“I’m struggling with products from using #lo tools. Success always seems to depend upon tried and true practices – someone must take the ball and run with it and run with it. Anyone else feel the same?” (BC Public Servant via Yammer)
“Too many facilitation techniques are designed to make people feel good in the event rather than really change things” (Dave Snowden via Twitter)
“The majority of strategic plans never get actualized.” (Conversation with a Community Health Facilitator)
I agree with all three of these observations. Facilitation tools are great at the front end at engaging people and starting the conversations that need to take place and providing the information necessary to create strategic plans. Actualizing those plans is tricker. There are a few tools like accountability agreements and non-directive coaching that can help but at the end of the day, it takes a champion to pick up the ball and not let all those good front end ideas float away. Tools that help people carry the heavy burden of change to the end zone are therefore valuable indeed. While not not a change management guru myself, I’ve had good success with these two tools:
Split up the work into “bite-sized pieces” and have clear communication on who is doing what and by when. I recently helped organize a Toastmaster Demonstration meeting which is a project too big for one person but difficult to organize because the rest of the people on my committee had never organized one and in a volunteer environment, it’s very difficult to get already busy people to commit to anything. At the first planning meeting, I brought an action agreement chart, which was a list of tasks that had to be done along with columns for person assigned, dates, etc. I had the majority of it filled by the end of the meeting by breaking a project down into bit sized bits and by putting my knowledge down on paper. I shared this list several times as the project progressed. I also included follow-up tasks so time is allotted for them because this is important stuff that often gets shelved and lost because people move on to the next fire. Including follow-up conversations/dates might also be useful since they are often lost also and establish a consequence for folks when they don’t do what they agreed to do. I’m sure there are some powerful project management software or web applications that do the same thing; however, my low tech table is much more accessible for most volunteer community groups.
Gather at regularly scheduled intervals and make important things standing agenda items. Doing this, you can identify problems before they spiral and can work on structural items in the calm times so they are in place for the rough patches. Also, if you are regularly talking about your initiatives, there is less chance they will slip away. For example, the committee I mentioned above meets monthly at lunch on the last Friday of the month. “Demo meeting is always on our agenda since we plan 2/year and when we are done planning and follow-up for one, we usually have to devote time to the next one. Our meetings are also very short and we were always tempted to jump into business. Therefore, I decided to add a check-in at the beginning so folks could briefly share a little about themselves. That worked so well that I am planning on adding a “playing in the sandbox” standing item to talk how we are working as a team. My inspiration for this is the mandatory inclusion of safety tool box meetings into our work units at our office. Regularly talking about safety, even when there was no major incidents has increased the top of mind awareness of my work team and created a stronger safety culture in our office. These informal, regular conversations have been more fruitful than a more formal, once a yea, all-office safety day.
I would love to hear how others take their own ideas to completion. As the opening quote alludes, this is not revolutionary stuff, I’m sure there are lots of effective ways to tackle change out there that we can share and use to pad our collective toolboxes.