The most important action you take every day is to make choices–to decide. Your productivity amplifies when your decisions are optimal. Therefore, choose wisely when to work alone, speak with another person, or call for a meeting. Here are five compelling reasons for when to use structured facilitation sessions:
Advantages to Structured Facilitation Sessions
- Higher quality results: groups of people generally make higher quality decisions than the smartest person in the group. Structured facilitation sessions encourage the exchange of different points of view. Structure enables the group to articulate the purpose of its decision, to identify new options, and to prioritize decision criteria.
- Faster results: structured facilitation accelerates the capture of evidence-based information, improving the objectivity of your decision. Structure also expedites results by getting the meeting participants (aka subject matter experts) to arrive prepared. The meeting provides time to share and justify answers to questions already provided in advance. Without structure, the questions may be heard for the first time, leaving participants ill-prepared to respond. With a prior understanding of your questions and issues that need to be discussed, participants respond faster.
- Richer results: by pooling skills and resources, diverse and heterogeneous groups generate higher degrees of innovation. Diverse groups are capable of developing wider understanding and even anticipate future demands, subsequently saving time and money across the life cycle of your project or program. If you want the same answer you always get, clone yourself. If you are seeking breakthrough or innovation, stir things up.
- People stimulate people: structured facilitation provides the catalyst for innovative opportunities. Multiple and sometimes competing perspectives generate a richer (360 degree) understanding of problems and challenges, rather than a narrow, myopic view. Groups stimulate and empower one another to create valuable contributions that did not walk into the room.
- Transfer of ownership: structured facilitation orients toward further action by creating deliverables that support follow-up efforts. Professional facilitators use a method that builds commitment and support from the participants, rather than directing responsibility at the participants.
To Host Structured Facilitation Sessions
Conducting structured facilitation sessions requires preparatory time, ample session time, and follow-up as well. Therefore, successful sessions depend upon clearly defined roles, especially distinguishing between the role of facilitator and the role of methodologist (that are also discrete from the role of scribe or documenter, coordinator, etc.). Carefully managed sessions should embrace ground rules to ensure getting more done, faster.
Your preparation efforts help ensure higher productivity during meetings, including:
- Researching both methodological options and content to be explored
- Review and documentation of minutes, records, findings, and group decisions that affect the project being supported by your meeting or workshop
- Completion of individual and small group assignments prior to sessions
When conducted properly, meetings with groups of people are strenuous for everyone involved. Therefore, cll them workshops or workouts. Strive to avoid an overly ambitious agenda and plan for at least two, ten-minute breaks every four hours. Use our MG RUSH ten-minute timers to ensure that breaks do not extend to eleven or twelve minutes. Always provide dedicated resources, such as a facilitator professionally trained in structured methods.
Structured Facilitation Considerations
Discourage unplanned interruptions, especially through electronic leashes. “Topless” meetings are increasingly popular, meaning no laptops or desktop devices (eg, smartphones). Allow exceptions for accessing content needed to support the session. “No praying underneath the table” is another expression used to discourage people from using their gadgets on their laps, presumably beyond the line of sight of others, when in fact, everyone can see what they are doing anyway. For serious consensual challenges or multiple day sessions, conduct sessions away from the participants’ everyday work site to minimize interruptions and everyday job distractions. Using structured facilitation sessions will increase your productivity and others if you properly plan your work and work your plan.
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.)
Want a free 10-minute break timer? Signup for our once-monthly newsletter HERE and receive a timer along with four other of our favorite facilitation tools, free.