mentioned in his biography by Walter Isaacson, here is how to facilitate reducing the next ten things a team ought consider doing, down to the final three or four actions that the team has resources to manage. Mentioned casually in the book, the concept of prioritization is key to group performance, so we will remind you about three very important facilitation tools from the FAST technique; namely Definition, PowerBalls, and BookEnds.

Before you get to a final list of ten or twelve action items, you may need to more fully define what is meant by something. Be conscious about the perspective. Are you helping the team define the final output, desired outcome, or are you having them focus clearly on the next step (that presumably leads to a final output AND a new, desired outcome) or action required?

When you are challenged about the scope, characteristics, or details of some proposed activity, consider using the Definition tool. In its most robust format, a thorough definition answers five discrete demands See the Definition tool for an example):

  1. What is it NOT?
  2. Describe it in one sentence or less than 50 words.
  3. Provide the specific characteristics that make this clear or unique.
  4. Draw or illustrate the thing or workflow.
  5. Provide at least two examples from the business to vivify the narrative above.

Once you have a list of ten or so actions the team has socialized and understood, apply the PowerBall tool.

Power Balls in bookend sequence

Power Balls in BookEnd Sequence

As described in greater detail earlier, you will use a symbol that helps the team force fit into thirds; one-third HIGH, one-third LOW, and the remaining one-third MODERATE. The symbols and definitions that can be used are shown in the illustration taken from one of our facilitative leadership classes.

Finally, since groups have a tendency to defend that everything is important, you must embrace the BookEnd tool to avoid compression, or ending up with 80 percent of the items being ranked high. Therefore, using one question at a time, isolate “Which of these is most important?”. Next, “Which of these is least important?”. Continue with “Which of the remaining is next most important?”. Followed by, “Which of the remaining is next least important?”. After one or two more rounds, the list should be entirely coded so that you have led the team to build consensus around the next three or four things that they agree should be next steps.

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).


  1. I have a reply from you dated Sept 10. Thank you and thank you for adding a link to my post on this topic. I have a whole category in my site called Definitions, Distinctions and Frameworks I have nearly finish scanning and loading all the material I have on definitions on to my site.

    .RE your comments Sept 10 . You need to tell me what you mean by “deliverables” At one place you appear to say that Output= deliverable

    You then write “What does “done” look like? I cannot see the link between this sentence and the previous one.

    You write about the quality of the deliverable. However I wonder if that equates to its correctness or accuracy or usefulness etc.?

    If we Have X as the topic then we can have different objectives depending on the the verb put before it.

    Do we want the Members to “understand X, believe in X. of accept X , or believe that X will help to achieve Y.

    Although we both write in English we have the usual problem of knowing whether we understand each other – or as I write re the Parts of the communication process – do we have the same “mental image.”

    You can find much more in the category of Communication in my site.

    Please note that you have written an inappropriate link That link will take you to my blog on procedures. You need to use –

    I hope you can find it Sorry I do not know how to create a link in this reply If not, send me an email and I can help from there –

    • Dear Bill,

      To borrow from Wiki (see, a deliverable “is a term used in project management to describe a tangible or intangible object produced as a result of the project that is intended to be delivered to a customer (either internal or external). A deliverable could be a report, a document, a server upgrade or any other building block of an overall project.”

      Stated simply, from our context, a deliverable is the objective of the meeting, and by extension, the objective of each agenda step, and agenda activity. A description of the deliverable describes what “done looks like” at each of these three, holarchial levels, namely; meeting agenda, agenda step and, step activity. The deliverable for a question, for example, is an answer.

      The definition of “quality” must certainly conform to customer requirements, since the answer is subjective. A plastic cup may provide the quality I need at an outdoor family reunion but falls short of the quality standards for hosting a visiting ambassador at formal dinner. Therefore, it could equate to correctness or accuracy or usefulness, and more.

      If the verb is required to define the objective, then apply it in past tense. For example, an agenda step exists not to ‘prioritize criteria’; rather it exists to yield prioritized criteria (or more like, a decision). There are always exceptions, but strive to eliminate verbs because they tend to add little value to what done looks like, and represent the ‘work’ rather than the ‘result.” We “chop wood” to have “firewood” and if someone shows up with a truckload of firewood, we may stop chopping because all we want is the firewood, not the chopping.

      I would discourage meeting time to “understand” or “believe” and other soft states that are hard to confirm and very expensive to reach when working face-to-face. Rather, describe the new state or condition sought as a result of the new learning; eg, portfolio balancing.

      Hopefully the following link serves you better:

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