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The PMO as a Facilitator

Back in April our Mini-Masterclass event was focused on facilitation skills – a skill every PMO professional should have. In this session we specifically focused on the planning side of facilitation.

The planning is an incredibly important part of facilitation, as that’s where the thinking has to go into exactly how we will achieve the outcomes of the task. How to break a task down into sub-tasks; decide what processes/techniques are to be used for each step; how to split the groups to make it effective, and take into account the nature of the task in terms of level of uncertainty, who will be involved and the time available.

Not enough time and thought is put into planning a session, so if we, as PMO professionals can be disciplined about doing this, it can make a huge difference in getting more successful outcomes from sessions, and better results for the project teams.

Ranjit Sidhu lead the session and introduced a high-level framework which she uses as part of the Facilitation Skills course which she regularly delivers.

The Iceberg® Model

Ranjit introduced the Iceberg Model to the group. The Model helps us to understand how people and processes work together – group dynamics – which helps us when planning a facilitated session. It starts with the objective of the meeting and the tasks that need to be completed. Often it’s the objective that is not clear so it’s essential this is identified.

Then there is the process – the format and tools we use in order to meet the objective or carry out the tasks.

The role of the facilitator is to help the group define the objective and tasks by using the right processes and techniques. They also provide feedback throughout to help keep the group on track.

If we focus on getting the objective, tasks and process right – the rest of the things that can potentially take us off-track (communications between each other, the different roles of the people in the meeting, their individual styles etc) can be minimised.

The session focused on these two (the agenda process) and we took a look at a few decision-making and implementation tools – check out Boston matrix and Matrix charting which were two new ones for me. The group was given some guidelines to ensure smooth communications and techniques to help data collection, categorisation and prioritisation – then we had the opportunity to practice planning facilitated sessions during the evening too.

Planning a session

In this first example we thought about a meeting about improving the PMO’s responsibilities and approaches around reporting. We wanted people to think about the current situation before attending the meeting (task 1) and what they think is required. A consolidated list would then be distributed at the meeting.

When attending the meeting (task 2) we thought about splitting the meeting participants into two groups, with each group looking at different aspects of each requirement.

Then bringing everyone together (task 3) to take each requirement in turn and discuss the outcomes to the work in task 2.

We didn’t get to the end – that alone took 5 people, 45 minutes to come that far! In this second example, there is a good outline which highlights the techniques of divergent and convergent. At the beginning of the session – the brain dump and brainstorming is all about getting the ideas out there (divergent). In a meeting we want to then start to being that together to find answers and solutions. They were going to use matrix charting to prioritise and then summarise (convergent).

The simplest takeaway I took from the session is – make sure you have enough time (and energy) to converge after the diverge. Often we take too long on the diverge – maybe because the ideas are flowing, it’s interesting and often feels like freeflowing and we don’t want to stop! You can take a look at the session – about 36 minutes – plus the slidedeck is below.

Final thought – this was an excellent session that really engaged the group – and many were thinking about taking up the 5-day course (me included!) We’re thinking of getting Ranjit to run a course for us PMO professionals later in the year, if you’re interested in doing that, drop us a line.

Recording of the session

> Slidedeck also available  

Further Reading

The Value of Facilitation White Paper – APMG International (PDF)

Many thanks to Ranjit!

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