Here is a robust for consensual definitions of terms, phrases, or expressions with a group of meeting or workshop participants.  Keep in mind that the standards expected in the method below are demanding and include five separate activities, when combined are highly effective.  Keep this tool in your hip pocket and be prepared to use it whenever you encounter serious discord over the meaning of something.  You may also need this tool when you manage open issues (ie, Parking Lot) and your participants do not agree or cannot remember what something meant.


To build an operational definition of a term or phrase that the group can live with, in its own words, and with its own understanding. Since narrative descriptions alone may fall short of the entire meaning, we also want to support the definition with illustration and examples.


Robust Definition Tool

Robust Definition Tool

To provide support to a group that needs to consensually arrive at the definition and meaning of something, whether concrete or abstract. This FAST tool supports consensual understanding around terms and phrases but is not robust enough to develop rich definitions for complex ideas like processes, where an entire workshop(s) like Activity Flows may be more useful.


When a term or phrase requires further definition or understanding, it may be best to start with a dictionary definition(s).  However, do not use dictionary definitions alone. Rather, offer them as stimulus for the group to draft their own operational definition. The five additional activities include:

  1. First identify “WHAT THE TERM OR PHRASE IS NOT”.
  2. Next, compile a narrative sentence or paragraph that generally describes it.  Perhaps avoid starting with a blank sheet of paper (ie, use a dictionary or other professional definitions and support).
  3. Then list the detailed bullets that capture the specific characteristics or specifications of the term or phrase as intended by the participants.  For example, with a camera, we might detail requirements for the quantity of mega pixels, zoom range, etc.
  4. Obtain or build a picture of concrete items or create an illustration of the item if it is abstract or dynamic (eg, process flow).
  5. Provide at least two actual, real-life examples from the participants’ experience that vivify the term or phrase. For example, a utility bill can be defined, but it is helpful to show an actual invoice (eg, electricity for the period 15JAN20xx to 14FEB20xx).


In conclusion, MG RUSH professional facilitation curriculum focuses on providing methodology.  Each student thoroughly practices methodology and tools before class concludes. Some call this immersion. We call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Become Part of the Solution While You Improve Your Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology Skills

Take a class or forward this to someone who should. MG RUSH Professional Facilitation Training provides an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, 40 CDUs from IIBA, and 3.2 CEUs. As a member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), our Professional Facilitation Training aligns with IAF Certification Principles and fully prepares alumni for their Certified Professional Facilitator designation.

Furthermore, our Professional Facilitation curriculum immerses students in the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. Because nobody is smarter than everybody, attend an MG RUSH Professional Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology workshop offered around the world, see MG RUSH for a current schedule.

Go to the Facilitation Training Store to access our in-house resources. Finally, you will discover numerous annotated agendas, break timers, and templates. If you value our contributions, take time to buy us a cup of coffee and punch LIKE or FORWARD.

In conclusion, we dare you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Monthly Facilitation blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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