On the subject of productivity, the unscheduled conversation about the Flow that ended up presenting during this last weekend BarCamp in Coimbra got me reminding some concepts I’ve learned about facilitation as BEST member during my university years.

We had a lot of meetings at BEST, and being young as we were, trouble meetings were just around every corner, so we sort of complied to a set of rules and roles during each meeting to avoid pitfalls and endless meetings, which seem to be a problem in way too much companies in Portugal.

You can read all about Facilitation and in particular about the role of The Facilitator in Wikipedia, but for this post I’ll stick with the key ideas behind this oh so important and neglected principle!

Papers

Prior to the meeting the facilitator should be responsible for:

  • Prepare the discussion: meaning gathering all the information that might come in handy;
  • Determine Goals and Purposes for the meeting;
  • Draft an Agenda for the meeting: points covered and questions that need to be answered;
  • Send out (informed) Invitations: when booking everyone for the meeting remember to always send in this agenda;
  • Keep Presences to a minimum: the more the merrier!

As soon as the meeting happens, the work of the facilitator continues:

Meeting

  • Track! Keep time, and monitor the agenda
  • Manage the Group Process
  • Guarantee a Running Dialog: by encourage participation from all attendees
  • Help sort out conflicts and doubts: fostering solutions that incorporate diverse points of view
  • Record the meeting: wether on notes or even if possible the audio for the meeting. Keep an eye on this document for unresolved issues.

Last, but not least the Facilitator should produce a document that reflects all the things that came out of that meeting, in the sense of report, covering problems, solutions, things that need attention, and a list of the assigned task for the next meeting.

Interestingly or not, the person who takes on the responsibility of the facilitation doesn’t need to be part of your team or project, you can simply swap in with someone who’s willing to drive your meeting considering your goals for it, allowing you to take the role of participation without being way to distracted with this administrative trivia.

Photo credits: Sleepy Terry and Johnny Vulkan