Interesting comment, it was made by the members of one of the Chief Executive Groups I run.
Empty Meeting Room
Sometimes letting things happen can be quite revealing.
This answers one of the questions posed earlier in this blog (Why do we need facilitation anyway?)
You’ll need some background:
- I have been facilitating this particular group for about 4 years.
- We meet once every 2 months or so.
- We started it because being a CEO is a particularly lonely position.
- Talking to peers in a confidential environment is really valuable.
- CEOs need others to bounce ideas around
- We have unlocked so many seemingly intractable situations.
- Problem solving at this level needs absolute confidentiality.
- This builds a lot of commitment between the members of the group.
Why change anything?
I’m constantly aware of being complacent, and try not to take situations for granted.
They had all known one another for 4 years. A lot of trust builds up in that time. I got to wondering whether I was actually adding any value.
So I started to let go of this group.
So what happened?
- Interestingly, nothing happened.
- The group stopped meeting.
- Gradually they began to ask me when the next meeting was to be.
- We held a series of reality check conversations to find out whether what we were doing was still worthwhile or just habit.
- These conversations need to be 1:1
- They all needed the group to continue.
- “It just doesn’t happen with you” they told me when we got together again.
Facilitation does make a difference. Really valuable group working doesn’t just happen.
I’ll still not be complacent though…
The too Innovative company
“Before you can walk out of the door we can have 10 ideas…. “ Board director’s comments when working on the brief
I have been working with the board of directors of an international manufacturing firm to solve the problem:
• Good sales growth but markets maturing
• Lots of new ideas but not sure which to work on
• How do we make sense of too much innovation?
The first part of the solution was to get everyone understanding the overview of the situation.
Mapping the product portfolio showed that the range was skewed toward too many star products
This acted as the catalyst for the board to begin an open dialogue about the product range. We could identify management strategies to apply to which products but we needed to sort the wheat from the chaff. This was done on the day with flipcharts and paper. Keeping the facilitation low tech allowed the discussion to flow without interruptions and it works well.
How to prioritise the priorities? Especially difficult when people in the room have their pet products and a lot of emotional attachment is involved in making these decisions.
The first run identified the top three candidates for management attention. the next stage was to help the board identify the priorities from the top candidates.
We used a variant of the GE Matrix
. This framework allowed the discussions to be facilitated focussing on rational factors and kept the emotional content under control.
- Example Market Attractiveness Matrix
This structured facilitation resulted in a clear agreed set of priorities that everyone signed up to. They had each had their say and created the ranking factors for themselves resulting in a high degree of clarity about the way forward which they now collectively owned.
This is embedded in the business, they are all working collaboratively with renewed focus. They have a system to manage their innovative strength and keep the existing business functioning.
I was working with a successful international company recently.
The board asked me to facilitate a workshop for them to help them understand how to improve sales growth.
The reason they called me in was because they needed someone neutral to help them talk to one another.
This may sound surprising however when they hold meetings themselves they get distracted by the detail and needed me to help them stay focussed.
What did we do together?
- I was able to ask the basic questions that helped them share the facts
- We established the current sales and marketing pattern
- The board realised that they had lots of products in development
- Everyone had their own favourites
- We worked on a prioritising system to understand what was important for them
- Then compared all the different possibilities
- They then selected the top priorities
- All agreed on the focus
- Went back with renewed energy and confidence to work.
In this process I provided the frameworks and this gave them the permission to talk to one another.
I am amazed how often this type of interaction occurs – people who know one another well sometimes cannot talk about what is really important to the business.
Bringing in someone external they can trust unblocks the barriers.
The result of this focus is that sales have increased and they have a better balance between products and also improved communications between board members.
Many people might not understand the term Facilitation, so presenting facilitation in terms of what it can do for your business is a better angle.
We used a facilitative approach to help an organisation develop its strategic plans, in this example we focussed on the financial strategy
facilitated workshop for financial strategy
The workshop method is a popular way of getting people involved and capturing a wide variety of views on a topic
In this case we used an idea wall
- We developed ideas and actions cards prompting thinking
- Ideas written on the cards were placed on the wall
- Groups contributed new cards in rotation
- Encouraged everyone to discuss the ideas
- Clustered into themes
- Summary presented back to the room
This simple process is really powerful, for example one person put an issue down that was due to have an impact on the organisation.
- The rest of the room went quite when it was shared…
- Then various comments;
- ….”I didn’t know that!”
- …”Knowing this saves us a huge amount of hassle, time and money”
The person who put the comment up assumed everyone knew this!
They were able to incorporate this insight into the plans, there and then.
I am always fascinated by what happens when you bring people together with an outside facilitator.
Something as simple as sharing our knwoeldge helps us anticipate the future.