FAST alumni know that the single most important ingredient to meeting and workshop success is thorough preparation. There is no “silver bullet” to save a session leader who is ill prepared. The most important activity while preparing for a meeting is to know where you are going—ie, ‘What is the deliverable?’ The next most important activity is interviewing the participants to begin managing their expectations and need to arrive ready to contribute and be productive.
Interview participants to understand as much as possible about them, the people they work with, and their business. Speak with all the participants, preferably one-on-one for about 30 minutes each. Speak with each face-to-face, or at least by way of a teleconference.
First meet the executive sponsor, the business partners, the project team, and then the participants. Keep your interviews around twenty to thirty minutes each. Conduct the interviews privately and assure participants that their responses will be kept CONFIDENTIAL.
Interview the participants to advance understanding:
- To become familiar with their job, their business, and their expectations
- To confirm who should, or should not, attend and why
- To help them show up better prepared to contribute
- To identify potential issues, hidden agendas, and other obstacles
- To identify scheduling conflicts and other concerns
- To transfer ownership of the meeting purpose, scope, and deliverables
The following are well-sequenced questions that you should ask. Begin each interview explaining your role and the purpose of the interview. Ask for permission to take notes. Use open-ended questions, sit back, and listen to the person—discover their value and value add to the initiative you are supporting.
- “What do you expect from the session?”
- “What will make the workshop a complete failure?”
- “What should the output look like?”
- “What problems do you foresee?”
- “Who should attend the workshop? Who should not? Why?”
- “What is going to be my biggest obstacle?”
- “How does the deliverable and agenda make sense to you?”
- “What should I have asked that I didn’t ask?”
The precision and sequence of the questions is important. They are all open-ended. They help manage “right-to-left” thinking; ie, ‘expect’ and ‘output.’ Next they focus on the hidden politics; ie, ‘failure,’ ‘problems,’ and ‘obstacles.’ They end with a strong, closing question that emphasizes the humility of the roles of facilitator.
Reply with any questions you might have by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiatives, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need to lead more effective groups, teams, and meetings.
Become Part of the Solution—Improve Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills
The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. 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 numerous 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.
- Meeting Participation Tips (Part 2 of 3 – The Middle) (mgrush.com/blog)
- Meeting Participation Tips (Part 3 of 3 – The Wrap) (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.