Dancing with preparation and responsiveness

Frequently, my work involves large group workshops and teams of willing volunteers acting as support facilitators. They may be drawn from the client team or from the wider consultant team. They are often technical specialists or traditional communications specialists, and sometimes – but not always - they have facilitation experience.

In a recent workshop, I was faced with quite a challenge:

* Up to 50 participants who we’d invited to help with the larger project;
* A complex set of questions which the team wanted them to address;
* A desire from the project team to start with a blank sheet of paper, rather than building on existing thinking, which is possibly flawed or at least too narrow.
* A desire for people to be challenged by the diversity of perspectives in the group – which I responded to by building in a carousel process;
* Plus the need to spend some time establishing the group formally and informally, as it is intended to have a life of three more meetings over the next year;
* A facilitation team which included technical specialists with unknown facilitation experience.

Now I’m a slightly risk-averse person who manages my anxiety by making lists. And (as anyone who has worked with me will tell you) my ‘detailed meeting plans’ can run to 20+ pages.

So my approach was to think through the break-out group processes in a lot of detail, and to provide as much pre-prepared support materials as I could for my trusty support facilitators. As well as the overall meeting plan, they got a very detailed briefing document, a briefing meeting and a stack of pre-written flip chart sheets with task instructions and blank templates to be filled in. We also had worksheets to be filled in during conversations around tables.

This reduced my anxiety.

I’m not sure what it did to their blood pressure when they received the briefing documents!

So, I felt 100% prepared for the things I could control in advance.

But as will all the best laid plans.... it became clear that some responsivenss was needed.

Find out more on my blog, here, and let me know about your experiences.

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