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Article Revised: March 27, 2019
Join us for a Free Webinar on August 31
Featuring Larry W. Dyer, Master Black Belt, and Thomas Pyzdek, President, The Pyzdek Institute LLC.
This presentations answers the questions
- What is facilitation?
- Why is it needed?
- What are common meeting problems?
- What is a good facilitator?
- How do groups develop?
- How do we keep meetings on track?
- What are some of the pitfalls and time savers?
- Diffusing destructive dialog
- Other common problems and remedial action
“All attendees are in listen-only mode.
Hello everyone, welcome to the Pyzdek Institute webinar on facilitation. My name is Thomas Pyzdek and before we begin the actual webinar I want to give you a little tutorial on the webinar interface so that you can use it more effectively. So at this point you should see my screen and the screen has a manual. This is the go-to webinar attendee quick reference guide. I’m going to just hit some of the high spots so that you’ll be able to participate more effectively in the webinar. First of all you have a couple audio options. Most of you I see have used the voice option. You also have the option to use the telephone. So if you’re not hearing this well over your computer or if you’d like to participate and you don’t have a microphone you can also dial in. They’re not toll free numbers but they’re local numbers so whatever country you’re in should have its own phone number. Here are some of the best practices for voice. They recommend a headset, preferably a USB, but I can tell you right now the laptop will work okay without any additional equipment. You’ll need a speaker to hear the sound and a microphone to speak. It’s as if the organizer gives you speaking rights right now. You’re all on mute that’s we don’t hear a lot of background noise. As the webinar progresses if you have questions you can raise your hand. I’ll show you how to do that in a minute and when I recognize you I’ll unmute your microphone so that you can ask your question. At that point everyone attending will hear you. This is the switch audio formats. Again it’s a simple matter of just clicking the radio button. So let’s go to the next page of instructions
Okay easier said than done I guess. Okay here we go. So to use the control panel, I’m not giving you access to the attendee list for privacy purposes. So you don’t have to worry other people don’t see your name on the list but you don’t see the others and that’s by design. The next thing is we have a graph panel, you can move this around. This just gives you some buttons that you can use to click on. This is the button to raise your hand. When you do that, I’ll know that you have a question. There’s also a question panel we’ll get to down below and that’s somewhat different. Here’s your audio mode again we’ve covered that. This question panel lets you type in a question and when you type in the question I’ll see it. I will either answer it myself or I’ll refer to our presenter and we’ll get to our presenter in a moment. This is an option that’s available to you so if you don’t want to speak to ask your question, you can go ahead and just type in the question.
Webinar details and chats. This is a window where you’ll see information from me and information to you. At the moment there’s nothing in that window but what I’m going to do right now is I’m going to paste a link to a PDF file that has the slides that you’ll be looking at. Feel free to click that link and download the PDF file. Later on after the webinar is completed, I will post a video recording of the webinar. So right now everything you hear and see on the screen is being recorded. Later when we ask questions, that will also be part of the recording. So we’ll have a complete record and something you can go back to at a later time. So here is the link to the PDF file with slides. When I click send that will show up in your chat window and you can also chat with me rather than ask a question. If I have time I’ll type you out an answer. So at this point I am going to turn over presenter control to Larry Dire. Larry is a Pyzdek Institute certified master black belt. He has many years of experience in a number of different companies and as a consultant. Larry’s going to talk to you about the science and art of facilitation, certainly a valuable skill, not just for black belts and green belts but for anybody that’s involved in meetings. So at this point I’ll give presenter control to Larry and he will take it from here.
Okay there we go. Okay. See your screen fine. Okay, so let me tell you a bit about myself. My background was software development and project management. I spent a lot of years facilitating projects in my early career and then moved up into corporate management and then decided I wanted to do something different so I got into process improvement. I’ve been doing that ever since. So I’ve done a lot of facilitation in my background. In the process improvement role, I’ve probably completed somewhere between 35 and 50 Kaizen’s. We use the Kaizen format extensively because we have people scattered all over the United States. So in order for us to get a project done, we have to pull a group of people together at a single location and work really hard to get something done quickly and then everybody goes back to their location. So it’s really important that we make the maximum use of the time that we have available. So with that said let me see. I’m stuck Tom. There we go.
So what you will learn in this presentation; we’re going to talk a little bit about facilitation, why it’s needed, some of the common meeting problems that you’ll run up against, what is a good facilitator, what are the aspects of a good facilitator, a little bit about group dynamics, how groups developed, how to keep meetings on track and some of the pitfalls that you run into. I’ve put these on the end because a lot of times people ask me about specific situations. So these are some specific situations on there that you can use as reference material. We’ll talk about them a little bit also.
So facilitation. To facilitate; to make easier or less difficult, to assist the progress of. Facilitation; the lowering of resistance in a neural pathway to an impulse. I like that. So we’re going to talk about both of those.
Who is the facilitator? Well that’s the person who intervenes to help a group improve a way and identifies to solve problems and makes decisions. This came from Roger Schwartz. His book, “The Skilled Facilitator”, is an excellent reference guide. For any of you that are interested in learning more he also has sections in there about project management because a lot of what he talks about is facilitating a group to move forward. So there’s a lot of project management with that.
So why is facilitation needed? If you look at the scenario on top that represents the historic way that we get things done. Teams come together and then they go their separate ways. Sometimes they really don’t understand what they need to do and then they come back together again and they have to share an understanding. Eventually they get that understanding and they start to gather some data and then the data must be organized. Usually really organized and then they have to get together and review and analyze the data in order to reach some sort of agreement. Then they go back to their organizations for new direction and the project manager is pressing everybody to get their work done. In the end no one’s really exactly sure what they’ve collected. Oh by the way, this took a long time. The approach on the bottom is the facilitated approach that we like to use where; very early in the process you develop operational definitions which provide all the details that is needed for the group to go away and do exactly what needs to be done. This is the only way to ensure an understanding across a group. Then the team can go and gather any data that they need to gather, perform any analysis that needs to be performed, so when they get back together there’s a shared understanding. They can get to a result much faster this way. So speed is really the benefit to this. So what are the tangible benefits of doing this? Well reducing scope creep is one of the obvious ones. As all of you know, if your black belts or green belts and/or doing process improvement projects scope creep is a real problem. Actually it’s a real problem if you’re just doing project management. Where the more that people try to throw more and more scope into what you’re doing. “Hey while you’re doing that can you take a look at this?” I hear that all the time and so we want to manage that. We want to reduce scope creep and we want to get early learning. So this accelerates early learning by doing the operational different definitions at the beginning of the process. We want to reduce the overall time. Some of the intangible benefits is; you’re going to have team ownership of what you develop. When we pull these groups together, it is their solution that we build it’s not my solution. So they have ownership of the solution and they are much better at implementing that solution when they have ownership of it.
I like this quote “You can do a project without facilitation, but you can also cut your own hair and do your own dentistry. It just takes longer is more painful and you probably won’t get the best results. Project managers can get results without facilitation but they are taking a risk that it will take longer and will involve a learning curve they may not have time for.” That’s absolutely true. It is more painful and it does take longer if you don’t use facilitation.
So some of the common meeting problems that I see and you probably see them too; keeping on topic is one of the common problems that you have. Where people get off topic and you have to wrestle the topic back to what you’re trying to solve for. Agree with different definitions. This this is what I was talking about when you do operational definitions. I’ve had people agree but they both have a different definition of the word so they’re not really agreeing. I’ve had people arguing and they both have different definitions of the word and they’re only thing about it. Once they get the same definition they agree, so they found out they were in violent agreement. Then too much talk and too little deciding. There’s many more these are just a few that I see all the time.
Larry? Yes. On that last slide, I have an example I’d like to relate. Okay. It is a different definition problem and how this actually impacted a team that I was working with. I was working in a hospital that was trying to reduce the number of cesarean sections that they gave and the team hadn’t made much progress. We had a meeting where we invited the hospital administrator to come along and to facilitate the meeting. The first thing he did was he arranged this in a u-shaped room and I noticed that the people self-selected. The doctors all set by themselves on one side of the U. He wrote down, the administrator wrote down, the team’s mission and he said this is your mission as I got it from your team Charter. The mission of this team is to reduce the number of cesarean sections in the hospital. Do you all agree that this is your mission? The people that were not physicians all nodded their heads and the physicians all shook their heads. After a fair amount of discussion, a single word was added to that definition. They got a consensus and that was; they changed it from saying the mission is to reduce cesarean sections to the mission is to reduce unnecessary cesarean sections. With that agreement, that team was able to move forward and quite quickly get to a number of solutions. Yeah that’s a great point Tom. We always have a problem statement and a goal statement when we start facilitating these meetings. A lot of times they’ll even be conversation about, well that’s not really the problem the problem is something else or I don’t believe that states the problem and we’ll have to go through and we’ll have to modify that and get consensus with the group before we can continue. That’s a good point.
So let’s talk about a good facilitator. So the good facilitator takes nothing personally. You have to be mister objective up there or misses objective up there while you’re doing this. You need to ask questions to foster clarity. I’ve had many cases where I’ll ask questions because I’m trying to understand the content of what they’re talking about. I’ll have people come up to me at the break and say that they didn’t understand it either but they were too timid to ask questions. So I’m asking questions for clarity. It’s a great thing to do but don’t suggest solutions. You’re not there to provide solutions. You’re there just to keep the process moving. Guide the group instead of dictating to the group. That’s always the key thing to do there. Remaining objective, I’ve got that on their twice because it’s really important. I also wanted to point out that there are situations where I’m asked by the project sponsor to make sure that certain scenarios are reviewed and at least evaluated. So I may bring up those specific instances so that the team can evaluate those as one of the solutions for example. But other than that I try to remain as objective as possible. Allow the group to make decisions that are contrary to my opinion. Sometimes it’s really interesting where the group ends up on their solutions and how creative they can be. They take it places that I would have never thought and so it’s really interesting to just to watch that develop and not let your opinions be involved in that. Then, manage the group politics without fear of reprisal. Now you want to make sure that you know when the politics are going on in a group you have to address it. You address it without emotion and you focus on the meeting process, not contributing to the quality of the result of the meeting process.
So a little bit about group dynamics here. This is right out of Tom’s book, the Six Sigma handbook, where it talks about; forming, norming, storming and performing. You’re going to go through all of those stages when you pull these groups together. What you want to do is you want to recognize where you are so that you can move people quickly through these stages. The only time I haven’t been through these stages is when the group has worked together before on other issues or other problems and they are already used to performing as a group. But if you’re pulling a new group together or even if there’s just a few members of that group that are new, you’re still going to go through these stages. May be abbreviated, but you’ll still go through them. So it’s good to recognize this and to know where you are and then how you can bring people further on through the process.
So how do we keep the meeting on track? Well as I said earlier, I come in with a problem statement and a goal statement so that we know why we’re there. That’s the goal and the purpose. We try to keep everybody focused on the goal and the purpose as we move through that because we keep that problem statement up there on the wall and then everything else goes on a parking lot. The parking lot is your friend here. That’s your objective, is to keep anything that’s not related to exactly what I’m trying to solve on the parking lot. People will generally follow along with that. They’ll say; you know I really don’t want to forget what you’re saying it’s a good idea but it’s not directly related to what we’re doing so let’s put that on the parking lot so we don’t forget. A lot of times I’ll put an action item list right next to that and as we identify action items I’ll make sure that we capture them right there because I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about them. Going over and over them. If I capture them people feel comfortable that we’re going to get back to that, so I use that a lot. Let’s see, I think I covered everything on there.
Using an agenda. When I’m doing these Kaizen efforts, they are typically three day efforts. We’ve had people move from all over the United States to a particular location perhaps, Tucson Arizona or Denver Colorado or some other place. I make sure that we have a very detailed agenda before we get together so everybody knows what to expect in that three-day session. Then once we get out of that meeting, we have to use agendas again because everybody has gone back to their location and now we’re managing progress through weekly meetings. So we need agendas for those meetings to make sure that we continue to make progress. So the agenda is very important in the Kaizen, during the session and then after. Defining ground rules. I always define ground rules about what is allowed or not allowed during the meetings. For example; you know your laptop shouldn’t be on, your phone should be on stun, we’re going to take regular breaks, if I don’t call a break and severally if you have to go to the restroom raise your hand, things like that. The restrooms are down the hall, all those ground rules. Then if the group’s going to lose focus, I want to provide some guardrails for that. I’m going to tell them that you know don’t be surprised if I grab control of it and pull it back to the topic in the meeting. You have to kind of decide, how much of that, it that it may be off topic, but how much of that is really brainstorming and how much of it is just getting off topic. So you kind of have to let them go off topic and maybe spend 30 seconds or a minute off topic and then pull it back just to see if there’s going to be anything of interest there that might be a value. Timeboxing is a technique that you can use when you’re trying to get some decisions and you’re trying to get them in a very timely manner. So you could say we’re going to have X number of minutes to talk about this and then we’re going to vote on it and make a decision. If we can’t make a decision at that point we just take it and put it on the action item list and we solve it later because we have a lot of other things to do.
Make sure that you get all your participants engaged. So you’re going to see that naturally there are some people that talk a lot more than other people. You want to make sure that the people that aren’t talking also get to participate in the meeting. So sometimes I will call them out and say, “Well I’m I haven’t heard anything from Fred and I’m really interested in what Fred has to say on this topic.” So you want to make sure that you get everybody involved. Use the language of the business. I’m training some greenbelts right now and one of the things that I’ve talked to them about is be sure that you use language of the business when you are talking to them. Don’t use Six Sigma language for example. Let’s say that they get stuck in something in particular they want to use a sigma tool instead of saying, “Well we’re going to use a force field analysis for this.” Just say, “Well let’s talk about the barriers that are resisting progress here and let’s talk about the strength of the progress we want to make.” So the point is you try to use terminology that makes your audience feel comfortable and not feel intimidated. When you got people on the phone you have to continually remind the people in the room that there are people on the phone and that they need to say their name before they speak. If you see nonverbal behavior going on like, everybody’s nodding their head yes, you need to relate that to the people on the phone that everybody in the room is nodding their head yes at what you’re saying. So just remember that. Then you need to talk about the results. Right before you end the meeting you need to talk about; here’s what we’ve accomplished and here’s how we’re going to follow up, here are the next steps we’re going to assign the action items and then we’re going to meet on a weekly basis. So use that. Put that right into your agenda when you’re doing you’re your three-day session with them so that you’ve got like your wrap-up for your last hour where you’re talking about this stuff so that everybody understands when they leave here’s what I can expect over the next few weeks.
So this is this shows some of the dialogues that I’ve run across and that others have run across in time doing this. This actually came from Ron Krayville’s website. He had some things on their which were more behavioral oriented, human behavior. I’m kind of a student of human behavior. I’ve read lots and lots of books on; attitude self-image, dealing with people, human behavior, all those kind of books. Those books help you in being a facilitator because they teach you about human behavior. So I would recommend that if you have the time, go find some books and come into the book with the idea that I want to get one thing out of this book that’s going to help me to be a better facilitator. So these are some of the specific things that people talk about. One of the things that, like number three on that list, I’ve heard that one before. Where someone is trying to get me, the facilitator, to agree with them on something and I’m trying to remain neutral in this. So I use the language that’s on there. Sound like you feel it’s inappropriate or tell us how you feel or why is that such an issue. So that’s just some different ways to handle that.
Let’s see. Tom, I seem to be stuck on that slide. There we go.
Speaking for others. You want people to speak for themselves. So when somebody says, “I know a lot of other people in the group feel this way.” I’ll ask the other people to speak. “Does anybody else feel that way? Raise your hand if you feel that way. Tell me what it means to you.” So I don’t want just one person speaking for the group I want the other people to interact and to feel like they’re a part of the group also. The other one on there that I’ve seen many times it’s called, “super parenting.” Where, “I think what Mary’s really trying to say is…” I want to hear Mary say it, I don’t want to hear somebody else say it. I want them to use their own words. So I’ll cut them off. I’ve had people, while a person is in the process of talking, they’ll jump in over them and say this. So I have to cut them off and say well I really want to hear it from Mary. We’ll get to you in a moment don’t worry. So you really want to make sure that you get the conversation from everybody in the group.
Interrupting, you’re going to see that a lot. I had one group that I worked with and they were all there. They’re called account managers but their salespeople. They’re very competitive and they’re always ribbing each other. They’re always making comments to each other in a teasing fashion. I realized very quickly in this session that I was going to have to get at that level if I was going to maintain control of this group. Because of their interruptions I was losing control, so I had to jump in and I had to start operating at their level in order to keep control of that group. Withdrawing you want to make sure that everybody participates. Sometimes you may need to go offline with them at a break and find out what’s going on, why they’re not participating or is it just not of interest to them or what. To try to understand so that you can get some participation out of all the people in the group. When the group was formed the project sponsor obviously felt it was important that that person be there. So if it’s important that that person be there then it’s important that we understand what that person has to say.
Then challenging the facilitator. That will happen to you at times and you can’t let your emotions get involved there, you just have to stay cool, stay collected and call people on it basically. So you need to open it up to the group when that happens. That’s the technique that I use. For example, if someone is challenging me I’ll say, “Do others of you feel the same way?” And try to get other people to speak in defense or not. If they decide that I’m doing something wrong, I’ll change it obviously. But I had one group where it was a very large group. We had about 40 people in there, they were all managers and they all managed nurses. We had one person who was continually talking and challenging me. At the first break two of the people came up to me and they were very embarrassed by this lady’s behavior and they didn’t know what to do about it. I said how about you challenge her when she does that. Sure enough after that it stopped. So you can use all these different techniques you know to help you get through this.
Here are some things that I pulled out of Tom’s six-sigma handbook. These are just kind of some general areas where you’ve got problems and the action that you can use. The one that I’ll draw your attention to on there is; uses opinion instead of facts. Anytime people start spouting off about what their opinion about what the problem is or what the solution should be, I’ll just insist that we use the data. Okay let’s see what the data says. We’re not going to draw any conclusions about that right now, let’s just drive it with the data and see where the data takes us. So anyway these are useful to you when you get stuck in those situations.
So it takes a lot of planning and effort to do this. Typically when I’m going to do one of these Kaizens, I’ll spend about 10 to 15 hours planning it two to three weeks in advance of the event. Then the basic rules are; keep people on topic, manage the process and clarify. You are constantly clarifying. Either clarifying by developing operational definitions or clarifying by asking questions about what people mean but clarifying the communications. Then the box at the bottom I put solution is equal to the project times the quality of the solution times acceptance. With good facilitation that makes all the difference in acceptance of the solution. So if acceptance is zero, you’ve gotten no solution. So we want really good acceptance and so facilitation helps that.
Any questions at this point? So as I mentioned before there are a couple ways to ask questions. If you raise your hand I will unmute your microphone or telephone and let you ask your questions verbally or you can type your question into the question box and I will relay that your question to Larry. Either way is fine. You have any questions now is the time.
Okay so I’m going to unmute Victor. Victor go ahead and ask your question. “Yeah following the facilitation or the facilitator role, is that typically in the way that you’re talking about it include a leader role of the meeting?” Where the facilitator is the leader? “But I mean is the facilitator usually the leader I guess is my question?” Not usually. Okay. No, because in some cases we will have leaders in the meeting and I just try to be an independent third party as a facilitator. You don’t get the same kind of participation if the facilitator is the leader of the group. Okay anything else Victor? No. Okay great.
I have a question here from G. Smith. I don’t know the first name but G asks, “How does facilitation change when you are playing both the champion role and the facilitator role?” So that would be like being the facilitator and the leader, if you’re the facilitator and the champion. I’m going to assume that’s the case. It’s tough. It’s tough to do. You have to, especially depending on the leader. I mean I’ve seen it if you’re a very open leader and people understand that they will have an opportunity to share and an opportunity to express themselves then it can work. But it just it depends on the skills of your leader and their ability to be facilitator like. Their ability to be open and objective.
Larry, I have a question that relates to this. The last two questions have really kind of been along the same line, but do you find that sometimes you are asked to facilitate because the leader knows that they are intimidating and they want to get a person in there to get the group dialogue going? Absolutely, yes. Matter of fact a lot of the VP’s in our organization do that because they know they’re not going to get the feedback and dialogue if they do it. Mm-hmm. They just know that, so they brought me in specifically for that purpose, yes. Okay any other questions? Sometimes I’m also brought in to just working with the executive team so it’ll be the chief operating officer and some of the vice presidents and they’re just trying to get somebody who’s not directly related to the issue to come in and lead them in a facilitation. Okay.
Victor go ahead. I just had a comment I guess in hopes that this helps. You know I find the roles of leader and facilitator to be so different. Requires such a high amount of energy and focus that I for one I’m not smart enough to do both at the same time. Tut they’re just very different and I just would encourage you know those roles to be different. I think in the end the quality and outputs of meetings are better served. I agree. I think that’s a good point Victor. Let the leader lead and the facilitator facilitate. Two different jobs. Any questions? Okay well seeing no questions I’m going to go ahead and stop the recording at this point.”
The webinar The Science and Art of Facilitation was a great success! Thanks to all who attended and participated. Special thanks to Larry Dyer, the presenter, and panelist Peter Bersbach.
Below find links to recordings and resources used in the webinar. The first and second session presentations are essentially the same, but the Q&A for the two sessions are different.
Here’s a link to the slides used in the webinar.
Here’s a link to a recording of the early session.
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