• J.D. Solomon

Trust Proven Approaches to Produce the Best Facilitated Sessions

Pee Dee River Basin Council in the horseshoe. Communicate with FINESSE.
Using proven methods are the best way to facilitate complexity and uncertainty among diverse groups such as the Pee Dee River Basin Council.

The stakes are high. The problem is difficult. We search for the facilitation approach that rises to the level of the problem.

Not so fast. The best approaches are the proven ones. And for that matter, the best approaches are usually the simple ones.

These are two recent examples.

The Board and Senior Management Are Not Aligned

In this example, I was asked to facilitate between the board of directors and the senior management team for a problem that had spilled over to the external customers. The problem had piled up for nearly a year. Feelings were now hurt. Blood was on the floor.

The obvious answer was to get everyone in the room, talk it out, and agree on a unified front. It is tough, but the leadership decided to call in JD to facilitate. Of course, JD would have something creative that would yield a positive result (and avoid a free-for-all).

I fell back on a Cause-Consequence mapping exercise and the 5 Why’s after several initial (and elaborate) thoughts of applying some new approaches. In the end, I reasoned that the most complex problems are usually solved with elegant simplicity.

And why not? Root Cause Analysis is not just for equipment ­­– it also applies to business processes and human errors.

The result was a good one.

Six Technical Presentations in One Session

The team needed to cover some technical ground. “I think we need to do six technical presentations in the next workshop, concluded the executive sponsor. “JD, what do you think? Can you pull this off from a facilitation perspective?”

“Sure,” I replied. “But I do have a few concerns. The first is that we will need to keep them brief to avoid boredom. The second is we need to do something to make them interactive.”

Well, that was stupid. How would I get six experts to be interactive in a brief time period?

My first choice was to use an audience response system (ARS). I would need to get the presentations early (which never happened). Then I would need to develop polling questions, load them into the ARS, and test them. The technology conflict of quickly transitioning slide shows while doing interactive polling with one projector and one screen forced me to simplify.

The next level was to develop three questions for each presentation and load them on PowerPoint for some “hand-raising” interaction. More simple idea, but once more, the technology thing blocked the approach.

So, we went really old school. Three questions on a sheet of paper that I read to the participants as the presenters transitioned their slide show. No technology. Only brief, simple questions because I had to read them clearly and quickly.

The result was a good one.

Keep it Simple with Proven Approaches

Do not overthink your facilitation approaches. Elegant simplicity is usually the best approach for any complex problem-solving. Stay with proven approaches. You will be rewarded for it.