We facilitated a two-day innovation strategy workshop for an industrial company. The company wants to make significant changes to a major production process. During the innovation strategy discussions, we addressed the production process changes from five different perspectives. In each of the five mini-innovation strategy workshops, we had a group of core team members, plus people familiar with each perspective. The overall group sizes for each innovation strategy workshop varied from fourteen to more than twenty-five people, depending on the topic.
From a facilitation standpoint, it was the most arduous couple of days of going through strategic thinking exercises I recall.
With groups changing out every few hours, there was a continual, tight window to get all the input we’d need to build out a strategic plan and timeline for our client’s strategic initiative.
As I described it to an associate, facilitation may look easy. You stand there, ask some questions, and crack a few jokes to keep things light.
11 Things Running through a Facilitator’s Head
In reality, I shared these eleven things going through my head at all times relative to the strategic thinking exercises we were using with the group:
- How quickly can I read the dynamics of this new group, even though I don’t have time for them to do meaningful self-introductions?
- Who are going to be the active participants?
- Am I able to keep up in writing down all their ideas on sticky notes?
- As we progress, is everyone participating? If not, what can I do to get laggards to actively participate?
- If I become the bottleneck on recording ideas, at what point do I split them into smaller groups to work independently?
- If we split into smaller groups, what structure can I put around each small group to help them perform successfully even though I have no time to manage the group composition to maximize their input on innovation strategy?
- Are we on schedule, and if not, what do I need to do to adjust?
- What questions or exercises can I eliminate to save time while still getting enough input in all the areas we are covering for each innovation strategy?
- Are the people having fun with the strategic planning activities, or do I need to do more funny stuff to keep their heads in the game?
- Do I have time and room to experiment with the group to take them into new areas of innovation strategy?
- Are we done yet? And how much time do I have to get ready before the next workshop?
Yup, those questions were all running through my head nearly continually. Add to that the constant headache I could not shake, and it was a two-day mental crunch, without a doubt.
But when we look back and see how we pushed the thinking on the initiative, it’s clear all the challenges were all worth it! - Mike Brown
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