Juho Nevalainen
Aug 19, 2015

Collaboration requires facilitation – both online and offline

According to number of studies and questionnaires, meetings and workshops are more or less the worst things you can spend your time and energy on. To generalize a typical meeting just a little bit:

  • Everyone who might know something about the meeting topic is invited,
  • No one knows exactly what the agenda is,
  • Hardly anyone is prepared for the meeting,
  • The most of the time the participants pay more attention to their mobile device than to what’s actually happening in the meeting room.

The normal duration of a meeting is one hour and most of the time is spent on looking to the rear view mirror; what everyone has been doing lately, what is the status of each task and so on. The last 5 minutes of the meeting are dedicated to the next steps. No – actually the participants already left the room to avoid being late from the next meeting! Does this sound familiar to you?

No matter what you might think about the meeting culture of your organization, you can’t really avoid meetings and workshops. And let’s be honest, even in the 21st century there are still topics that require face-to-face collaboration.

Professional facilitation can, however, boost the efficiency of a standard meeting and help the participants to look ahead instead of the rear view mirror. Today’s facilitator is a multitalented expert who utilizes “traditional” workshop facilitation methods as well as time and place independent facilitation methods with the help of modern business social media solutions.

Methods like me-we-us, the six thinking hats or for example learning café and brainstorming have proven track records in improving meeting and workshop efficiency. Then again for example visual facilitation is an effective and modern – but demanding – way to visualize and simplify complicated matters collectively.

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When it comes to online facilitation in business social media environment, a project team can manage for example document reviewing and evaluation tasks online. With proper facilitation the common view can be reached and even decisions can be made without searching for a time and place which would fit everyone’s calendar. As a result the team actually saves time (and possibly travelling cost as well) from the topics that require face-to-face presence for real.

Example: As a team leader you need to make a decision on the targets for the next year. In addition you want your team members (international team, +10 people) to commit to the decision. In the traditional world this would mean a lot of teleconferencing and it would take a month or two to find such a time slot that would fit to everyone’s calendar – and still someone wouldn’t show up, right?

Modern way is to facilitate the discussion in a business social media environmentbefore organizing a meeting or telco. This way the team members’ wishes and expectations for the next year can be collected, shared and prioritized from the business perspective. The shared time in the actual meeting can then be spent on confirming the shared view of the matter based on what’s been discussed online already and planning the strategy to reach the targets. After the meeting the discussion can continue online again.

This is just a simple example on how to best mix face-to-face meetings with online facilitated discussions and business social media solutions. As a result all the key experts have chance to participate regardless of where they are located, the discussion has clear targets (thanks to proper facilitation) and it won’t take too much time.

Obviously business social media itself won’t solve anything. What matter are both facilitation expertise and perhaps even more the so-called culture of sharing in the organization. In case the employees don’t see value in sharing their knowledge internally, it’s very difficult to get people participating in online collaboration or decision-making no matter which facilitation trick you might have in your pocket.

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