Robin Parsons had to adapt a facilitation plan several times to the evolving needs of her group, which resulted in transformational change for the group. Here is her story:
In December 2017, I was working with a group (through my consulting client) that was coming together to explore a process. I had the opportunity to do a decent discovery with the meeting sponsor but did not explore the group dynamics as thoroughly as it would turn out, was necessary.
We established the following experiential objectives:

  • Participants will understand the GIP process
  • Participants will understand an unconventional project
  • Participants will see themselves as holders of a variety of project types
  • Participants will build relationships across continents and functions

Day 1
This event took place over 3 days and on day 1, the groups came together to be grounded in the current state. Day 1 was all about the describing the GIP process (a stage gating process for large projects) and exploring the rationale behind it and deciding the business value. As the presentation from the paying client went on and on (two times longer than planned), it became apparent when I asked the reflective questions that the group was angry … not just confused (as we understood), but angry.
We had planned for day 1 to be a grounding in the GIP process and the unconventional process but could not get to the unconventional process on day 1.
(I re-worked my facilitation guide that night).
Day 2
So – we pushed the grounding of the unconventional process into Day 2 and it became apparent that we needed to spend as much time grounding the unconventional process as we had the previous day on the GIP process.
We had planned to map the processes and as a last minute modification made sure to add an example of a project in the GIP process to provide further, concrete points of comparison and discovery. I used the reflective questions to allow the group to spend time on their frustrations, to ensure they were well aired. The temperature of the group was somewhat lower than it was the previous day.
We moved from current state to an obstacles consensus workshop. I know from past experience that engineers struggle with naming. The naming process was laborious and two things happened:

  • When I offered that the group could move into small groups to name – they chose to work as a large group. Definitely my preferred option, and I was happy they made that choice.
  • When the group hit the second last column in the obstacles naming – they uncovered the big contradiction…. ‘prejudiced perceptions of business competence prevents respectful collaborations‘…. the elephant had been named. There was a shared acknowledgement in the room on all sides that this was a very real obstacle and something the North American members of this group were chafing under.

From there we went to a brainstorm on strategies. I didn’t have enough time to finish strategies on day 1 and did not want to leave the group on a negative note, so we read them out loud, loosely clustered and came back and finished the clustering and prioritization on day 3.
(I re-worked my facilitation guide again, that night)
Day 3
The temperature in the room and the mood in the room on day 3 was so palpably different. The quality of dialogue when we clustered the actions was robust and there was a strong consensus on what was important.  The group had collectively decided that their most important and urgent actions were around building relationships, getting management support for the investment to build relationships and then defining the GIP process for unconventionals.
If I had a heat map – it would have gone from bright red on day 1 to cool green by the end of day 3.  It was just so FREAKING COOL!

If I think about this story in the context of image change – the group moved from a place of “us and them” closer to a place of “we”.  They were not fully there, but they were receptive to the idea that they may, in fact, all be on the same side, working for the same results.