At The Grove we help people come together to create something new. Clients work with us to begin new initiatives, create or refresh new teams, or set a new direction.
Whatever the facilitative challenge, there are patterns in the way we approach our work. Through metaphoric imagery, this year’s Grove calendar illustrates some of the basic practices that we use to facilitate a creative group process. Please follow along with our visual story, then download the Grove’s 2019 printable calendar for your enjoyment throughout the year.
JANUARY: Plan with Purpose
At the beginning of any collective process, groups need to be clear about purpose. Answering the “WHY” sets the stage for clarity of action. This practice is relevant for meetings, as shown in The Grove’s Facilitation Model, as well as for teams, as depicted in The Drexler/Sibbet Team Performance Model.
For any type of meeting, your desired Outcomes will drive your Agenda. Prepare your OARRs (Outcomes, Agenda, Roles and Rules) on a Meeting Startup template to start out smart.
FEBRUARY: Create a Welcoming Environment
Before participants or team members enter an in-person meeting room, spend time making the space welcoming. Organize tables so that people can communicate easily with one another and see any visual media that will be referenced. Great coffee, tea and snacks are always a plus for boosting energy in the room.
For both in-person and virtual meetings, set an inviting tone by creating and displaying a Welcome Poster. This assures people that they are in the right place and that the meeting will begin shortly.
MARCH: Build Mutual Regard
Once the group has convened, go over the OARRs (Outcomes, Agenda, Roles and Rules) to ground the meeting and create a respectful environment for dialogue. Groups of people who respect and listen to one another work much better together than those who don’t. Making connections at the beginning of meetings or team initiatives invites trust and opens up new avenues of communication.
Simple questions that every person in the group answers are an easy way to build rapport and encourage introverts to get involved. Questions can have a light touch, such as “What is your favorite thing about winter?”, or they can be more in-depth, such as “What are your hopes and fears for this process?” Such check-ins help participants understand how they are different, yet also alike. The more we know about each other, the easier it is to connect and work together.
APRIL: Take Stock
The group is now prepared to dig into information. Getting a clear picture of “what we know now” can be handled in different ways. Expert presentations and dispersal of research are commonly used for this.
In addition to authoritative information, we recommend using big-picture templates that gather the group’s collective knowledge and build up a common base of shared understanding. To fill in the many facets of the group’s current state, use templates such as the Context Map or SPOT Matrix.
MAY: Open Up to Possibilities
As the group explores trends and factors that may impact the future, the facilitator’s job is to support alignment around the most critical challenges that need to be overcome.
It is natural for the conversation to flow to “what might be different.” When the focus is shifted from “gaps to fill” to identifying “strengths to leverage,” this begins opening the group to new possibilities.
JUNE: Dream Big
Support the group in stretching its thinking to imagine a compelling future. Letting the group be playful allows for innovative ideas to come forward.
To do this, choose a date in the future that is far enough away that people can dream, yet close enough that it seems possible. As the facilitator, speak in the past tense as if the group has already been wildly successful. Ask the group to imagine and describe, in detail, what they have accomplished. The Cover Story Vision template greatly aids this type of visioning.
JULY: Capture Ideas
We can’t stress enough how graphic recording—the act of documenting a group’s conversation and key ideas in real time on flip charts, large poster paper, graphic templates, murals, tablets, and other visual media—can increase group productivity. (See samples of Grove’s graphic recording and graphic facilitation.
Throughout any meeting, and especially during brainstorming, write down what everyone says so that everyone can see it. Recording everyone’s thoughts makes it possible for all to see, not just hear, the ideas that are coming forward, and then to make connections between those thoughts.
Recording increases participation, with people feeling heard and acknowledged for their contributions. The visual record that is created also helps embed ideas into the group’s collective memory.
AUGUST: Stay Out of the Weeds
Everyone knows what it feels like to be stuck in the weeds, a rat hole, a rabbit hole, a wormhole, or whatever your group calls it. It’s very draining. We ask ourselves, “How did we get here, and are we ever going to get back to the conversation or work we set out to accomplish?”
Begin meetings with a weed-prevention ground rule, such as “Keep an eagle-eye perspective,” or “Helicopter-up when we get in the weeds.” Ask participants to be jointly responsible for catching each other if they drift into the weeds.
If you suspect you have entered weedy territory, asking the group “Are we in the weeds?” is often enough to shift the group’s focus. Then transition the group back to the task at hand by reviewing the outcomes and agenda again.
SEPTEMBER: Take the Deep Dive When Necessary
It can be tricky to identify the need for a deep dive into content that falls outside the planned agenda. Often the facilitator will notice a shift in energy in the meeting. This can show up in a positive way—where people are excited to talk about something—or it can show up in negative ways, such as a change in body language, side conversations, or general avoidance of an issue that results in everyone staring at their phones simultaneously.
Opening up space to have conversations that matter can provide breakthroughs for group action. To do this, reflect out loud what you are noticing energetically in the group. Ask people to explore what’s going on underneath the surface. If you sense an opportunity, ask the group if they’d like to do a deep dive right now, or if they want to revisit the topic in another meeting. You may need to offer agenda trade-offs.
OCTOBER: Agree on Direction
In any meeting or team process, getting agreement for how to move forward is often the ultimate objective. Once the group has weighed its current situation and has opened up to a range of possibilities, the facilitator needs to help them come to an agreement on what to do with all of their wonderful ideas.
Ask the group to break into pairs or small groups, review vision brainstorm charts, and list candidate shared-vision elements. We suggest large sticky notes for this process, with one idea per sticky note. As the subgroups present their vision “themes”, these can be clustered on a visual display such as the Mandala Vision. Rework and refine the language of the vision elements until the group is satisfied and committed.
The group can take goal clarification to the next level by completing the Five Bold Steps exercise. Pairing the vision with immediate, bold steps creates an impetus for action.
NOVEMBER: Organize to Succeed
Once a group has a clear sense of its goals, it needs to organize the work to attain success. The group may have a sense of some of the tasks that are needed, but the information may be incomplete and not organized in an actionable fashion. Also, group members may not understand who will do what.
Organize the work on a Graphic Gameplan or Graphic Roadmap template to create a big picture of “how we’ll get this done” that can guide the group’s focus. Or, at the very least, agree upon a clear set of Next Steps at the close of every meeting.
DECEMBER: Celebrate Progress
As the group makes progress on its goals, don’t wait to celebrate until all goals are attained. Instead, celebrate along the way.
Recognizing work that has been accomplished is a powerful way to sustain motivation. So gather the group periodically and share a cup of good cheer. Happy New Year from The Grove!
Note: to those who have received a printed calendar from us in the past, we are taking an environmentally friendly route and are not producing the hard-copy calendars this year.