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Collaboration: Fake it ’til you make it

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Problem

When new to the process, we often quickly get to a point where we intellectually know the right course of action, but cannot back it up with convincing theory or "war stories."

Reference: Vonnegut, Mother Night: We are who we pretend to be (so be careful who you pretend to be!)

 

 “There is only do and do not . . . There is no try.” – Yoda

Solution

As an ASE member, you have insight and learning into the DesignShop™ process, models and past experiences that participants, sponsors and engagement teams do not have. Regardless of your experience level, belief in the process, trust in your team mates and knowledge of the proven success of the ASE, are elements that you can draw upon. Like lions smelling fear, those unfamiliar to you or the process will begin to question and doubt if they see doubt and fear in you. This is not about lying or pretending you are something you are not. It is about keeping others focused on the process, the wholeness of the team and our proven experience, not on the abilities of any one person. The DesignShop process, unlike many other facilitation techniques, is successful as a process that incorporates all elements of the experience to allow decision by design, and the release of group genius. When questioned about your expertise, abilities refer to the whole. Push the conversation to design for outcomes, and use the team’s capabilities and experience to resolve issues and make design changes. Know the process. Know why, and how it works. Learn the models. Learn examples of other success, our references, their struggles and successes, and relate them from your own vantage point of experience. Rehearse, and practice with other ASE team mates to sharpen your skills.

When creating and conducting design sessions we must continue to exemplify confidence even when we feel lacking in ability, or inexperienced in a certain area. It is important to maintain the aurora of control and confidence to allow others to focus on their roles and tasks, and to allow the process to work without undo personal focus on the facilitator or team. The tone of the energy you project will powerfully influence the participants, so be aware of what you are projecting. Watch yourself on video tape frequently as if you are looking at a stranger.

In learning how to be a facilitator:

 

· Work several sessions as a knowledgeworker. Particularly do roles like documentation, writing and video, so you can see how the event is constructed and how it flows.

· Read as much as you can.

· Co-Facilitate (lose the attitude “If I’m not up front, I’m no good.”) a number of sessions. Lead before you’re ready. A new facilitator never feels ready to go solo until after they solo. You do NOT need to be an expert on the subject matter that the DesignShop is about. You DO need to know how to ask the questions and create the event that will make them face up to their issues and resolve them. Step up! Take a turn at bat. Several early facilitators got their start because nobody else was available.

Caution: in faking it, avoid theoretical consultant-speak. Steal shamelessly from other facilitators. Speak about your own personal experiences, as that will convey an authenticity you cannot get any other way. Theoretical consultant-speak (phrases like value leakage, root cause analysis, etc.) will quickly turn off the participants.

 

PEOPLE

· Collaborative Leadership Style. Understand the krew and how they operate. Understand how the facilitator fits in. Be clear on the facilitator/process facilitator linkage. Use phrases like, “What do you think?” Many of the knowledgeworkers have krewed dozens and in some cases hundreds of events—they have a knowledge base you need to access and utilize. Understand the roles they all have and the degree to which you can complicate their lives with your decisions.

· Recruit & Mentor. As written in the firm’s performance standards, it is important to be actively involved in recruiting and mentoring people. This can include recruiting and mentoring people in the ASE core staff and our knetwork of knowledgeworkers.

 

KNOWLEDGE

· ‘Load Set’ of Stories. This is ASE content knowledge. New facilitators often report that they know the right thing to do, but have a hard time explaining why it ought to be done that way. This becomes a problem when wrestling with sponsors and engagement teams. Stories come in two categories. First are stories about other clients going through DesignShops and things they did that worked or did not work. Second are ‘life experience’ stories that serve as transitions or to underscore important points during an event. These stories come from facilitator reports, talking with other facilitators, and building a base of your own experience.

· Understand the Deeper Patterns. There are some patterns and philosophies at work in the ASE that are different from traditional business and facilitation models. You need to internalize them.

· MGTaylor models

· ASE pattern language (currently in draft form)

· Manual of facilitation (this is a document from the 1980’s written by Paul Bartoo in MGTaylor, but it is a useful document).

· The history of how the ASE came to be at E&Y.

· The biological business model. This has been written about in different ways, but can best be looked at through articles and books by Tom Petzinger, Out of Control—the book by , and Complexity theory.

· Read Weirdly Widely. Become widely read across a broad range of business issues, because you will be called upon to be conversant in them. Become widely read on a bunch of other subjects, because you can bring that knowledge to an event. Topics can include science, nature, history, technology, current events, organizational dynamics, military tactics, and how to operate an aquarium. Inspiration can come from other sources, as well—music, theater, sports, raising children, whatever.

· Event Design. Event design is paramount to extracting the goals and objectives for a particular ASE session. It is the mechanism that enables you to convert those goals and objectives into decisions that have to be made, questions that must be answered in order to reach those decisions, who has to be present in order to answer the questions, what information they need to have, and therefore what pre-work needs to happen. All this folds into event design—creating a specific set of modules that will reach the objectives as defined by the sponsor team. The specific set of modules needs to have a macro design in the flow and transition between them and a micro design as far as their content.

· Your Authority. You must know what your authority is about the design of events, running events, or even if we accept certain events. Be ready to use that authority. You will need to know when and where to say no.

· Rules of Engagement. Know what they are and where you can flex.

 

SALES

· Care and Feeding of Sponsors and Engagement Teams. Before, during, and after the event, you have to deal with two sets of clients—the engagement team and the actual client. They don’t always want the same thing. You have to be able to explain the weird process in terms they will understand (‘Metaphors’ may become ‘Business Issues,’ ‘Build-A-There’ might become ‘First Draft’). Both sets of clients have to have their expectations managed, their angst addressed, and their concerns clarified. Frequently, half the energy a facilitator expends on an event will happen before the introduction. This requires a good deal of client savvy.

· Sell Something. Nothing happens until somebody sells something.

 

SERVICE

· Personal Presence. We each must develop a shtick that works for us in getting a group where they need to go. Developing a quick rapport both with a large set of participants and small executive groups is critical. Ideas for shtick can come from:

· Practice

· Watching videos of other facilitators in action

· Acting classes

· Executive presence class

· Watch others that have excellent presence (ministers, actors, singers, politicians, etc.)

· Speaking in metaphors. Consultants have to learn pattern recognition, hypothesis formulation, the analysis required to test the hypothesis, and then how to apply all that in an engagement setting. At an executive level, another subtle skill comes in to play: how to spin the information in a succinct way that gets the key points across.

· Thinking consciously about the mood and feelings you want to project are in fact being projected.

· Running Sessions. There is no substitute for experience, and the best model of learning so far is the apprenticeship model. You have to have seen enough sessions to understand the variety of things that the facilitator can design and witness the variety of participant group responses. We jokingly use the term “energy monitor,” but knowing how to read the energy of a group is really important. You have be involved in running enough sessions to know how to run them. Facilitating a straightforward event is easy. You earn your stripes when things blow up. Start by krewing a minimum of 3-4 sessions, and be sure to perform the roles of writing, synthesis, and environment at least once each. Then, co-facilitate frequently until you are ready to solo. Study the way facilitators transition from one activity to another.

· ASE Scheduling Process. You need to understand it and never circumvent it. There is a process for scheduling events, facilitators and krew.

· Solo. You have to get out of the nest and do an event on your own. This is usually with a ‘discussion partner,’ but there is no substitute for flying the airplane yourself.

 

CULTURE 

· Select a Key Area to Build Within the ASE. There is some other ASE value-add that you can bring to the organization beyond simply doing events. We all need to have a hand in making the system work.

· Have a Blast!

 

Do not wait for this to get handed to you! A lot of it is self-study, self-paced and self-initiated. It is up to you to make it happen.

Another facilitator reports that his key learnings happened in this order of importance:

 

I found that there were 3 key areas of skill development that I needed for the Lead Facilitator role, as follows (in chronological order):

 

· Process Knowledge --- primarily the DesignShop roles and Scan/Focus/Act method: I was able to develop this area through krewing multiple events as a knowledge worker. Key KW roles were writing, synthesis, music, and environment. Critical success factor included being able to work with multiple process facilitators and lead facilitators.

· Design Knowledge --- primarily strawdog development and "on-the-fly" in-session design changes: I was able to develop this area through becoming involved in the planning stages of several events as a co-facilitator. Key learnings were understanding the purpose of each DS module, learning the MG Taylor models, and exploring our primary set of metaphorical readings. Critical success factor included early involvement with the client and engagement teams in the sessions that I co-facilitated.

· Transition Knowledge --- primarily applying business skills and time management principles to affect smooth and coherent transitions during the DS: I was able to develop this area through several experiences solo-facilitating and co-facilitating events. Chip describes this area as being able to hold control on the process while simultaneously letting go and allowing the process to guide the participants where they need to go. I found the letting go part to be very powerful.