The Pragmatic Manager, Volume 1 #3
- This month's Feature Article: Choosing Facilitation
- On the Bookshelf
- Want to hear more from Johanna?
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Meetings are a fact of our lives. Most of the time we don’t need a facilitator to help move our meeting along; we can manage to accomplish the goals of the meeting without a formal facilitator. However, there are times when a facilitator makes sense.
Darcy is a middle manager in a startup. They have enough money for the next eight months. For the last three months, the senior managers have closeted themselves in meetings day in, day out. Darcy knows they’re trying to define the current strategy and tactics to accomplish the goal: drive enough revenue to break even. If they can break even in eight months, their investors will consider investing just a bit more to overcome the slow economy and the company will succeed. If they can’t break even, they’ll be shut down.
Darcy's no dummy. Neither are the other people in the company. They all know what these closed-door meetings mean. Darcy is concerned that if the senior management team can’t figure out what they’re going to do soon, the meetings will turn into layoff-decision meetings.
Darcy's management team needs a little facilitation to help them overcome their inability to come to a decision and move forward to specific tactics and action items.
Senior management teams aren’t the only groups who become stuck and need help making decisions. Sometimes, a technical group has the same problem. Desmond, a database developer has on ongoing discussion with George, the GUI developer, and Tina, the tester about how to appropriately design the database upgrade for their product. Desmond, George, and Tina all agree they need an upgrade. They can’t decide how the upgrade should work. Depending on how they choose to implement the upgrade, their work will change, as well as the work the users will have to accomplish. Each of them has different ideas, and each idea is valid. They can’t come to a decision, and they have only a week left to decide.
In both of these cases, well-meaning, intelligent people are stuck. Their normal ways of managing their disagreements are not working.
Consider choosing a facilitator under these conditions:
- When a group has trouble coming to agreement on a strategy or set of actions.
- When you want to be part of the discussion and decision-making. It’s not possible to treat the group fairly if you want to participate and facilitate.
- When you want to explore a previous project (retrospective facilitator) or explore alternatives (meeting facilitator)
You may be able to use people inside your organization as facilitators. Sometimes HR people or others are trained as facilitators. If you’re not part of the problem context or solution, you can facilitate the decision-making.
Whatever you do, choose when you require a facilitator. Don’t let the problems or conflicts escalate into no decisions, especially when you require a timely decision.
Change of mailing list host: Some of you have received multiple copies of The Pragmatic Manager. Some of you have received none. I have moved the mailing list to topica email-publisher. This ezine is different from the topica email lists. Topica does not have access to your email address, nor can they market to you. I fervently hope that this move solves the emailing problems.
Teleclass announcement: Effective one-on-ones help you and your technical staff clear obstacles, know what work is necessary for success, and gather more data for more effective performance evaluations. If you'd like to improve your one-on-ones, this teleclass is for you. See https://www.jrothman.com/teleclass.html for more information. The first session is May 28, 11am EST.
* On the Bookshelf:
I skimmed through Richard Fanson and Ralph Keyes’ book, “Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins: The Paradox of Innovation,” ISBN 0-7432-2592-9. Here’s the theme: Take risks on products, not necessarily on how you develop products. Don’t stay with tried and true products, move into other areas. My take-away was: Learn how to try new products quickly, so it doesn’t cost you too much to try new ventures. And, know how to manage those new ventures. It’s clear to me that you manage new-idea product-projects differently than you manage legacy product projects.
If you’re not sure how to deal with risks, then run out and buy a copy of Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister’s new book, ?Waltzing with Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects,? ISBN 0-932633-60-9. DeMarco and Lister discuss how to take project risks, how to not be blind-sided, how to elicit risks, how to mitigate risks, and how to assign value to different areas of risk. If you assign, manage, or participate in projects, this book will help you define and manage your risks.
* Want to hear more from Johanna?
If you want to catch me at a public event, see if you can make these:
June 2-6, I'll be at the Software Management conference. Esther and I are teaching the “Making the Transition to Management” tutorial, and my keynote presentation is “Ready, Aim,… Hire” (yes, based on material from my upcoming book.)
June 10, in the morning, I’ll be at YourComputerSchool, discussing “Interviewing Tips for Technical People”
June 10, I'll be at the PMI Central Massachusetts meeting, discussing “Agile Project Management: An Oxymoron?”
My calendar page, https://www.jrothman.com/calendar.html always has the most recent information.
* Want to read more from Johanna?
I keep a list of my latest writings on https://www.jrothman.com/papers-chron.html, and point to the articles from there.
New publications since the last Pragmatic Manager:
Improve Tester Performance, Stickyminds.com, May 2003
Ready, Aim… Hire, STQE, March/April 2003
If you'd like some common sense, down-to-earth ideas about how to manage projects, people, or your work, you've come to the right place. Each e-zine has a short feature article and other information you can use to work better.
Tell me how you've used these ideas. Or, if you have questions, comments, or feedback, tell me that too.
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All contents © 2003 Johanna Rothman.
Tags: facilitation, management