With respects to Steve Jobs, as mentioned in his biography by Walter Isaacson, here is how to facilitate reducing the next ten things a team should consider doing, down to the final three or four actions your team has resources to manage.
Mentioned casually in the book, the concept of prioritization is key to group performance, so we will remind you about three very important facilitation tools from the MG RUSH technique; namely Definition, PowerBalls (aka MoSCoW), and BookEnds.
Before you get to a final list of ten or twelve action items, you may need to more fully define what is meant by something. Be conscious of the perspective. Are you helping the team define the final output, desired outcome, or are you having them focus clearly on the next step (that presumably leads to a final output AND a new, desired outcome) or action required?
Describe basic issues. Use our PowerBall method to build consensus in minutes, not hours. (Known narratively as MoSCoW, see below).
When you are challenged about the scope, characteristics, or details of some proposed activity, consider using the Definition tool. In its most robust format, a thorough definition answers five discrete questions (See the Definition tool for an example):
- What is it NOT?
- Describe it in one sentence or less than 50 words.
- Provide the specific characteristics that make this clear or unique.
- Draw or illustrate the thing or workflow.
- Provide at least two examples from the business to vivify the narrative above.
Once you have a list of ten or so actions the team has socialized and understood, apply the PowerBall tool.
Rationale to Facilitate Prioritization
It’s faster to get a group to agree on what NOT to discuss anymore. Therefore, apply the Pareto Principle (aka 80-20 Rule) to help a group eliminate as many options as possible. By deselecting first, the group can stay focused and you can facilitate prioritization on the most important or attractive options.
CAUTION to Facilitate Prioritization
Be aware that the optimal approach suggests that you prioritize the criteria, not the options. If you find yourself prioritizing options, then reverse-engineer by asking WHY—the response will generate the criteria used for the prioritization. Also, know that you need to have an agreed upon purpose to facilitate prioritization and resolve arguments.
Method to Facilitate Prioritization
The following steps should be read with an understanding that the activities and tools used below to facilitate prioritization are detailed elsewhere on this site (Best Practices) and also found in the MG RUSH curriculum.
- Establish the purpose of the object the team is considering (ie, Purpose of _______ is to . . . So that . . .)
- Build your list of options (eg, Brainstorming). Set the list of options aside.
- Build your list of decision criteria (be prepared to define each “criterion”).
- Look at the criteria to see if any options are in violation. For example, if Sally is allergic to flowers, then “buying her flowers” is probably an option that should be eliminated. However, using SCAMPER we might discover other options such as silk flowers, a painting of flowers, etc.
- Ask the participants if they can live with the remaining options. If someone objects, consider eliminating that particular option if numerous others are satisfactory to everyone.
- Once your participants can live with the remaining options, you have consensus.
- To improve the quality of your decision, unveil the visual legend for PowerBalls and the accompanying definitions, and prioritize the criteria, using the Book-End method.
- Find the option(s) that best aligns with and support your stated purpose (Step 1). Appealing to purpose reveals to the group the most important or mandatory criteria.
Definitions to Facilitate Prioritization
The definitions are shown in the legend to facilitate prioritization work in almost all situations and can be converted numerically, such as:
- 5 or a solid ball means high “Pay any price.”
- 1 or an empty circle means low or “Want it for free, not willing to pay extra for it.”
- 3 or a half-filled ball means moderate or all the other stuff between high and low, meaning we are “willing to pay a reasonable price” without being forced to define “reasonable.”
Alternatively, in the Agile world, PowerBalls also equate to MoSCoW, whereby:
- M equals Must have and equates to a solid ball
- S equals Should have and equates to a half-filled ball
- C equals Could have and equates to an empty circle
- W equates to Won’t have or the null (the “o”s make the mnemonic easier to remember)
With MoSCoW or or PowerBalls, separate the most/ least important criteria, striving to code one-third high and one-third low. Code the remaining one-third as moderate by default, without discussion. Attempt to force fit one-third of the candidates as each high, low, and moderate—but be flexible. Appeal to the high criteria and isolate the option(s) that best support the established purpose. To further facilitate prioritization, optimize or guide discussion (if required) by appealing to some of the fuzzy factors that may be difficult to measure objectively.
When you need help creating a robust definition of an option or a criterion that may be arguable, turn to the Definition Tool for support. If you discover this approach is not robust enough, use a tool more suitable for complicated prioritization such as the MG RUSH Scorecard tool or Perceptual Mapping.
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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