Change - Strategic Facilitation

by Tony Mann

Models, tools and format

In good manufacturing plants, they are always looking for improvements to the overall process, but it is not good practice to keep changing it once it is stabilised. In change, it is good to improve the strategic process, but it is most certainly not good to stick to the same strategic process, regardless of the change agenda.

You would expect the same strategic process to be in place for change that is taking place across an organisation. In such a case, consistency is appropriate as the organisation will have to achieve change across different departments and so on; however, to have the same strategic process every time change occurred would mean that the organisation must have been undertaking the same change agenda every time!

Different change agendas will be sufficiently different to justify a different strategic process and the use of different models and tools to deliver them. If we accept the premise that change agenda and strategic process have a symbiotic relationship, then if the nature of the change agenda changes, so should the format and tools being deployed.

So what is format?

Format is the way you use the resources in the organisation. It is the application of people to strategic process. Looking at the list below you will see that there are fundamentally four different formats: all, group, all to one and one to all.

Good strategic facilitators understand the difference between these four formats. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages. Each of the four different formats will produce a different outcome and either support the strategic process or work against it.

All

Each person works on their own when doing the activity, using the technique

Group

A group works together when doing the activity, using the technique

All to one

Everyone directs their input to one person, who uses the technique

One to all

One person does the activity to or on behalf of everyone else

Imagine that there is a forceful character in the room. Imagine that they tend to make their view known very early on in the discussion. The probability is that they will taint the discussion. Their view may be the one that prevails. If you introduce a new member to the team, someone who is finding their feet, then they may be so intimidated by this person and their views that they feel unwilling to risk putting their perspective forward. The dominant person may think that they are serving the group by offering a viewpoint. The fact that they may have been the leading figure, the one whose dynamic thoughts drove the business forward, may now have become a hindrance to the group.

Each of the different formats has advantages and disadvantages, outlined in the table below. Selecting the most appropriate one will require analysis of the situation: in other words, the level of strategic process awareness of the group and the time available.

Format

Advantages

Disadvantages

All

Everyone gets an opportunity to input their ideas/thoughts/perceptions.

It takes more time to collate the input from everyone and ‘cluster’ analyse it.

Group

There is an opportunity to ‘bounce’ off others’ thoughts and it takes less time to elicit the thoughts/ideas.

The opinion of individuals can be lost and the opinion of one or two people can hold sway.

All to one

The opinion of different or ‘constituencies’ can be developed or cross-cutting groups can provide a mix of opinions/perceptions/views.

The group format still needs another format to make it effective (for example All).

One to all

There is the opportunity to save time and effort by getting expert input.

If the expert isn't well directed it can turn into a ‘solo’ self-centred presentation.

The leader may think that their role is to speak up first. They may not know any better. If you are facilitating in such a situation, this is a prime case for avoiding a One to All format. The best formats for this situation will be All and Group. In the event, the leader will probably be glad that others were asked to contribute and the chosen format will change the nature of the team, which will become much stronger, so that better decisions will consequently be made.

Format

Rationale

All

This approach is used when

  • There are dominant people in the group and you want people to work independently, free of others’ influence
  • You want each individual’s thoughts/ideas/input.

All to one

This approach is used when

  • You want cross fertilisation of ideas
  • There is no danger of domination by individuals.

Group

This is used when there are different ‘constituencies’ in the room and you want to reflect their different perspectives.

One to all

This is used when there is an expert in the room who can steer the group by giving their expert input (first).

Models and tools

We will cover various different models and tools later in this topic. Suffice it here to describe their function. They give action and the means to tackle the change agenda. The selection of the most appropriate one(s) will enhance and enable the organisation to produce a satisfactory result.

Each one should achieve a certain strategic outcome in exactly the same way as a piece of machinery achieves an outcome. Using the analogy of the manufacturing plant, there are major pieces of equipment which strategic process the products (for example, the oven) and smaller pieces that perhaps manipulate the product (wrap the loaf) and still other smaller items which play a key part in monitoring the production (for example, dials). In the same way, when manufacturing a decision, solving a problem or creating new solutions, there are models that can help (for example, the Process Iceberg® Organisation model – which we will describe later) and tools (such as force field analysis). As in a factory, the major equipment (the oven) has dials, so, in the same way strategic process has models using tools and techniques.

SF_03

A good strategic facilitator becomes an expert in using these models and tools and knows when and where to deploy them. They should not have favourites; each one should be used as and when they are required. Just as a traditional apprentice learnt how to use the various tools of their trade, so should a strategic facilitator learn how to use the various models and tools and become familiar with their application. In addition, a good strategic facilitator can ‘hear’ the change agenda words that lead them to use a particular model or tool that works within an all, all to one, group or one to all format. Read the exemplar texts below and see what you hear.

 
  1. I think each of us needs to identify all the issues facing us in this crisis.
  2. We need to decide together which of the cost-cutting aspects we should adopt given we need to determine the least costly and we don’t want to affect customer satisfaction and quantity.

If you can speak ‘strategic process language’ in the same way as you can speak a foreign language, then maybe you can interpret what was said above. Interpreting from ‘change agenda’ to ‘strategic process’ – from ‘red’ to ‘green’ – the strategic facilitator might interpret the above statements as follows.

  1. I think we need to get everyone’s individual (all) concerns and thought (brain-dumping all their thoughts and send them individually by email) to identify all the issues facing us in this change.
  2. We need to decide (all to one) which of the cost-cutting aspects we should adopt (using a matrix and scoring each aspect, using points out of, say, ‘five’ to measure least costly, customer satisfaction and quality).

These are relatively simple examples and yet, like a good apprentice, a good strategic facilitator knows which tool to use in which circumstance. They know their tools and they learn when to use them to best effect. Sometimes they have a choice of tools and sometimes only one will work. You need to attune your brain to pick up on the strategic process words and filter out the ‘red’ ones. Here are examples of other models, tools and techniques and the exemplar associated strategic process words associated with them.

Techniques

Situations

Key words

Brain-dumping
(a method of collecting data/
information)

It is desirable to draw out from the organisation all the information that is known about a particular situation, action or event.
There are a number of factors/issues which we need to explore.

Recognise/
identify/find the
issues
factors
ideas
considerations

Brainstorming
(way of coming up with new ideas/
thoughts)

When you need to find new ideas and new ways of looking at a situation.

Can’t keep doing things the same way
Look creatively

Four-box model
(a means of analysing and sorting data)

Two independent factors, each with extremes at each end, for example ...It’s more about cost ... No, to me, it’s about the benefit.

Emotion: disagreement over two different perspectives