How to facilitate effective meetings.
Facilitating meetings is often harder than you think. Old habits and paradigms can block effectivity
Marty de Jonge
Road to Professional Agile Leadership
As a facilitator ( like one of the roles of Scrum Master ) you facilitate events but that sounds easier than it usually turns out to be. Old habits and paradigms are hard to kill in many organisations and probably in yours too.
In this article, I share my personal best practices and a proven effective approach to make meetings more effective (and fun).
Scrum Master Service to the Product Owner and Development Team:
Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed. — The Scrum Guide 2017
You know the drill.
You’re in a (remote) meeting and you’re surprised by everything that is happening.
- About people who come into the meeting too late.
- About not having a clear agenda or desired outcome for the meeting
- About a facilitator who doesn’t take the lead.
- About always the same people speaking.
- Jumping from topic to topic without finalising the previous item.
- Not listening to each other.
Your amazement builds up to frustration and with your frustration, you try to change the group process.
By saying it doesn’t work that way. Or by throwing in a brilliant idea.
Which is then not responded to by anyone….
Your frustration turns and you think to yourself:
I GIVE UP, I don’t want to be here anymore!!
I DARE YOU!
I dare you not to give up in a situation like this. Rather I challenge you to use your frustration as a source of energy with which you can do a lot of beautiful things. I’ll give you 6 steps to get the group aligned and to help you convert ineffective meetings to effective ones.
And, spoiler alert…. Yes again, YOU are the one that has to step up to make it happen. But let it be a comfort to you, if you succeed, everyone will thank you for it.
1. Call out what you see without judgment and tell what it does to you.
Say what you see happening, as objectively as possible. Pay close attention to your tone of voice, talk in a normal tone and neutrally.
It could sound like this: “People, can I just say something? It strikes me that we’re starting later than we agreed upon and we’re talking at the same time. I’m afraid we won’t make it through the agenda this way, I think we can work much more effectively”.
2. Ask if people recognize what you see.
For example, ask, “Does someone else recognize what I am saying? That we start later and talk simultaneously?”
3. Then make a concrete proposal.
This sounds like: “My proposal is that we first determine the agenda and set a time limit for each item. I’d like to supervise that, but perhaps someone else would like to do the same. Who can support the proposal that we set the agenda again and that I supervise that process?”
4. Be interested in the NO
It might happen, someone says ‘NO’. To be truthful, that’s probably going to happen one day and you don’t have to be afraid of that. Don’t let it knock you out and instead start investigating what information there is in that ‘NO’.
Summarise and try to find out why what s/he doesn’t like in the proposal. If this person remains in the ‘NO’ position, ask for approval for a one-time experiment. You agree that if it doesn’t work, you will try something new next time.
5. In the case of a collective NO
If you get “NO” from the whole group… That hurts.
And it comes with a very important lesson: Never take it personally!!!!!! Apparently, the group is not ready for a change. You wait patiently until you think it’s appropriate to intervene again.
6. It’s YES!!
Do you get a “YES”? Go get them! Show a good example of someone who can supervise this process tightly.
Show leadership, stay nice and patient. Show this group that the meeting can be at least half the time shorter by monitoring the agenda very closely.
7. Continuous improvement and hand over.
Once you have experienced an effective meeting, you’ll get a taste for more! We want the next meeting to be at least as effective and preferably even better.
To start a continuous improvement cycle and at the same time reduce dependence on one or a few good facilitators, a few final tips.
At the end of the meeting, summarize the process of timeboxing, Agenda management and ask participants for feedback. This can be done very quickly and easily by means of a ROTI (Return On Time Invested) or by means of a short retro. Based on this feedback, your next meeting can become even more effective.
The last tip, agree on who is the facilitator for the next meeting, then everyone will learn best practices and effective meetings will spread like an oil slick throughout your organization.
We change agents — and by change agents, I mean everyone (Scrum Masters, leaders, coaches, advisors and trainers) who finds it interesting to get involved in group processes — remain patient and observant. Intervene to a level that the group is ready for. We have to deal with our own frustration and sometimes we fail miserably.
But,….that’s the way we learn.
Marty de Jonge
As an agnostic change agent, I am constantly amazed at what happens in organizations and learn every day. Enthusiastic writer and always open for discussion.