Probabilities consist of commonly held assumptions, beliefs, and outlooks about some future state or condition. Forward looking deliverables such as five-year plans and shaping curves rely exclusively on the concept of probabilities, since no future state is certain.
How can a facilitator help resolve arguments around conflicting probabilities, particularly when evidence supports multiple outcomes? Create ranges and not fixed numbers.
Scenario Planning to Create Ranges
Strive to avoid building one set of “answers”. Rather, build multiple answers and at minimum three. Facilitate common understanding around five scenarios:
Dare your participants to think positive. Ask them to relieve themselves from concerns about risks and other exogenous factors. Strive to build and agree on a “best likely” scenario, akin to sunny skies and clear sailing. Don’t allow impediments or other negative throttles. While probabilistically unlikely, the sunny skies scenario provides a bookend, number, or set of numbers that would unlikely ever be exceeded.
Take your participants in the opposite direction. Allow for every conceivable catastrophe or injurious situation. Try to fall short of “bankruptcy” or “going out of business” but relent if your participant makes an urgent claim that complete “death” is one possible outcome.
Partly Sunny Skies:
Having build the two prior scenarios, take a closer look at the Sunny Skies scenario and toggle some of the less likely occurrences. Strive to make this view and set of numbers positive, but not extreme. If necessary, use the PowerBall tool to rank the importance of assumptions and only toggle the most important, leaving the others untouched.
Partly Cloudy Skies:
With our book-end approach, move again in the opposite direction by taking a closer look at the Stormy Skies scenario and toggle some of its less likely occurrences. Here you want to lead to a set of negative numbers, but not in the extreme. Have them study past performance and downturns for reliable percentages. Again, if necessary, use the PowerBall tool to rank the impact of assumptions and only toggle the most impactful, leaving the others untouched.
Take the four scenarios and sets of numbers to now derive discussion and consensus around the most likely. Force participants to defend their arguments with an appeal to the prioritized lists of assumptions, and revisit the prioritization if necessary. Along the way, begin to listen and note the most extreme numbers being suggested as “most likely because they can help establish the final range.
Further analysis can take the final range and establish targets and thresholds for on target performance (eg, green lights), cautionary performance (eg, yellow lights), and intervention performance (eg, red lights). The value of a facilitator is rarely greater than when serving as a referee for future conditions.
Avoid an unstructured discussion. Carefully and extensively document and define all assumptions. Remember to use your Definition tool, since frequently you will discover participants in violent agreement with each other!
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.
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