How Great Facilitation Leads to Better Decisions, More Revenue and Less Waste

No doubt, making go/no-go decisions for billion-dollar projects requires careful consideration, but this was getting ridiculous.

Marc’s 20-person Engineering team, scattered across multiple time zones, was on the hot seat for recommending large-scale exploration projects for this European-based global oil and gas leader. For many of these projects, time was of the essence.

This was a responsibility every person on the team took seriously, often investing hundreds of hours poring over maps, financial reports and other data before meeting to make and defend their recommendations.

But despite having some agreed-upon ground rules, the team’s decision-making process was almost always protracted, frustrating and messy, leading to recommendations that sometimes resulted in starting overly-risky projects or unnecessarily delaying lucrative projects. There were a few factors at play.

🚧 Many people had never had training or much experience designing and leading complex decision-making meetings involving multiple stakeholders

🚧  Decision-making criteria were inconsistent from person to person and project to project

🚧 Stakeholders were scattered across multiple time zones, making the hours-long virtual meetings a drain on everyone

Marc called me in to design and lead a facilitation skills workshop, using a real-life scenario so team members could apply new skills and knowledge to all kinds of decision-making meetings—in-person, all-virtual, and hybrid. I created a series of activities, including role-plays where each team member had a chance to work through their greatest real-life facilitation challenges.

By the end of the two days, team members were ready to design and facilitate more productive meetings that fully engaged all stakeholders through multiple channels, leading to better-informed and faster decisions. 😀👍

But in this case, simply developing meeting design and facilitation skills wasn’t enough. We added a third day to help the team create principles and norms for their decision-making processes, agree on criteria for making go/no-go decisions about future projects, and we gave them the tools to facilitate principles and norms on their own later on.

Essential ingredients for success – The “secret sauce”

💡 Dig deep to discover why today’s meetings aren’t working. How much of the problem is the meeting design itself – agenda, format, timing, participant selection and preparation, use of technology, etc.? Or is the issue more a matter of meeting facilitation – quality and level of participant engagement, inclusion of all perspectives, reining in of dysfunctional behavior, maintaining focus, etc.? Or maybe it’s a combination?

💡 Design your program to address the most pressing facilitation challenges. Create scenarios and role-plays that represent real-life situations. Give people time to design and discuss meeting designs, including the best use of technology, before, during and after their meetings. Spend at least 80% of the time letting participants practice new skills, and leave them with tools they can use later on.

💡 Provide support, reinforcement and feedback. Make sure you have a plan for supporting and reinforcing new skills at the outset. For example, hold managers accountable for walking the talk by modeling the facilitation skills people have just learned. Have people work with a “buddy” to co-design and co-facilitate meetings and provide each other with feedback. Create on online space for ongoing learning, where people can find resources, share ideas, and ask questions.

Here are examples of our customized facilitation skills training programs:

❇️   A nonprofit foundation supporting patients and caregivers with rare diseases wanted staff members to be able to design and moderate virtual focus groups for their members

❇️ A nationwide healthcare organization needed business unit managers to facilitate in-person focus groups with patients with developmental and physical disabilities

❇️ A F50 global technology services provider wanted their 500+ internal consultants to establish greater credibility and presence when leading virtual meetings with their clients

❇️ A boutique product engineering firm needed their technical consultants to better engage their clients by asking insightful questions and demonstrating active listening skills

When it comes to building sustainable facilitation skills, cookie-cutter training won’t cut it. Define what skills are most critical for your most important meetings and build a learning program around it. A program that features decision-making as the main use case may be mostly irrelevant for an organization that wants to run better brainstorming meetings. Likewise, focusing on team meetings as an example may not do much to help people who lead complex strategic planning meetings.

I work with teams of all types, sizes and locations to help them design and lead more engaging, inclusive meetings, whether in-person, all-virtual or hybrid. If your organization wants to increase your internal capacity to plan and facilitate better meetings, please email to set up time to talk, or visit my website to find out more.


Downloadable resources from Guided Insights:

Past Communiques from Guided Insights:

Workshops from Guided Insights – all customized for each client

Wondering how I can help?

Let’s schedule a 30-minute meeting so we can explore how to work together to address your most pressing challenges.

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