How to run a better meeting is like learning to be a better listener, easy to understand but hard to do.

Why? Poor muscle memory. What can we do about it? Change our muscle memory. While perfect practice remains the best way to overcome poor muscle memory, take a closer look at the International Institute of Business Analysis™ (IIBA®), in particular the newest edition of their Guide to the Business Analyst Body of Knowledge ® known as BABOK® Guide v3.

In its strong compendium about disciplined and structured thinking, the term ‘facilitate’ appears 112 times over 514 pages. Statistically, ~25 percent of its pages indicate the need, reference, or link to the importance of facilitation.

Operational Definitions

Facilitate: Indispensable in Guide to the Business Analyst Body of Knowledge ®

Good and Bad Muscle Memory

Interestingly, and perhaps to avoid redundancy, the IIBA provides two different operational definitions for the term ‘facilitation.” In section (9.5.1) focused exclusively on facilitation, they state (pg 217) that:

Facilitation is the skill of moderating discussions within a group in order to enable all participants to effectively articulate their views on a topic under discussion, and to ensure that participants in the discussion are able to recognize and appreciate the differing points of view that are articulated.

Later in the much-appreciated Glossary, they use the following definition (pg 456):

facilitation: The art of leading and encouraging people through systematic efforts toward agreed-upon objectives in a manner that enhances involvement, collaboration, productivity, and synergy.

In addition, we also humbly suggest that facilitation is both an art AND a science. Therefore, we use the term SMart, suggesting the combination of an objective scientific method (SM) combined with the subjective and adjustable features, the ‘art’ (ergo, SMart). To the extent possible, we aspire toward repeatable, consistent outputs by using the rigor of disciplined structure.

The IIBA further provides reference to many of the opportunities for us to improve our muscle memory by becoming better facilitators, and although too many to list, here are a few samplings where you ought focus your practice efforts to become more facilitative when leading groups of people:

Initially . . .

  • facilitate alignment of goals and objectives
  • facilitate analysis and deep understanding of the organization’s processes
  • facilitate articulation of the product vision statement
  • facilitate consensus building and trade-offs and ensures that solution value is realized and initiative timelines are met
  • facilitate coordinated and synchronized action across the organization by aligning action with the organization’s vision, goals, and strategy
  • facilitate cost management and reduce duplication of work
  • facilitate decision making and conflict resolution, and ensure that all participants have an opportunity to be heard
  • facilitate drawing and storing matrices and diagrams to represent requirements
  • facilitate estimations of the value realized by a solution
  • facilitate holistic and balanced planning and thinking
  • facilitate identification of potential improvements by highlighting “pain points” in the process structure (ie, process visualization)
  • facilitate interactions between stakeholders in order to help them make a decision, solve a problem, exchange ideas and information, or reach an agreement regarding the priority and the nature of requirements

Furthermore . . .

  • facilitate knowledge transfer and understanding
  • facilitate meetings with set agendas and meeting roles or informal working sessions
  • facilitate organizational alignment, linking goals to objectives, supporting solutions, underlying tasks, and resources
  • facilitate planning, analyzing, testing, and demonstrating activities
  • facilitate recording, organizing, storing, and sharing requirements and designs
  • facilitate release planning discussions
  • facilitate requirements and designs traceability
  • facilitate review sessions, keeps participants focused on the objectives of the review and ensure that each relevant section of the work product is covered
  • facilitate stakeholder collaboration, decisions, and to understand the relative importance of business analysis information
  • facilitate the approval process
  • facilitate the change assessment process
  • facilitate the process of prioritization
  • facilitate understanding and decision making, the value of proposed changes, and other complex ideas
  • facilitate workshops

Additionally,

they also provide some wonderful goals of effective facilitation including:

  • encouraging participation from all attendees,
  • ensuring that participants correctly understand each other’s positions,
  • establishing ground rules such as being open to suggestions, building on what is there, not dismissing ideas, and allowing others to speak and express themselves,
  • making it clear to the participants that the facilitator is a third party to the process and not a decision maker nor the owner of the topic,
  • preventing discussions from being sidetracked onto irrelevant topics,
  • remaining neutral and not taking sides, and
  • using meeting management skills and tools to keep discussions focused and organized.

Finally,

it is interesting that in this third edition, within the Section called Interaction Skills, they broadened the scope of facilitation by:

  • Facilitation and Negotiation—split competencies and renamed Facilitation

Particularly interesting to us since many times participants are in violent agreement with each other, but need a solid facilitator to arrive at common understanding.

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Finally, 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. Therefore, our 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. You will discover numerous annotated agendas, break timers, and templates. Finally, take a few seconds to buy us a cup of coffee and please SHARE.

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 Facilitation Best Practices 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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