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Exercise: Planning a Facilitation Session

This lesson is a part of an audio course Facilitating High Performing Meetings by Ross Maynard

Consider how you would facilitate a meeting in this short exercise.

Let's say you are a manager in the GoSeeIt Travel Company. The company is, simultaneously, upgrading three of its most vital IT systems. Individually the projects are working well, but you are concerned that the project teams are so busy on their own work that they are not communicating with each other. All three systems need to share up to date information about the company's personnel and its customers. The HR system is to be the "master" for personnel information, and the sales system is the "master" for customer information.

You are concerned that no effort has been put into defining and agreeing the data items or structure for the information that needs to be shared between the systems; or how the interfaces will work.

You have convened a meeting with the leaders of each project. Here are my questions for you:

  1. What three objectives would you set for this meeting?

  2. You only have two hours for the meeting. What is the one key thing you have to achieve by the end of this session?

  3. The people in the different project teams haven't worked together before. What could you do to build a cohesive group?

Pause this lesson while you consider your responses to these questions. If you can, make some notes on your thoughts.

Welcome back. Here are my suggested answers for the questions I just raised.

First, what objectives should you set for the meeting. I think objectives for the meeting could include:

  • To agree a timetable and action plan for the definition of the required data items that need to be shared.

  • To establish a means for regular communication between the project teams, focusing on shared issues.

  • To identify a team of people who will take responsibility for the shared data and related issues.

  • To create an overall governance structure for the projects to ensure closer coordination and to allow critical issues to be escalated.

Second, if you only have two hours for the meeting, what is the one key thing you have to achieve by the end of this session? For me, the one key thing that must be achieved in the session is an agreement, and a plan, to develop a common approach for the shared data and the interfaces. This would include meeting dates and the individuals involved.

The third question was, what could you do to build a cohesive group? As the teams haven't worked together before, a short, fun icebreaker at the start of the session might be useful. There are many activities that could work. Here are two suggestions:

  • Mix up the teams and form groups of three or four people. Ask each team to devise a team charter to establish principles for the discussions that will follow.

  • Mix up the teams, as before. Give each team a piece of flipchart paper and pens, and ask them to create a logo and a mission statement for the task of defining the interface between the systems.

Now, to close this lesson, think about your own personal development.

  • What are the main skills you wish to develop?

  • How will you build those skills? Options include online learning; watching videos; reading, and trying things out in practice.

  • Identify two or three people in your organisation, or that you know, who are good facilitators. Ask to join one of their sessions as an observer to see them in practice.

Thank you for listening to this lesson. In our next lesson, we look at the preparation you need to do to facilitate a meeting.

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Written by

Ross Maynard