The most important action you take every day is to make choices–to decide.  Your productivity amplifies when your decisions are optimal.  Therefore, choose wisely when to work alone, speak with another person, or call for a meeting.  Here are five compelling reasons for when to use structured facilitation sessions:

Structured Facilitation Sessions

The advantages to structured facilitation, whether a meeting or workshop, include:

  • Structured Facilitation Sessions

    Structured Facilitation Sessions

    Higher quality results: groups of people generally make higher quality decisions than the smartest person in the group. Structured facilitation sessions encourage the exchange of different points of view. Structure enables the group to articulate the purpose of its decision, to identify new options, and to prioritize decision criteria. It is a proven fact that any person or group with more options at its disposal makes higher quality decisions.

  • Faster results: structured facilitation accelerates the capture of evidence-based information, improving the objectivity of your decision.  Structure also expedites results by getting the meeting participants (aka subject matter experts) to arrive prepared.  The meeting provides time to share and justify answers to questions already provided in advance.  Without structure, the questions may be heard for the first time, leaving participants ill-prepared to respond. With a prior understanding of your questions and issues that need to be discussed, participants respond faster.
  • Richer results: by pooling skills and resources, diverse and heterogeneous groups generate higher degrees of innovation. Diverse groups are capable of developing wider understanding and even anticipate future demands, subsequently saving time and money across the life cycle of your project or program.  If you want the same answer you always get, clone yourself.  If you are seeking breakthrough or innovation, stir it up.
  • People stimulate people: structured facilitation provides the catalyst for innovative opportunities. Multiple and sometimes competing perspectives generate a richer (360 degree) understanding of problems and challenges, rather than a narrow, myopic view. Through greater understanding, groups are more stimulated and empowered to generate specific responses.
  • Transfer of ownership: structured facilitation orients toward further action by creating deliverables that support follow-up efforts. Professional facilitators use a method that builds commitment and support from the participants, rather than directing responsibility at the participants.

To Host Structured Facilitation Sessions

Conducting structured facilitation sessions requires preparatory time, ample session time, and follow-up as well.  Therefore, successful sessions depend upon clearly defined roles, especially distinguishing between the role of facilitator and the role of methodologist (that are also discrete from the role of scribe or documenter, coordinator, etc.).  Carefully managed sessions should embrace ground rules to ensure getting more done, faster.

Much effort may be provided before the session to ensure higher productivity during your meetings, including:

  • Researching both methodological options and content to be explored
  • Review and documentation of minutes, records, findings, and group decisions that affect the project being supported by your meeting or workshop
  • Completion of individual and small group assignments prior to sessions

When conducted properly, meetings with groups of people are strenuous for everyone involved. Therefore, they may be called workshops or workouts.  Strive to avoid an overly ambitious agenda and plan for at least two, ten-minute breaks every four hours. Use our FAST ten-minute timers to ensure that breaks do not extend to eleven or twelve minutes. Always provide dedicated resources, such as a facilitator professionally trained in structured methods.

Discourage unplanned interruptions, especially through electronic leashes. “Topless” meetings are increasingly popular, meaning no laptops or desktop devices (eg, smartphones). Exceptions are allowed for accessing content needed to support the session. “No praying underneath the table” is another expression used to discourage people from using their gadgets on their laps, presumably beyond the line of sight of others, when in fact, everyone can see what they are doing anyway. For serious consensual challenges or multiple day sessions, sessions should be held away from the participants’ everyday work site to minimize interruptions and everyday job distractions. Using structured facilitation sessions will increase your productivity and others if you properly plan your work and work your plan.


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

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.

Additionally, go to the Facilitation Training Store to access our in-house resources. Finally, you will discover numerous annotated agendas, break timers, and templates.

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

Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, 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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