Month: July 2017

How to facilitate a successful meeting – a checklist

The Meeting Facilitators Checklist

  • Objectivity – It is critical to remain objective at all times. Do not be tempted to respond to or defend anything said. The focus should be on listening, acknowledging, probing for understanding and root cause, and tracking.
  • Confidentiality – Assure participants that their comments will be reported anonymously.
  • Candor – Emphasize the need for an open and honest discussion. The goal is to uncover real concerns and recommend appropriate solutions.
  • Participation – Everyone needs to be actively involved. A fast and steady pace, the use of brainstorming, and encouraging participants to contribute will all serve this purpose.
  • Agenda – Move quickly through the discussion of implementation risks, but ask participants to raise issues and questions as needed. Focus the discussion on specific recommendations that address the implementation risks.
  • Legitimacy – This session is designed to identify problems and develop potential solutions. The focus should be on idea creation, not criticism.
  • Have Fun! – This is discussion a between and among participants, not just between them and the facilitator. Follow the agenda but keep the discussion informal.

Facilitator Do’s and Don’ts –

  • Do express the objectives of the session.
  • Do explain your role as facilitator.
  • Do point out the time available.
  • Do know something about the group before starting.
  • Do encourage participation.
  • Do use open-ended questions.
  • Do thank individuals for their input.
  • Do use flip-charts to record inputs, when possible.
  • Do ask for clarification.
  • Do gain some consensus after all ideas are offered.
  • Do gain closure – may mean asking group to prioritize.
  • Don’t evaluate input as good or bad.
  • Don’t stop someone in the middle of their thought.
  • Don’t argue or defend a point.
  • Don’t try to respond during the brainstorming section – save it for Q&A.

Ways to increase group participation –

  • Effective use of open-ended questions.
  • Allow enough time for participants to think and respond.
  • Acknowledge all responses.
  • Let a participant finish speaking before moving on.
  • Face the group and move about freely.
  • Keep the discussion focused on the agenda.
  • Make eye contact frequently, especially with those who seem disinterested, or those taking part in side conversations.
  • Ask for clarification when a response is unclear. Examples: “Tell me more…” ” Can you rephrase that?”
  • Keep on schedule.

Useful tips to keep the discussion moving:

  • Thank you.
  • Tell me more about what you said (or what you mean).
  • Repeat that in a few words so I can capture your thought on the flip-chart.
  • How do others of you feel about that?
  • Let me see if I can repeat that back to you.
  • Feel free to add as we go.

Special problems:

  • Someone dominates – Look into eyes of other participants, say “That’s interesting, how do others feel about that?”
  • Loss of control/off-subject – Stop the discussion, and say “It appears we may be getting off subject. Let me ask you about this….” and return to the issues on the agenda.
  • Non-participants – Make eye contact. Encourage their participation, by saying, “We may not have given you an opportunity to say what’s on your mind…we’d appreciate your ideas too.
  • Side conversations – Make eye contact, direct questions to them, or ask them politely to join the group so everyone will have the benefit of hearing all comments.
  • Out of time – Say “We seem to be running out of time and we want to honor our time commitment. There have been lots of great questions and ideas coming out.” Then, either provide the phone numbers of presenter/facilitator and suggest people call with their thoughts, OR suggest they write down a few thoughts and leave them with you, OR offer a summary point or two and say that’s all the time we have today.
  • Cold climate – Suggest an introductory activity. For example, if time permits, ask each person to introduce themselves and share one thing about themselves that another person couldn’t.

Guide to deploying objectives to staff departments

Deploying objectives in a department

Objective setting is a vital part of appraising and managing employees. Both managers and subordinates should be aware of what the objectives are for the current period as well as be working on new draft objectives for the next period prior to discussing them during a future appraisal meeting – where objectives for the forthcoming period can be documented and agreed.

How to set objectives:

A Manager will have her own set of business objectives and it is the responsibilities of staff to support her in achieving these. Staff should make sure that their manager communicates the objectives to the team and from this they should then be able to define their own goals contributing towards the overall team’s success.

The first task is to identify the results that you as a staffer are responsible for achieving rather than the actual work activity leading to those results. Where possible attempt to quantify or include a definite assessment point like a sign-off when successful completion occurs.

The following are examples of possible required results:

  • Project delivered on or under time and within budget
  • The delivered signed of business case of the project
  • Reduced operating costs of the department
  • New sales at the required margin
  • Reduced call stack on the service desk
  • Improved service levels
  • Positive feedback from customers
  • Increased profit margin
  • Reduced expenses

Then you will need to consider the key elements which show how the objectives will be achieved and what changes in behaviour or action is needed to deliver them. Try to ensure that the objectives represent clear business related targets that contribute to your organization’s success. Wherever possible the objectives should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound. Qualitative measures are also good and achievement can be confirmed from interviewing customers for example or by discussing performance with peers. The important point is to come up with an approach that enables in a clear way to demonstrate that you have by your action achieved the set goals.

Sample Business Objectives at staff level:

  • Ten new customers at an average contract value of will be signed in the next quarter
  • Sales of $100,000 of extra service revenue in the financial year from additional requirements
  • To reduce in the number of calls on the call queue outstanding by more than 5 days by 50% in three months.
  • To respond to a request for change within 5 working days from receipt of documented change note.
  • Increase the hit rate on customer enquiries to closed deal to 25% of all leads in one year.
  • To score ‘satisfied’ to ‘very satisfied’ in all post project assessments in the year.
  • To complete all invoicing to customers by 5 days after the month end close.


Contract template Services

Simple Contract template for Consulting Services

I have loaded a simple contract template for consulting services – mostly clients will have a template already in hand from procurement. If you do not have anything you may find this one useful. It is pretty basic but contains the essential elements. I’ll post an affiliate version is there is any demand.


Hiring Consultants – an ebook on selecting and contracting consultants

When do we need consultants

Performance measures help the managers of organisations to monitor performance and highlight problems within their areas that need attention. Problems in organisations tend to show through as symptoms in performance that result in deviations away from a desired norm. Symptoms show up as a change from an expected measure or just from a feeling of unease that some aspect of the business is not going well. Perhaps an environmental issue such as poor communications is suspected to be causing a problem that can be later traced back to some behavioural problem in a group or individual deep within the organisation – and far from where the symptom was felt.
Problems and their symptoms can occur at all levels of analysis within an organisation. From the Board Room via divisions, departments, groups and right down to individuals. Some types of problem occur in unexpected ways or appear suddenly such as the case of a competitor launching a new product that competes with your own but does so more effectively, cheaper and with better service. Or a sudden crisis blows up that has to be reacted to such as the credit crunch. What tends to happen in such areas is the problem is seen is a deviation in some form of qualitative or quantitative measure and this deviation can occur at some distance from the source of the problem itself. It is these symptoms that point to a problem deep within the organisation and give us the entry point to the diagnostic stage where the actual issue is pinpointed, the cause identified and solution proposed.
Some typical problems and symptoms to look would be:

  • High or increasing absenteeism.
  • Internal conflicts and tension between departments or individuals.
  • Missed project deadlines or cost overruns.
  • Performance and competitive symptoms such as:
  • Falling market share overall.
  • Declining profitability within certain product groups.
  • Increases in numbers of calls at the service centre.
  • Increasing waiting times as the accident and emergency department.

A common error is to not distinguish a problem from its symptoms, or to confuse a potential solution as the problem. For example it is common to identify Outsourcing a department as a problem to be addressed rather than a potential solution to some yet not understood problem. Also when an issue surfaces if it looks similar to one solved before managers and consultants will look for the cause of the problem close to where the symptom is occurring or to confuse the symptom with the problem and treat that rather then the underlying cause.
It is also common to assume that what worked last time will do as well now and the same solutions are proposed time and time again with ever diminishing returns. Research has shown different problems can manifest themselves in similar ways in terms of symptoms (such as declining market share). What can be seen as a symptom pointing to a specific local problem may only be a consequence of a much greater and broader issue in the organisation (such as a poor product development process resulting in product obsolescence hence market decline).
These sorts of effects can result in a false diagnosis of the problem and the potential over steering of a consultant during the initial assignment stages towards a particular given solution prior to any diagnosis being done. The problem is perceived as so evident that further diagnosis is redundant and a waste of money. Consultants will refer to this initial problem statement as the evoked problem. This is typically what would be described by the client to the consultant during the first meeting as the problem that must be looked at and good consultants use this to probe the problem space further whilst suspending judgement until at least some preliminary work has been done to identify the problem.
Clients should allow for this and treat with some suspicion any consultant who jumps straight away at the evoked definition of the problem or injects statements such as this problem is known, we have seen it before etc. – This is just demonstrating a simplistic understanding and is a danger sign that this consultant will be unsuitable.


Quality Plan Template – generic with main headers and suggested text

Here is a generic Quality plan for the community that may be useful as a starter for you own efforts in your company or organization. Below is an extract from the first page of this 35 page document. A PDF of the full thing is avaiable to download – a link back to this post or even a thank you would be appreciated.

1. Purpose
The requirement for the quality plan are driven by the need to achieve customer satisfaction by meeting or exceeding customer requirements by the application of a quality system and includes the continuous improvement and the prevention of non-conformity in delivered services of BizFace Management.
1.1. Scope
The scope is defined as the Consulting and Research business activities of BizFace Management Limited.
1.2. References
References used are:
[ref 1] ISO9001:2000 Quality Management Systems Requirements
[ref 2] ISO9004:2000 Guidelines for Performance Improvement
[ref 3] ISO9000:2000 Fundamentals and Vocabulary
[ref 4] ISO9000:2000 Quality Management Systems Concepts and Vocabulary
The concept of the standard is demonstrated by:
• Defining the management requirement
• Determining and applying the necessary resource management
• Establishing and implementing processes for service realisation
• Measuring and analysing results and implementing improvements as a result of feedback.
• Review activities relating to initiating improvements and authorising changes.
The role of customers is to provide demand which is converted into service output via BizFace internal process activities. These outputs are evaluated by customers in terms of customer satisfaction and compliance to the demanded services. Information gained from the monitoring of outputs is used to improve process performance.
1.3. Quality Assurance Policy
BizFace Management’s quality assurance policy is based on principles and values provided for in the company mission, strategy and goals. The Quality Management System (QMS) creation is a major strategic direction of our business activities and is regarded as a tool enabling the creation and management of effective business processes.


Creating a Brown Paper a Practical Guideline

Creating a Brown Paper a Practical Guideline and Presentation Slide Show

This post includes a presentation on how a Brown Paper workshop can be run – it explains what a Brown Paper is and how to ‘create’ one in a workshop setting.

General Guidelines for a Brown Paper Exercise

  • In identifying which processes to ‘brown-paper’ consider what information you would like to get from the exercise as well as clearly defining the beginning and ending points of the process – the scope of the activity is important.
  • Start at a suitable level – usually departmental to start with. Gain experience before mapping going to larger scale.
  • Select those people who know the most about the process – the process-owners or the people who do the work day-to-day. These people are the true experts in how the job is done and through the thousands of everyday interactions and activities they do have a deep knowledge of what works and where the problems are.
  • Also include those people who are key interface points into and out of the process the ‘customers’ of what the process delivers or suppliers of what the process consumes.
  • The accuracy of the BP must be verified, both by the owners of the process and those impacted by the process.
  • Bringing in more people from the organization also increases awareness of the BP activities, builds buy-in, and begins to develop better interdepartmental knowledge and teamwork.
  • Evaluating the BP begins by looking at the process flow as a whole & studying individual components. Asking what this process component achieves and whether it adds value to the sum total.
  • At this point we can now make judgments and suggest ideas on the strengths and opportunities inherent the process. What is this BP telling us about how we carry out this task?

The BP also serves as a presentation tool to convey findings, strengths, opportunities, and ideas for process improvements. It is a wonderful tool to explain what is going on in an organisation and even better when explained by those whose day-to-day job is to carry out the process.

Tool Kit Brown Paper

Download a PDF of this post here: Toolkit-RACICharting