Not all situations are covered by cookbook agendas or avail a methodologist to help.  Therefore, the facilitator must develop their approach another way.  Use the Single Question Approach to develop new questions that lead to a meeting method complete with a detailed agenda.

The Single Question Approach breaks down the big question that will provide the main answer or solution to a problem into detailed supporting questions.  Detailed questions focus groups and are much easier to answer.

The Single Question Approach

The Single Question Approach

Method for the Single Question Approach                      

The Questions          

What is the single question, the answer to which the group needs to know to accomplish its purpose?

Example:   A workshop to design a newsletter could begin with the single (and broad) question, “What is the content and format of this newsletter?”

Sub-Questions              

What sub-questions must be answered before we can answer the single question we just formulated?  While preparing, talk to participants and find out what questions they suggest we answer during the meeting.  Test your questions prior to the meeting for clarity, precision, and completeness.

Example:   Our newsletter workshop question can be answered when the following sub-questions are answered.

  • Who is the newsletter audience?
  • What is the purpose of the newsletter?
  • What are their interests?
  • Why would they read a newsletter?
  • What do they already know?
  • What do they want to know?
  • Which media would they prefer?

Sequencing                  

Sequence them in an appropriate order—which need to be answered first, second, and so on.  Sequencing creates topical flow—facilitators lead with coherent agenda steps, not a laundry list of questions.  The order is based on which answers help in answering subsequent questions.

Example:   For our newsletter, the questions might be answered in the following sequence.

  1. What is the purpose of the newsletter?
  2. Who is the newsletter audience?
  3. Why would they read a newsletter?
  4. What are their interests?
  5. Do we know what they want to know?
  6. What do they already know?
  7. Which media would they prefer?
Organizing                   

Next group the questions.  We could just leave them as is and step through the questions in this order, but it doesn’t clearly provide us our deliverable.  Participants think better when we categorize information to create natural breaks.  Group the questions into a single, definable product at the end of each set of questions—or question.

Example:   In our newsletter example, we might have four key categories; Newsletter Purpose, Audience, Content, and Media.

  • Question 1 defines the Newsletter Purpose.
  • Questions 2 and 3 define the Audience.
  • Questions 4, 5, and 6 define the Content.
  • Question 7 defines the Media.

Agenda                       

 What are the best descriptors and sequence of the categories?

Example:  Our newsletter workshop simple agenda might be . . .

  • Introduction
  • Purpose of the newsletter
  • Audience
  • Content
  • Media
  • Review and Wrap up

                                                                                                                                                    

Comments
  • Advantages—Good if under time pressure and you need a 
quick agenda. Forces a decision. Include within other agendas.
  • Disadvantages—Very difficult in conflict-ridden or very 
complex situations.

                                                                                                                                                    

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

Do yourself a favor and go to the Facilitation Training Store https://mgrush.com/shop/ to access our in-house resources. As a result, you will find annotated agendas, break timers, and templates used in our FAST Professional Facilitation Training.

Furthermore, the FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and structured 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 an excellent way to earn up to 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 and numerous tools. It will make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective.

We dare 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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