Facilitation that Flies

Ok, so you have all the right people in the room, you have two or three hours and you want to create a shared plan of attack. We've all been here and we've all seen it fly and seen it fail either spectacularly or with a whimper. I've facilitated workshops for 15 years with governments, community groups, teachers, green teams, businesses, conferences and not for profit board rooms and done so in hotels, bus shelters, classrooms, conference venues, community centres, lounge rooms and offices. People seem to like what I do. So here are a few of my golden facilitation rules:

The human brain can concentrate on a task for about 27 minutes. Change things up. Change the activity and the space.  Change the social structure a few times. Some people perform better in a big group discussion, some one on one. So build in some solo thinking/writing time, some one on one conversations, some group work around a table and some big group discussions.

Encourage different opinions: We don't like disagreeing face to face. But if you do disagree staying silent is the worst thing you can do for the success of the project.  Space shuttles have exploded, wars have been waged and planes come down because people stayed silent or blocked other opinions. The book Wisdom of Crowds has the best three rules for teams to follow. 1. Begin openminded 2. Different Opinions Rock 3. Hear from everyone. Any small group that follows these rules will be faster and smarter than any individual within the group. 

Cater for people's different strengths. Some people love to dream big, some like to plan, some like to learn/teach and some want to stuff the whole workshop and go and get started. All four of these types are crucial to ongoing success. I like to sort people into these four camps and let them go for it. Learning, planning, doing and dreaming small groups will cover a whole journey for you. If we're not doing one of them chances are we are going to fail.  A good large group report back and discussion on each and you'll have a great plan of attack.

Have fun, be human scale and build in Purposeful Informality. Oh dear I hear you say, here comes Ricky Gervais in the office! Awkward! And anyway, we have real work to do! Well I ask you this: do you want success or not? We are a social animal who thrives on connection and community. Provide the space for interaction and minimise officiousness, hierarchy and IT. Next, the part of the brain where insight occurs is directly next door to the part that responds to music, the arts and nature. Do you want people having insights or not? Finally, you don't build a team by having a plan, you build a team by enjoying yourselves creating the plan. We thrive when we are engaged and participating, not when we are bored and trodden on.  Have some fun. No one ever died laughing. 

Build Respectful Relationships. Learn names, build relationships, be respectful, make eye contact, draw everyone in and capture hearts. And play to the smiler. You cant take responsibility for the state of other peoples lives and minds. The frowner usually has something else going on. 

People love knowing what is going on, why it's going on, how it's going to happen, when the food/break is and when it is going to finish. It aint hard to tell em. I like putting a simple mind map of the agenda on a whiteboard so that people know where the session is at whenever they want.