Honig IdeaGuides: Meeting Facilitation & Training
Be guided in your meetings
Ensure collaboration
Get buy-in
 
Why Be Guided?

Provides Productive Meeting Process and Organization
Your team meeting will be well organized to ensure a smooth flow and the best use of time.

Coalesces the Team
The team will be on the same page, creating greater energy and interest for the project at hand.

Promotes Team Buy-in
Team members will buy-in to ideas and decisions, making them more likely to bring the ideas into action.

Maintains Interest & Enthusiasm
Participants will maintain high interest in the group work throughout the meeting.

Frees the Whole Team
The team will be free to participate, including the leader.

Gives you Neutral Meeting Leadership
The playing field of participation will be even. Good for leaderless groups too.

Increased Quality
The solutions, ideas and decisions will be superior.

 

Results Benefits

Our meeting facilitators will give you...

More ideas, faster
Better decisions & solutions
Ideas into actions
A coalesced team

 

We Emphasize


Collaboration
: Everyone works together to create ideas and make decisions

Involvement: Everyone has equal opportunity to contribute to the group

Participation: Activities are fun and engaging

Productivity: The team produces results and accomplishes goals

Creativity: The team draws from the creativity of the group

corporate retreat

 

Honig IdeaGuides
San Francisco Bay Area
415-892-8711

©2002-2006 all rights reserved

Meeting

Facilitators

We will guide and facilitate your meetings and retreats for your executives, managers, department or project team towards generating great ideas & making the best decisions while building your team stronger.

Exceptional Meetings, Cohesive Team & Better Decisions

What do you want to accomplish at your meeting?

Developing a Strategic Plan

Solving Problems & Making Decisions

Creating a Strategic Vision

Developing Mission & Values Statements

Defining Marketing Approach and Messages

Creating Product Ideas & Names

Establishing a Customer Service Policy

Developing any Policy

Developing Ideas: Ideation

Team Building

How We Work

Planning for the meeting
The first thing we do is plan for the meeting. To accomplish this an Idea Guide (your meeting facilitator) will interview you (and members of your team) to determine the purpose, outcomes and detailed information needed to create the ideal meeting for you and your group. We then produce a high level agenda that will be presented to you. Together we will refine the agenda. The result of this step is a meeting agenda that will fit your goals 100%.

Meeting Facilitation
An Idea Guide will facilitate your meeting. They will ensure that everyone contributes and collaborates. Meetings are always highly productive and engaging.

Follow-up
You and your team will receive a report that contains the results and the "output" of the meeting.

Options

You may want add the following services if they will fulfill additional outcomes and meeting intentions...

Graphic Recording
A great way to WOW your meeting participants. We provide a graphic recorder to record the output of the session in a beautiful graphic form. Click here for an example of graphic recording.

Computer Supported Meetings for real time / same place Allows for anonymity of the meeting. Great for dealing with volatile issues, dominate personalities, and/or quiet, introverted people.

Internet Supported Meetings for real time or any time / any place
Your team members work together from different places using the Internet to exchange ideas, solve problems and create new opportunities. All they need to participate is a standard web browser.

More Information and Requesting a Proposal
Please call 415-892-8711 or click on "request for proposal"

Who We Are I Contact Us

Facilitation I Training I Build Teams

 
facilitator 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to

look for in a group facilitator
Sandor P. Schuman

 

Filling this role with the right person can make decision making and problem solving go more smoothly.

 

Your group -- executive team, task force, working group, interagency committee, commission, or expert panel -- faces a complex decision in which there are multiple issues and diverse perspectives. You believe the group will be more likely to succeed if there is one person who can help the members work together to address the problem at hand. Now, how do you go about selecting this meeting facilitator?

The type of facilitation needed in this case is very different from that used in training, informational meetings, and other settings. In training situations, for example, the group has clear, predetermined goals and objectives, deals with a well-defined subject, and rarely encounters conflict. In contrast, problem-solving groups determine their own goals and objectives, define the nature and scope of the subject matter, and frequently encounter conflict which, if not handled constructively, can lead to failure.

What special skills are required to facilitate these groups? How can you select a meeting facilitator who will meet your group's needs and produce effective results? Four basic capabilities should be sought in a meeting facilitator:

1. He or she should be able to anticipate, soup-to-nuts, the complete problem-solving and decision-making process.
2. He or she should use procedures that support both the group's social and cognitive processes.
3. He or she should remain neutral regarding content issues and values.
4. He or she should respect the group's need to understand and learn from the problem solving process.

 

A Soup-to-Nuts Approach to Meeting Strategies

A meeting facilitator should take a strategic view of the group's work. He or she should understand the needs of the group and the requirements of the tasks and lay out an appropriate strategy in advance. Like a chessmaster, an experienced facilitator looks several steps ahead in the problem-solving process. Rather than thinking in terms of a single, stand-alone meeting, the facilitator should see the work of the group as a larger, integrated process that is punctuated by meetings. What happens between meetings can be just as important as the work done during meetings.

The meeting facilitator might first ask the group to describe the problem, which could be, for example, "Over the last two years, many of our users have made suggestions for improvements to our information systems. We haven't been able to respond until recently, and now we have to set some clear priorities. Users have to understand that we are still operating with limited funds and that we won't be able to implement all the improvements they request."

After some consideration and discussion, the facilitator should be able to depict a complete scenario that describes how the group might proceed through various phases to solve the problem and reach a decision. He or she might propose the following: "How does this sound? We could start by getting the users together to identify each of the projects they would like to pursue. We'd ask them to think about this individually and then collect their ideas, one at a time, to build a complete list on a flip chart. We could ask them to organize related projects in clusters, and assign each cluster to a small group. Each small group would examine its cluster, break larger efforts into smaller, more manageable projects, and arrange the projects in order of priority. Then we could ask the users to evaluate the relative benefit -- albeit highly subjective -- of each package. We could rely on the systems specialists to make rough estimates of the relative costs. Then we'd have a basis for sorting the list of proposals according to their benefit-cost ratio."

Although a detailed plan is valuable, versatility and flexibility are also important. A facilitator should be able to describe alternative scenarios or suggest how the agenda might vary depending on how things actually work out at each stage. An experienced facilitator selects from what Marshall Scott Poole, a communications researcher at the University of Minnesota, calls a "procedural salad bar" to assemble a process appropriate to the group's needs. One should avoid a facilitator who always serves up a house salad, relying on a method that does not change regardless of the particular situation that the group faces. A facilitator with such a limited repertoire brings to mind the saying, "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

Helping the Group Think and Talk at the Same Time

The work of decision-making groups involves both social and cognitive processes, according James Ward and Peter Reingen, professors of marketing at Arizona State University. Group members communicate and interact (which involves a social process) so that they can address content issues (which involves a cognitive process). The combination of these two processes creates a shared understanding of the problem among the group, which forms the basis for a consensus solution and, in turn, enables effective implementation and follow-up. Facilitators should be conscious of their twofold task; they should be able to illustrate procedures that will help the group think about the problem and, at the same time, help the group interact effectively.

Consider a group situation in which the discussion becomes heated and a number of people are talking at once. A facilitator might intervene with the following: "Let's listen to what each person has to say, one at a time. We'll work our way around the table and give everyone the opportunity to speak. Mary, would you like to start?" This is an intervention in the social process that regulates how people interact, but it does not, by itself, intervene in the cognitive process.

To address the cognitive process, the facilitator might add, "As each person speaks I will summarize on the flip chart the key issue or concern that he or she is presenting. I'd like you to tell me exactly how to word your issue. When we have a complete list of issues we'll be able to look for shared concerns and we'll be in a better position to evaluate their role and importance." A facilitator can aid the cognitive process by recording and structuring information. Otherwise, the group provides information in an invisible and unmanageable stream.

Process Leadership but Content Neutrality

Facilitators assume a position of responsibility that strongly influences the group. While facilitators should assume responsibility for the group process (after all, they are placed in this role because of their process expertise) they should not attempt to apply content expertise.

There are two reasons why this differentiation is important. First, thinking about the problem is a demanding, full-time job. It is too much to expect group members to think hard about the problem and at the same time observe the group's behavior and steer the process. The facilitator provides a great service to the group by shouldering this burden. Likewise, it is too much to ask that the facilitator attend to process issues and, at the same time, work on solving the problem.

Second, if the facilitator were to step over the line and try to contribute to or influence the group's decision, he or she would likely be seen as taking sides. You might think of this as the "dark-side" of facilitation. Although inexperienced facilitators might be tempted to offer content knowledge or opinion, this can undermine their ability to aid the group as a whole. Larry and Maryann Phillips, facilitators in the United Kingdom, suggest that facilitators address content issues by handing them back in changed form. They should carefully listen to what group members say and then feed this back in a form that summarizes, reorganizes, or integrates information to provide insights. But facilitators should not buy into or advocate the results of their analysis. Facilitators should be neutral -- they should let group members examine their values, assumptions, and choices, never suggesting or advocating what they should be.

Say, for example, that an argument has erupted regarding wilderness preservation: "There isn't a single resident in this area who supports wilderness!" proclaims one individual. Another responds, "I know hundreds of people who support wilderness preservation!" The first, indignant, retorts, "I don't believe you even know a hundred people!" Before the discord can escalate further, the facilitator steps in: "One moment, please. First, I would like to make sure we all understand what people mean by "wilderness." Let's hear the views of some other people, and let's be very clear about what we mean. John, could you describe exactly what you mean when you use the term wilderness?" In this case, the facilitator did not engage in the content discussion by offering an opinion about who is in favor of wilderness preservation, or by giving a definition of wilderness. Rather, the facilitator exercised process leadership by moving the discussion away from the antagonists, inviting another individual into the discussion, and asking a pointed question to examine underlying assumptions about the meaning of terminology.

If the desire of your group is to gain additional content expertise, hire a substantive expert. But remember: do not saddle him or her with the additional chore of facilitating the group process.

Respect for the Group

For group members to buy into the results, they also have to buy into the rules and procedures of the process. Michael Harmon, a professor of public affairs, explains that these rules and procedures are understood in moral terms. Imagine how members might feel if, as they follow a facilitator's instructions, they thought the wool was being pulled over their eyes. They might well respond with anger akin to moral indignation.

Good facilitators are keenly aware that they are intervening in basic functions that are dearly valued, such as how individuals communicate, process and make sense of information, and reach decisions. Because of this, it is critical that the group understand what the facilitator is doing. In other words, the procedures used by the facilitator should be transparent -- the members should be able to see right through the rules to understand their underlying intent and how they are applied.

Sometimes, however, a facilitator might decide that the problem is extremely difficult and calls for a problem-solving method that is necessarily complex -- one that can capture the complications and convolutions of the problem and make it manageable. Such methods are powerful, but they are not always easy to explain or understand. Complex methods and procedures can be overwhelming to group members being exposed to them for the first time. They often react with suspicion, especially if they distrust other participants or question the facilitator's neutrality on substantive issues. It is unreasonable to expect people to play for keeps when they do not understand the rules and feel they cannot formulate a strategy.

Imagine that a group has created an extensive list of alternative courses of action. The facilitator distributes to each participant a strip of stickers, such as colored dots. He or she says, "I'd like each of you to come forward, examine the options written on the charts, and pick the five options you would most like to pursue. Place one sticker on each of the five most promising options." One of the group members protests: "I don't understand where we're headed. Is this going to narrow down the list? Are we going to drop from consideration all but the top five alternatives? What about the ones that are interrelated? What about the more complicated ones that won't get many votes because no one understands them?" In a case like this, the facilitator should make clear what are the implications of this step, and where the process is headed.

In using complex methods, the facilitator should provide an overview of the method, touching briefly on the steps of the procedure. The facilitator might also take the group through a trial run of the procedure to make sure everyone understands it. The goal should be that each person understands the process -- if not beforehand, then at least before it concludes. The facilitator must meet the group's need to understand the process.

Selecting a facilitator for your group

Facilitating structured meetings is a recent innovation in the history of problem solving, conflict resolution, and decision making. While facilitation's value has been clearly documented, groups might be hesitant because they are not sure what facilitation is or what to look for when selecting a facilitator. These guidelines can help you select a facilitator who will meet your needs and establish an effective working relationship with your group.

Facilitation works best when the facilitator:

* Takes a strategic and comprehensive view of the problem-solving and decision-making processes and selects, from a broad array, the specific methods that match the group's needs and the tasks at hand
* Supports the group's social and cognitive processes, freeing the group members to focus their attention on substantive issues,
* Is trusted by all group members as a neutral party who has no biases or vested interest in the outcome
* Helps the group understand the techniques being used and enables the group to improve its own problem-solving processes.