Scope creep kills projects. It also kills meetings. The consensual sphere of Concern, Influence, and Control helps a group become mindful of aspects that could alter the groups attitudes, beliefs, and decisions. The consensual sphere of Concern, Influence, and Control helps a group to focus, on one issue at a time, or one aspect at a time.

The single most important responsibility of a facilitator is to protect the people or meeting participants.  The next most challenging responsibility however is to to make it easy for a group to focus on one issue at a time.

The consensual sphere of Concern, Influence, and Control helps separate a discussion into aspects the group controls, aspects they influence, and aspects about which they have no control or significant influence.  Since groups seldom perform effectively using a linear approach, consider using a “Book End” approach for analyzing the sphere of Concern, Influence, and Control.  Following are the steps required that can be used to analyze most lists, including prioritizing a list of criteria.



Concern, Influence, and Control

Concern, Influence, and Control


Effective facilitators shy away from working lists in a linear fashion.  The purpose of using a bookend approach is to develop a natural habit of squeezing the grey matter towards the middle, rather than wasting too much time on it.


Groups tend to argue about grey matter that frequently does not affect the decision anyway.  For instance, with PowerBalls, you can envision participants arguing whether something is more important than moderate yet less important than high.  We know from experience that the most important criteria drives most decisions, so bookends helps us identify the critical stuff quickly.


After you have compiled a list of criteria or aspects, compare and contrast them with the simple process explained below:

  • Ask “Which of these is the most important?” (as defined by the PowerBalls displayed). With the consensual sphere, our question would be “Which of these is within our control?”
  • Next ask “Which of these is the least important?”  With the consensual sphere, our question would be “Which of these is a concern because it is beyond our control?”
  • Then return to the next most important . . .
  • And to the next least important . . .
  • Until the list has been squeezed into the remaining one- third that is moderate..
  • If comparing or contrasting Influence, consider asking . . .
    • Which is most similar?
    • Which is least similar?
    • Repeat until one-third remain as moderate.
  • For Control consider asking . . .
    • What is your greatest strength?
    • What is your greatest weakness?
    • Repeat until one-third remain as moderate.

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

To help you access our in-house resources, (e.g., annotated agendas, break timers and templates used in our FAST Professional Facilitation Training) go to the Facilitation Training Store

Furthermore, 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. Attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership-training workshop offered around the world. See MG Rush for a current schedule. FAST provides 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, 40 CDUs from IIBA, or 3.2 CEUs).

Finally, don’t forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. Change or Die provides detailed workshop agendas.  It also includes numerous tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective.

We are daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

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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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