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    Entries in visual facilitation (5)

    Thursday
    May072015

    Blue-Sky Thinking, Strategy & Story


    Blue sky thinking is up there, out there, up ahead….
     
    We can’t see it yet but we have many ideas, possibilities, hopes. Blue sky thinking isn’t cliché; it’s thinking where there are no preconceptions and no limitations by current beliefs.
     
    When you put blue sky thinking to work – at work, at home, or anywhere else in your life or community – see it as three stages or steps, not just the singular step of thinking.
     
    See it as:

    1. Thinking
    2. Strategy
    3. Story

     
    Once you’ve done the ‘out there’ thinking, convert it to action and create the strategy that will reinforce and bring the thinking to life.
     
    Yet many organisations stop at this point.
     
    ‘We’ve got the strategy; see this spreadsheet and these tables and documents; that’s the strategy’
     
    Not so fast. I think you need to push on and create something else: the story that spreads the image and vision of those possibilities that you’re working towards.
     
    Make the thinking and strategy more tangible, possible, visible and real – after all, those on the team who will be enacting the strategy may not have had the benefit of weeks (or months or years) of discussions, debates and conversations that you and the team have had in creating it.
     
    Go beyond the the blue sky thinking; translate it to the strategy… and then go further and craft the storythat will bring the thinking to life, down on the ground where great work is getting done.
     
    An example: 
    A current project I’m working with a senior leader on is helping the team visualise ‘what good looks like’. The team has plenty of challenging work ahead of them. A visual map, strategy and story will bring their blue sky thinking to life, bringing it closer and making it more possible, attainable and less abstract.
     
    The bottom line is:
    it’s helps people make sense of it all, connecting dots and seeing where they are on the path to reaching the blue sky.

    Monday
    Aug262013

    What's important to 'capture' visually?

    I'm often asked how I know when something is important to capture using visuals. This 'graphic recording' or visual approach to working with people in groups and teams is powerful in that for me, it primarily helps people hear each other. 

    People get to truly 'see' what is being said. 

    So out of everything being said, how do I know which parts are important to a group and which parts to leave out?

    Context - What is this whole conversation about for this group - not for me, for them? Keep this in mind - it truly is about the 'big picture'. When you're clear about their purpose, reason, why... you'll be put in the picture about what is important. So take note of the title of the session, the role of the team or the speaker/presenter, the mission or purpose of the meeting or conversations. Whatever is important for them, needs to be listened out for.

    Repetition - when topics, key phrases and content are repeated (by different people - in conversation, presentation, printed material or discussions) I know there is some importance there, so I'll capture it. 

    Pause... talk. When people give a little pause before they present their important phrase or word, I'm listening out, in a BIG way. A common situation is when people say things like ... "I think what this team needs is <tiny pause> more accountability.' And often the words 'more accountability' are delivered a little louder, a little faster or a little slower or in a slightly higher or lower tone. Listen out for the pause or other voice changes outlined in my earlier blog post on what's important and what's waffle. They are a perfect indicator that the speaker is trying to say 'this is important' - so I'll capture that. 

     

    You can't capture everything - you need to distill, delete, rearrange or economise, so these tips will help you on your way to doing this. 

     

     

    Thursday
    Aug012013

    Why people won't buy in to that 'thing'

    In New York last week at the International Forum of Visual Practitioner's conference and it was a week of great meetings, conversations and learning. 
    A stand-out for me was a session by Lynn Carruthers and Sophia Lang - about creating and using visual templates to help people work together, collaborate, create and innovate. 
    On the wall in their session they referenced collaboration and group work wizard and author Sam Kaner. Session presenter Lynn had previously heard Sam say something along the lines of the following :
    She paused, double-checked and got the quote down on paper from Sam when she heard it.

    This for me is a HUGE reason why many groups and teams struggle with building buy-in and getting people to align to complex changes ... as well as the simplest decisions. 
    Check on what you're trying to get people to buy-in to.
    Can they see it?
    Is it visible?
    Or are you all-talk?
    You can check out Sam Kaner's book on participatory decision making here
    Tuesday
    Feb122013

    Project Introverts - how to get out of that meeting ASAP!

    Diversity in backgrounds, cultures, languages, thinking, styles and communication - they come together every time we communicate, engage and connect with people we work with.

    If you're an introvert, you'll want to get your message across quickly, understand your colleagues quickly and then get outta that meeting or conversation ASAP. You may want to get back to the good stuff you were working on earlier - alone!

    I've seen in several project teams recently how so many delays, derails and slow-downs come from simple misunderstandings.

    "I thought you meant ..... when really you meant ....." or "You're talking about the big picture; I'm talking about this specific thing..." and it all drags on and on and on.

    Being able to capture, draw out and understand what someone else is saying, and then convey your ideas and thinking is critical. To do it rapidly is the game here. The faster you can understand others and get your point across, the happier we'll all be. Unless you just want to sit 'n talk...

    To speed up the process, get it sorted, get to understanding quicker and then get on with the other good stuff you're working on, you need two key skillsets...

    1. facilitation skills (how to handle the stuff that happens when groups meet) and

    2. visual agility (not arty drawing, but rapid sketching and visualisation).

    When culturally, linguistically and geographically diverse teams 'get this', they step way up into higher levels of performance and move on (quickly) from misunderstandings and cultural hurdles.

    Project teams have the opportunity to build this awesome skillset at a one day workshop I'm running in Melbourne on March 4, Visual Facilitation for Projects. Details here, early bird until February 19. 

     

    Wednesday
    Jan302013

    The Anatomy of a Collaborative Workshop

    The 60 second timelapse video embedded on my webpage here captured a full day workshop I facilitated recently.

    But what was really going on?

    Have a second look or press pause and you'll see a number of things happened...

    Big Paper for BIG Ideas

    in the background against the wall there are long paper charts. I use these to graphic facilitate - that is, I facilitate the group AND capture the key content the group is contributing using words and images on the chart.

    You'll see a second chart to the left which I'm darting back and forth to at the start. I used this chart when everyone in the session was introducing themselves. This served as a great anchor for the participants to bring them 'into the room' and onto the story wall that was being completed during the workshop. 

    Talk and Do

    Throughout the workshop there were segements where participants were discussing in tables, contributing as a larger group and standing at the front of the room, reporting back from their table discussions. Keeping the variety going throughout the day is vital. We mixed up the table groups too - by the end of the day, there had been a real mixing and meeting of minds and views. 

    As groups reported back, I captured key points presented... knowing that we also had the more detailed content from the groups when needed. 

    Break Time

    When the room is empty, the teams are just outside the room, enjoying conversation, networking, food, refreshments and a change of 'state'. That gives people space to be alone, be in small groups, be in bigger groups, and space to think, talk, review, reflect, brainstorm, laugh and ... whatever!

    Standing

    It's important to structure your agenda so you do important work when the team is high on energy. The after-lunch slot in a workshop can be a little quieter (with lunch being digested!) so some standing, moving and quick discussions can help keep the interest, energy and engagement up. 

    Resources at the Ready

    The room was set up for collaboration. Tables for small group conversation and discussion and working on stuff. The tables had paper, markers and post-it notes to capture thoughts, information, ideas and discussions. There were blank walls, flip chart pages posted ready for use and markers available to capture visual thinking. 

    And there were yummy food resources provided on the tables - few sweet treats, mainly nuts and dried fruits and healthier energy choices. 

    Start & Finish

    The workshop featured a brief introduction by the sponsor of the event from the business and a wrap up of 'where to next'. I also talked through a review and summary of the content of the two large visual charts. 

     

    So if we pressed 'record' on your next workshop, meeting or conversation - how much variety, collaboration and creative engagement would the video capture? Think ahead and plan for your team sessions. My whitepaper 'The 7 Problems with Strategy and Team Sessions' is available for download further down the same page where the video is. It's got some hints you can get happening straight away when planning your next strategy session.