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):
- What is it NOT?
- Describe it in one sentence or less than 50 words.
- Provide the specific characteristics that make this clear or unique.
- Draw or illustrate the thing or workflow.
- 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.
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.
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).
- How to Facilitate Business Process Improvement: A Proven Approach Using Teams (mgrush.com/blog)
- How to Manage Breakout Sessions (or, 3 Minute Sub Team Productivity WOW) (mgrush.com/blog)
- Distinction between Leading and Facilitating (a Conference/Discussion/Meeting (management-me.com)
- Meeting Participation Tips (Part 2 of 3 – The Middle) (mgrush.com/blog)
- Mission or Vision – What is the Difference? (mgrush.com/blog)
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Building consensus helps groups identify gaps, omissions, overkill, and confirm the appropriateness and balance of their action plan.