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The rule of thirds can help guide facilitator. The Project Management Institute (PMI) refers to planning, analysis, and design as separate stages across project development.

At ground level, the basic Use Case refers to Input>Process>Output as the basis for understanding requirements. Many of the world’s great religions of philosophy embrace the concept of a trinity. From Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma of Hinduism to the great agnostic Plato, who referred to logic, rhetoric, and grammar as the trivium; testing of which allowed citizens to vote.

The Trivium

As elementary students we learned the importance and proper sequencing of WHY before WHAT before HOW.

One Essence, Three Aspects: The Rule of Thirds in the World of Facilitation

The Trivium: source Terrence Metz

Let’s look at two components of Goldblatt’s Theory of Constraints (aka Triple Constraint Theory), namely time and quality.


Optimally allow at least one hour of preparation time for each hour of meeting or workshop time. Early in the role of facilitator, as you develop your experience, competencies, and body of knowledge, the ratio can be much higher. Many suggest a practical ratio of two hours preparation to every one hour of meeting or workshop time. The less familiar you are with the agenda and the tools you plan to use, the larger the ratio you can estimate.

Unfortunately, people forget the importance of the back-end as well; namely, what to do and invest after the meeting or workshop. Please make certain that your documentation is complete, and that it sizzles. Frequently the only residue of value left after a meeting or workshop is the document, and if it was not documented, it did not happen.

Take time to add context, typically cut and paste from your annotated agenda if thoroughly constructed. Context provides the background and rational, the WHY, behind WHAT gets done during the meeting.

For example, take a decision made by a group to the executive sponsor or decision review board and their first question is WHY. Why did you make that decision? Let us be careful to document the rationale, the BECAUSE, behind the various components within a deliverable. Explain why they were built, how they relate to each other, and how they accelerate the project your meeting supports.


PMI refers to it as “front-end loading”, in other words, do not underinvest in the planning and building consensus around WHY something is important. For example, why do perform this function, process, or activity. Why we do something dramatically affects what we will do to support it.

Note the difference between a primary residence to raise a family and a beach house or camp hut used for family vacations. The purpose alone dictates different decisions and design. A family vacation house for example may emphasize more beds than privacy, or give the family room more space while minimizing the study or library.

Even during a meeting, make sure you include a beginning, a middle, and an end. All too frequently, meetings fail to include one of them. Most people would rather go to a movie than a meeting because even a poor movie has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Do not discount the value of an effective review and wrap, and see Four Activities to Efficiently and Effectively Wrap-up a Meeting to manage the end, better than most.


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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