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The Delicate Art of Facilitation

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Good facilitation skills are essential for many content strategy tasks and projects. Guiding internal colleagues as well as external groups to shared, successful outcomes serves essential project needs, including: team and stakeholder consensus, a clear strategic vision, and the ability to see content in context.

An effective facilitator does this by considering and balancing multiple individual perspectives and priorities within over-arching business goals--while also keeping user needs and goals at the forefront. Design for Context’s Duane Degler discusses techniques and approaches to channel the passions and personal goals of each participant, effectively guiding the group towards successful outcomes.

Published in: Leadership & Management
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The Delicate Art of Facilitation

  1. 1. 1The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context The Delicate Art of Facilitating a Content Strategy Duane Degler duane@designforcontext.com ! @ddegler Content Strategy Meetup DC Clarendon, VA – Aug 29, 2019 1 http://bit.ly/CS2019facilitation Content prepared in collaboration with Karen Bachmann ! @design4context
  2. 2. 2The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Introduction Facilitation . . . Successful navigation of a group to an outcome, ideally with some consensus, and preferably with a positive view of the experience. Degler and Bachmann, 2018 “Everyone has a stake in the outcome and is equally responsible for successes and failures.” * * Doyle & Straus (1976). How to Make Meetings Work! The New Interaction Method.
  3. 3. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Types of facilitated sessions? ● Workshop ● Visioning, design, content assessment, planning ● Kickoff / team-building ● Analysis / requirements gathering ● Users, stakeholders, SMEs, content owners, writers, developers, etc. ● Problem-solving ● Collaborative creation ● Review and feedback 33 ● Others?
  4. 4. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Facilitating: What’s the focus ? TASK PROCESS RELATIONSHIPS 44
  5. 5. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Facilitating: What’s the focus ? 55 Ingredients of an effective meeting: • There must be a common focus on content. • There must be a common focus on process. • Someone must be responsible for maintaining an open and balanced conversational flow. • Someone must be responsible for protecting individuals from personal attack. • And, in general, for the duration of the meeting everyone’s role must be clearly defined and agreed upon. Doyle & Straus (1976). How to Make Meetings Work! The New Interaction Method. Penguin. Amazon. University of La Verne PDF learning summary.
  6. 6. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Facilitation lessons from D&D ● A game is only as good as its Dungeon Master ● Epic challenges require an epically diverse team ● Make the mission explicit ● A sense of closure ● Culture is critical ● Rules are meant to be broken MANY PARALLELS Jim Babb, “Everything I know about worksessions, I learned from Dungeons & Dragons (https://medium.com/part-and-sum/dungeons-and-dragons-for-worksessions-d695af1b285e) 6
  7. 7. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Roles Group Facilitator Recorder / Co-Facilitator “Everyone has a stake in the outcome and is equally responsible for successes and failures.” 77
  8. 8. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● Keep the focus on the group and its goals ● Catalyze creativity, problem-solving, collaboration ● Encourage positive participation by everyone ● Create safe space ● Capture what the group says and decides, for use during and after the meeting (with a partner as a Recorder) Role and function of a facilitator 8
  9. 9. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Help create a group out of a collection of individuals Strive for any encounter to leave the participants with something of value Recognize that meetings (and interviews) are an implicit promise that the organization is listening, and some action will be taken ● Set expectations ● Mind what you say ● You often encounter people who have been disappointed and don’t trust My responsibilities 9
  10. 10. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● When you have a vested interest (inside), when you don’t have a vested interest (outside) ● Myth of neutrality ● Acknowledge and manage your barriers to listening ● Be open and encouraging to all participants ● Filter out extra “situational” barriers ● Know when to stop listening and lead Listening as a facilitator 10 Should I be neutral? Can I be neutral? Neutral is not the same as unknowledgeable
  11. 11. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Subject knowledge and neutrality 11 My focus and actions My knowledge and experience help me recognize the group’s dynamics Task, process, relationships – group dynamics and effectiveness Recognize digressions, going off task Recognize getting stuck Interject – with acknowledgement and permission Capture effective notes (with recorder role) Synthesize – note: this is not the same as summarize
  12. 12. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● It's about language – language use and language interpretation ● Important skills that Content Strategists can bring to the work ● Honest capture: You are a mirror of the group’s ideas and decisions ● Builds trust ● Synthesis: You are a channel that distills what is discussed, not arbitrates Be sensitive to language 12
  13. 13. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Group Memory Foster shared ownership Sense of progress Your aides memoire 1313
  14. 14. 14The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context THE ART OF FACILITATION: CHANGING THE WAY THE WORLD MEETS “When I facilitate meetings, I’m designing a temporary environment in which work gets done for people, so I’m really thinking like an architect.” Jay Vogt, TEDx Hampshire College, Nov 2011 Jay Vogt, ”The Art of Facilitation: Changing the Way the World Meets” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfZOvSU8PJE)
  15. 15. 15The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context The Process ● Preparing for facilitation ● Running a session ● Outcomes
  16. 16. 16The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Preparing for facilitation ● Define the desired outcome ● Plan the framework agenda ● Plan for recording ● Ground rules and ethical considerations “The way you design a meeting shapes the behavior of the participants.” * * Jay Vogt, ”The Art of Facilitation: Changing the Way the World Meets” at 9:30: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfZOvSU8PJE
  17. 17. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● Start with stakeholder conversations: shared context and goals ● Understand where this gathering fits with the larger goals ● Yes, this will also be a facilitation effort ● Ensure that you have clarity and inclusion across stakeholders ● These can still be modified in the session by the participants Desired outcomes 1717
  18. 18. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Their basic structure scales for larger and smaller needs Agendas are fractal 18 Housekeeping timing, logistics, expectations Set the stage get the group centered in the topic Focus on a primary topic activity(ies), then reflection/sharing Iterate & extend Small additional topic easily moved if time is tight Working Session Morning Session Afternoon Session Evening reflection and team bonding Workshop Longer duration Brief Meeting 18
  19. 19. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Agenda example: Cross-functional website kickoff 1919 Housekeeping Set the stage Focus on a primary topic Iterate & extend
  20. 20. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Agenda example: Multi-institution, multi-day meeting 2020 Final meeting of partners nearing completion of 2.5 year project. 3-day meeting with 28 attendees. The agenda was structured in half-day increments (one per page) to create a flexible detailed flow. Day 1 • Orient • Set goals • All participants report progress and activities Deep tech dive: • Data issues, responsibilities • Looking forward: Helping partners understand ongoing use and maintenance Day 2 • Reflect • Look forward toward use • Keeping sync across partners • Application feedback and refinements • Addition: Guest speaker • Looking forward: promotion Day 3 • Reflect • Lessons learned • Planning the remaining months and the roll-out • Completing the planning for remaining time • The future • Final reflections on the past years
  21. 21. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Planning for recording Group Facilitator 21 ● Focused on the task of recording ● Whether notes are visible to the group – may require sharing recording role with Facilitator ● Sufficient familiarity with context and language to be effective 21 Recorder / Co-Facilitator
  22. 22. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● Create a safe place for everyone ● Make clear the expected norms of behavior ● Reflect ethical considerations ● Consider and acknowledge your own ethical considerations ● Allow participants to shape the culture of the event ● Establish a clear reference to correct harmful behaviors ● Clarify exact consequences if needed Plan your Ground Rules 22
  23. 23. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● Understand and declare relevant biases and perspectives ● Understand that facilitation is about managing the power of the group, not taking power that isn’t yours ● Listen genuinely and openly ● Be humble ● Take care of participants and their well being Understanding ethical considerations 23
  24. 24. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context IAF Code of Ethics ● Client Service: We are in service to our clients, using our group facilitation competencies to add value to their work. ● Conflict of Interest: We openly acknowledge any potential conflict of interest. ● Group Autonomy: We respect the culture, rights, and autonomy of the group. ● Processes, Methods, and Tools: We use processes, methods and tools responsibly. ● Respect, Safety, Equity, and Trust: We strive to engender an environment of respect and safety where all participants trust that they can speak freely and where individual boundaries are honoured. We use our skills, knowledge, tools, and wisdom to elicit and honour the perspectives of all. ● Stewardship of Process: We practice stewardship of process and impartiality toward content. ● Confidentiality: We maintain confidentiality of information. ● Professional Development: We are responsible for continuous improvement of our facilitation skills and knowledge.IAF Code of Ethics (https://iaf.sg/about-us/code-of-ethics/) Dale Hunter, The Art of Facilitation: The Essentials for Leading Great Meetings and Creating Group Synergy (https://amzn.to/2F9bZqX) 24
  25. 25. 25The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Running a session ● Flow ● Encouraging (effective) participation ● Navigating disruptions ● Recording ● The art and craft of summarizing “Facilitation is like dancing. If you go unconscious, you miss the rhythm and trip.” * Participant quote. In Dale Hunter & Anne Bailey, ”The Facilitation of Groups” Taylor & Francis, 2017.
  26. 26. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● Declare ground rules: to establish expected conduct within the meeting and gain agreement, to create a safe space ● Set the stage: draw participants in, build shared context ● Open up: problem solving, ideation, team building, group cohesion ● Hone in: as you grow a shared perspective, begin to focus down via synthesis, prioritization, and consolidation of outcomes ● Come to closure: wrap up, focusing on achievement and relationships, so that everyone is confident with outcomes and goals ● Give everyone an opportunity to express (round robin) Moving focus throughout a session 26
  27. 27. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● One main activity in each block, secondary items round out / tee up ● Pace Rhythm Reflect Synthesis Crescendo Absorb Activity 27 Reflect
  28. 28. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context 28 Listen & Watch Select & Guide (toward/away) Synthesize Task focus Drifting or cycling? Process focus Relationship focus Negativity / attack? Power evenly balanced? They think they’re done? Do they have one? Guide / suggest Get them moving Engaged and on a roll? Contributions shut down? Change the process Manage the disruptor Check on the process Encourage the flow Reset role expectations Wrap it up!
  29. 29. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context “Clocks” iPad app Respect people’s time and comfort 29
  30. 30. 30The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Encouraging (Effective) Participation
  31. 31. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Roles Group Facilitator Recorder / Co-Facilitator 3131
  32. 32. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Techniques SET THE TONE OF THE MEETING ● Credit and Build ● Start with the positive ● Magic wand GIVE EVERYONE AGENCY ● Encourage silent participants – help everyone contribute ● Watch for non-verbal cues ● Use round-robin where comfortable ● Mix individual, breakout, and full group activities ● Individual list-making, sketching ● Breakout groups – similar topics, different topics ● Full group shared discussions, common understanding, belonging 32
  33. 33. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Techniques (cont’d) FOSTER COLLABORATION AND INTERACTION ● Active engagement with physical things – sorting, manipulating ● Parallel Design sketching, drafting ● Explore what someone else has thought/written ● Write and then pass to others ELABORATING WHAT IS KNOWN ● Semantic Differentials ● Particularly with Now < > Future scores ● Prepare these after interviews, for the meeting: key drivers and goals ● Supply / Demand exploration ● “Supply” to left – inbound ● “Demand” to right – outbound 33
  34. 34. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Techniques (cont’d) BRING IN AN OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVE ● External example mining – for ideation ● Integrate other research results ● Usability testing ● Voice-of-the-customer ● Survey data, analytics, etc. EVALUATE AND CRITIQUE IDEAS GENERATED ● Worst case scenario ● Impact assessment ● K-J Analysis / Affinity Diagrams 34
  35. 35. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context “Innovation” is expected everywhere, and we are often called on to lead ● Visioning ● Analogy ● Non-domain solving activity ● Similar type of activity ● Totally outside the domain/task ● Decomposition Managing a creative problem-solving session 35
  36. 36. 36The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Navigating disruption and drama
  37. 37. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Boss Roles Group Facilitator Recorder / Co-Facilitator 3737 “The Interaction Method takes the ‘boss’out of the manager.”
  38. 38. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● Identify the emotions, empathize, support – but don’t take ownership ● Empower the group toward the goals ● Capture the grievances ● Turn them into an activity ● Your focus = the group’s focus Techniques for group dynamics 38 “Remember, you’re in a powerful position when you facilitate – you command the attention of the group. You should become a lens through which the members of the group become focused on the problem.”
  39. 39. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● Continually refocus on the whole group – not individuals ● Parking lot digressions ● Proximity ● Focus on someone else ● Block sightlines ● Hover nearby ● Loom over ● Call a break, then take someone aside Techniques for distractors 39 Concerns Parking Lot
  40. 40. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● If the group is… ● Going in different directions ● Shutting down ideas “we can’t do this” ● Stonewalling ● Having a dominant participant in a scoping/ decision-making role ● One approach: use your artifacts to help structure the individual responsibilities ● Activities diagrams have been useful for this Re-focus responsibilities 40 Get signed dealer stock inventory Locate item and set receipt status Save status change Damaged Item? Present list of items not delivered Check for undelivered items Set flag in audit archive Staff and dealer sign delivery note File agreed dealer delivery note BEFE Other Receive Stock Visual check item labels & condition Select dealer inventory record Retrieve inventory records Set status of undelivered items Maintain damaged items record Additional Item? Go to: Enter Inventory Line Item Locate item and set damage status Save status change
  41. 41. 41The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Recording
  42. 42. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Parking Lot Group Memory Foster shared ownership Sense of progress Your aides memoire Minimize digressions 4242
  43. 43. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Group Memory Positive comments Concerns Action items Revisit e.g. Feedback Sessions Information Questions Tasks Rules / Decisions e.g. Task Analysis Keep myself oriented – Signal the Recorder – Simplify later reporting/documentation 4343
  44. 44. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● Lightweight – stay focused on what is said ● Check the integrity of what you’ve captured ● “Does this summarize what you are thinking?” ● “Did I get this right?” ● Keep similar things together – signpost relationships ● Have a sheet with major topics to return to ● Add to it when new things arise ● Prioritize, check off Recording 44
  45. 45. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Sketchnote style recording can sometimes increase participant investment and later use of notes. Recording as Art 45
  46. 46. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Example: Task analysis recording 46
  47. 47. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Example: Task analysis recording 47 The most important part of multi-week recording was tracking what was, and needed to be, captured
  48. 48. 48The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context The art and craft of summarizing
  49. 49. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● Do you need it? ● Can individuals articulate it? ● Will it last when they leave the room? ● People need to act on their understanding and agreements Carrying common ground out of the room Consensus 49
  50. 50. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● Synthesis ● Link to outcomes ● Check-off meeting goal achievement Summarizing: It’s participatory, not meeting minutes 50
  51. 51. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● Use flipcharts to capture synthesis ● Walk through the room, reviewing all the sets of PostIt notes to spot additional items for summary ● Involve the group ● Ask them to summarize ● Confirm and clarify each point with the group – they own the meeting outcomes Quick summarizations 51
  52. 52. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● Get input from all individuals, not just the loudest voices ● Make it explicit and anonymous ● Physical activity encourages discussion and consensus-building ● Seeing value judgements and decisions graphically is powerful Example: Voting and ranking 52
  53. 53. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context ● Project the document so everyone can see it and participate in the process – they are the owners ● At the same time, keep additional comments, concerns, and parking lot items separately on PostIt notes ● Recognize that this takes more time than you may expect – it’s a negotiation Example: Capturing action items 53 Actions captured in meeting for participants
  54. 54. 54The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Consolidating the results Closing the loop between your users, your participants, and those who contracted you
  55. 55. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context In addition to the usual reporting of findings, observations, and conclusions: ● Avoid forcing alignment to pre-conceived ideas ● Give credit to participants appropriately – acknowledge their power ● Bring insights up to an approachable, shareable level ● Select modes of sharing by audience ● Informal or formal ● Presentation (or series of presentations) ● Standalone to support distribution and use over time Outcomes 55
  56. 56. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Example: Model concepts that emerge from workshops CONTEXT DISCOVERY INTERPRETATION INTERNAL & SOCIAL PROCESSES InfluencesInfluences May Challenge Updates Catalyzes Is a Source for LIFE CYCLE PROGRESSION Provides Feedback forUnderlies EXTERNAL SHOCKS EXPLICIT DATA ACTIONABLE INFORMATION IMPLICIT KNOWLEDGE Catalyzes Enables 56
  57. 57. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Example: Translate to appropriate modes of sharing 57 Actions captured in meeting for participants Actions translated for external stakeholders
  58. 58. The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context Example: Report 58 Topical organization Incorporate models and solutions that encapsulate concepts and ideas
  59. 59. 59The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context And finally . . . a haiku Let go of control Step away from everyday Discover the new Viv McWaters, in Discovering the Definition of Facilitation International Association of Facilitators, 6.2017 https://www.iaf-world.org/site/global-flipchart/8/definition
  60. 60. 60The Delicate Art of Facilitation Content Strategy Meetup DC, 8.29.2019@ddegler @design4context The Delicate Art of Facilitating a Content Strategy Duane Degler duane@designforcontext.com ! @ddegler Content Strategy Meetup DC Clarendon, VA – Aug 29, 2019 60 http://bit.ly/CS2019facilitation Content prepared in collaboration with Karen Bachmann ! @design4context

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