10 Aug Five Essential Lessons Learned Using a Visually Driven Facilitation Method

Recently I facilitated a 16-person strategic planning session with a non-profit looking to define a direction for the next five years of their organization. I was given six hours of group time to do so (eek!). I decided to go with a visually driven session for the maximum engagement in this short amount of time. Weeks before I was able to verify the Mission and Vision were still in line with the organization and with that, was able to design an interactive planning session with lots of movement and small group breakouts. Here are some of my lessons learned.

First Visually Driven Facilitation takes a lot of prep time, I suggest starting with a template. While at OSR (my graduate program) I was introduced to Visual Teams: Graphic Tools for Commitment, Innovation, & High Performance and subsequently purchased the book Visual Leaders: New Tools for Visioning, Management & Organization both by David Sibbet and available through www.grove.com. This was my jumping off point. Even with the help, I still invested many hours of planning and developing unique graphic that would work for the non-profit’s particular challenges, and this definitely helped me get going.

Second Pick the right group. In my opinion, this kind of facilitation is energy giving. Strategic planning, team building, creating a shared vision and mission, can be really hard work and sometimes tedious – it doesn’t have to be that way! This type of facilitation requires a group that is game to try something new, that has the patience to sit through feeling slightly uncomfortable, and is interested in having a little fun as they engage into the process. Also, think about the size of group and your bandwidth as a facilitator. In some ways it was easier to facilitate this process once it got rolling. The groups were able to do a lot of self-work. I’m a visual learner that facilitates with a lot of positive high-energy and that likes to be “on stage,” so it works for me.

Third Trust the process. Facilitating a larger group as one person has a higher level of difficulty. It takes a lot of planning and preparation to be ready for the intensity of interaction, feedback, and questions. Sometimes during a session my achiever voice pops up “oh no, we’re not going to get through this, maybe this wasn’t the right thing.” If that happens to you, just step into your personal mastery training and self-sooth, it’s going to work and be great. Visually driven facilitation takes more time, and the rewards are higher than other methods. It did not disappoint in the delivery of what needed to emerge from this group.

Four Layering on other techniques like brainstorming and world café was helpful to keep people’s interests. The planning process can be taxing. By using creative techniques, it’s easier to make this more fun, both from a facilitation point of view, and a participant.

Five Make a plan B if you don’t get through the entire process. We accomplished a huge amount using this process and doing pre-interviews. It’s was extremely important to keep things moving along as a facilitator while letting all the voices be heard and ideas emerge as needed. And of course, it is essential to have breaks and perhaps throw in a Play and Movement during the day.

At the end of the day we only got through half of the exercise. Over planning is my white whale, I knew it was highly unlikely we’d get through the entire thing since I was pushing a two-day session into one. My plan B was to focus on the elements that needed input from the entire board so that each breakout group could keep developing each goal, SMART objective and strategy virtually at a later date. This board is spread across the state, so this was crucial.

As an Organizational Change Management tool I highly recommend this method for engagement and results. During the day I received a lot of positive feedback and hope to get more feedback via a post-facilitation survey. Folks even wanted to keep working after our day was done (see me beaming with pride for this organization!). I look forward to continuing the process with this non-profit and believe with a little more work, we will get an executable plan in the end.