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Group Facilitation and Meeting Design

  • How important is it to achieve the outcomes you seek in your upcoming off-site or strategic meeting — quality, quantity, and timeframe?
  • How important is it that the participants engage in the creative or decision making process?
  • Do the individuals need to be enrolled to execute on the goals and strategies effectively?
  • What will that take? Who is the best program, meeting or retreat leader to achieve the outcomes desired? What’s at stake?

On the surface, facilitation and meeting design can appear to be nothing more than creating and moving through an agenda and assuring that all items are covered. That is certainly a tactical piece of facilitation, but artful leadership is moving a group through the steps and process to achieve the outcomes desired from the gathering. The outcomes can be any number of things… a feeling or insight, stronger teaming, a breakthrough strategic plan, a step along a path; the facilitator’s role is to keep the result in mind and work with the group to that end.

This is not the only goal, however. Often, at the conclusion of a workshop, retreat, strategic meeting, etc., the end may be achieved, but the process may have been painful or uninspiring for the participant. To enroll the participants in the process and its outcome is the responsibility of the facilitator, whether he or she is the leader of the organization or an outside facilitation professional. The group should be engaged throughout the process… understanding where they are going and why, and connecting to achievement of the goal. To this end, the facilitator needs to be aware of the group and its energy and work to blend their needs with those of the organization’s. If accomplished, a strong outcome with committed advocates will be the result.

This is especially true when difficult work needs to be done. The participants come to a meeting feeling at risk, vulnerable, angry, non-participatory and the like. The goals of the organization are in opposition to their wants or desires. Somehow this gap needs to be addressed and the space created for both parties to join together to create something new. If the ‘rhino head on the table’ is not discussed, you can still achieve your ends, but not as powerfully and without the group’s support for effective execution.

Strategic planning sessions, retreats, and off-sites are all tools. They are designed with the intent to create new ideas, support breakthrough thinking and bold moves or simply to reinforce existing thinking and behaviors. Regardless, the gathering is only the beginning… strong implementation and execution is the real measure of success. Therefore, the meeting needs to not only provide a strong take-away, but also create engaged and committed participants to take the vision and make it a reality. Facilitation is a key factor.

Cain-Stanley & Co. (CSC) serves the Orange County and Los Angeles areas working to accomplish what was described above… strong outcomes and committed participants. We do this through a thorough understanding of the goals of the organization and how this meeting(s) is to support those ends. As much context as possible is gathered about all involved and any resistance or issues that might scuttle the work is identified. The leadership is interviewed to understand their perspective and to help them gain clarity, if necessary, on what they hope to achieve.

Once this is fully understood, the design of the meeting is crafted and a draft chronology and methodology is created. CSC confers with the leadership, gains agreement, works with those involved on ‘who they need to be’ and prepares the program. Exceptional facilitation, program design and the outcomes you seek… all the result of skilled execution with the support of Cain-Stanley & Co., Inc.