How to go about facilitating a large group meeting
Many people in the team have been waiting for this “big session” and seemed relieved that it is finally taking place. After weeks of arguments and deadlocks, the hope was that an all-hands open discussion will help the team move forward.
There wasn’t a big enough room for the entire team of more than 30 people. Peter didn’t mind the open space area, in fact, he felt very comfortable facilitating sessions there. Being an introvert he found that funny. He was typically uncomfortable in big groups but facilitating a big group meeting seemed to be quite a comfortable activity.
At 5 minutes to 10 everyone was getting ready to head to the big open space area. After a busy morning of going through the usual routine of the daily team and cross-team sessions (but thankfully no firefighting) Peter was feeling quietly confident and focused. The short plan for the session he managed to devise seemed like the only logical thing to do, given the circumstances.
At 2 minutes past 10, the last few people were taking their seats, hot drinks in hand, and it seemed like they were ready to begin. Peter stood up and started
“Good morning everyone and thanks for joining us for this session. I’ve spoken to most of you over the last week or so and I know for a fact that some of us have slightly different understandings about what we are supposed to achieve in this session. Therefore as a first step, I’d like us each to state what you think we should address here. I’ll make notes and once we’ve all had our turn I’ll let you know what the next step is”
Peter knew that he will get a lot back. The team was full of vocal and proactive people. Peter asked everyone to speak in turn. He knew he has to do that to get opinions from people who wouldn’t normally volunteer to speak. Peter collected about 20 items in the first 10 minutes and wrote them carefully on the whiteboard. Then the group spent the next 10 minutes or so rationalising and combining similar statements. In the end, they had 5 objectives for the meeting that more than one person cared about.
“Now that we have narrowed down what we are trying to achieve” continued Peter “I suggest we use 10 minutes for each goal to try and generate specific suggestions that will help us move towards each of these goals”
This part went really well. Peter allowed some discussion and asked “Yes and” questions. The majority of people were focused and very keen to progress towards each goal. Actions were generated as the group discussed each goal. At the end of the session, there were 4 concrete actions with assigned owners. After more than an hour, everyone seemed exhausted.
Peter asked for feedback (to be recorded on sticky notes and left on the board near the exit) and thanked everyone for their participation. He felt satisfied with the way the session went and the feedback seemed constructive and mostly positive. It wasn’t even lunchtime yet but Peter felt as if he’s had a whole day of work already. Peter knew he needed some downtime.
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Plamen is a LeanStack coach and an experienced Software Delivery consultant helping organisations around the world identify their path to success and follow it.