Team facilitation can make or break the best intended planning session. You gather your team together, set aside one or more major chunks of time, and launch your agenda. And you come away with a dynamic, focused plan and enthusiastic support… or not.
There are no guarantees that your brainstorming or strategic planning sessions will be productive and fruitful, but you can take practical steps to significantly improve the odds.
9 Tips for Successful Team Facilitation
- Have the right people in the room. Include representatives from all stakeholder groups. The individuals should be respected by their peers, and ideally respected by other stakeholder groups, as well.
- Have a designated facilitator who is empowered to coordinate and guide the discussion.
- Have an agenda and a defined goal for the session. The goal may be a strategic plan, or an implementation timetable for a new project, or a new tag line for a product, or any one of a number of things. Set the goal and inform participants prior to the meeting. Encourage them to discuss the issue among their peers, and bring the ideas generated to the meeting. During the meeting itself, have a formal agenda progressing from introductions through to concluding remarks, emphasizing that the purpose of the meeting is to reach the stated goal.
- Set ground rules. There are no dumb questions. All opinions are respected. Alternative opinions are expressed respectfully. Participants are there to listen, express their viewpoints and ideas, and understand and appreciate the viewpoints of others.
- Keep the energy level high. Encourage piggybacking on ideas and off-the-wall brainstorming. Don’t let participants sit back and vegetate.
- Moderate the discussion. Actively solicit the input of more introverted members, and rein in the members who may tend to monopolize the conversation.
- Allow for informality, but keep the main discussion on track. A small digression or offhand comment can help keep the mood casual and stimulate new ideas, but long trips off-topic can break the flow of constructive thought.
- Keep focused on the goal. Aim for consensus and closure. Strive for win-win solutions.
- If possible, retain an external facilitator. If a team member is also acting as facilitator, they may not be as effective in either expressing their viewpoints or coordinating the meeting. Even if the facilitator is an employee of the organization and not participating as a team member, there may be concerns of internal bias.
Effective team facilitation can make the difference between a frustrating waste of time and resources, and a game-changing giant step forward for your organization. Take the time to provide the structure and facilitation to help your team succeed.