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One of the toughest tasks of a facilitator is to relinquish judgement and fully seek the intent behind the terms used in meetings. Therefore, facilitate meaning, not words. Structured workshops support the information revolution (as opposed to the 20th century industrial revolution). Therefore, remind participants that their words provide instruments supporting the meaning being conveyed.


Facilitate Meaning, Not Words

The term ‘in-formation‘ implies a sense of journey, rather than destination. Participants supporting in-formation technology discover that deliverables are transitory. The question is not whether a guiding principle or assumption will change, only when it changes—or perhaps more accurately, how quickly the change will occur, since change is continuous. Therefore it behooves us to fully understand and facilitate the meaning behind the words being used.

Be willing to challenge participants to make their thinking visible.

“Great minds like a think.”

Strive to help your speaker or participants to more fully explain the meaning behind the terms they use. Words rarely capture all of the intended meaning. However, additional challenge and facilitation improves robust understanding, making it easier to build valid and sustaining consensus.

Whether you are most familiar with the “Five WHYs” or the inquisitive five-year old, ask for proof, evidence, examples, and options to fortify participants’ thinking and their supporting arguments. Challenge adjectives and adverbs, such as ‘quick’ or ‘quality’. Ask about their meaning and intent. An excellent follow-up question is “What is the unit of measurement for insert adjective or adverb______?”

Many languages serve to build consensus, not simply English. True and valid consensus is not only an English term(s), rather it is also the meaning the participants intends to convey. The elusive nature of meaning was captured by Hafez (aka Hafiz) when he penned centuries ago:

If you think that the Truth can be known

From words,

If you think that the Sun and the Ocean

Can pass through that tiny opening called the mouth.

O someone should start laughing!

Someone should start wildly laughing—



Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

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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 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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