Within the business, a multitude of competitive interests and concerns exist. Collecting and validating requirements in this diverse environment can be a challenge. Conducting facilitated sessions can assist in:
Before conducting the sessions, make certain the following important considerations have been fully addressed:
The facilitator serves as a neutral, impartial session leader who has primary responsibility for organizing, planning, and conducting the actual workshop.
The client participants are ultimately responsible for the content, the quality, and the outcome of the workshop. As the true business process owners, the results obtained within the facilitated setting are dependent on their participation. The session objectives should be structured in order to achieve consensus-based group decisions from these client participants.
Experts should be added to the participant panel in order to bring a dimension of prior understanding to the discussions. The expert should be involved only to the extent that he or she asks challenging questions, provides well timed insights, confirms group conclusions, and sometimes plays the "devils advocate". Care must be taken the expert clearly understands his or her role, and does not give in to the temptation to dominate the conversation. Experts should remain in the "background" and should only join the discussion when it is consultive in nature.
These are clients who wish to monitor the workshop but who will not be participants. Their role is to watch, listen, and analyze. If they wish to inject a thought into the discussion they should do so by relaying the information to a client participant at a break.
These are "active listeners" whose responsibility it will be to analyze and model the workshop results. They may or may not be active session participants. They should actively assist the facilitator in gauging the session progress, in suggesting new or enhanced approaches to on the spot situations, and in assessing the quality of the information being obtained.
Project Team Leader
The project manager should be available as a participant to provide decisions to scope questions, to give feedback on potential issues and candidate resolutions, and to handle concerns centered around cost considerations.
He or she is responsible for capturing the thoughts, ideas, and issues expressed by the group in a neutral and consistent manner. This individual is the primary note taker for the session.
Thomas Edison used to remark that "good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with preparation", and these words should carry a special significance for those who strive to make the facilitation process work at its full potential.
Some of the items which should be prepared before the session is conducted are listed below:
Initial Interviews Make a Difference
To a high degree, the success or failure of a facilitated session revolves around the character of the group dynamics which form during the meeting. On one hand, the experience can be very positive and constructive, especially if the group reaches consensus and agreement on a majority of the selected discussion topics. On the other hand, the meeting can end up a disaster if the final result is only bruised feelings, division, and indecisiveness. But how can these later results be avoided? Luckily, the facilitator already has a tremendous amount of control over this, just by the fact he or she is at the front of the room leading the meeting. But this advantage can be strengthened even further be simply meeting with each participant for a short interview, before the sessions actually occur.
A typical interview should last no more than thirty minutes and it should briefly cover these areas:
Here are some example questions which can be used to help spot areas which may need special attention either before or during the facilitated sessions:
A facilitated session is an interactive meeting with a purpose and a plan. If all of the preparations have been carried out, clear goals and objectives are in place, and a specific session agenda is ready. The mission of the facilitator at this point is to get the group through the agenda to the desired results in as an effective and productive of a manner as possible. The facilitator is truly the leader of the meeting and he or she must exert subtle yet firm control over its course. In addition, the facilitator is charged with getting the group through the entire schedule on time. In contrast to this, the session participants are responsible for the outcome of the meeting and the quality of the final results. The facilitator is only present to be a catalyst, the participants are present to accomplish the stated objectives.
As the session progresses, keep these facilitation effectiveness ideas in mind: