“Hello, can you do three days of facilitation on five days notice?”

When a good client calls me with a question like that, I really want to help them out of their jam. So we used open ended facilitation techniques to guide the early sessions of their Strategic Plan Review session: Open Space, Appreciative Enquiry and the Medicine Wheel. They sat in a circle with no tables or documents, really talking to each other, at a deep level. This process cannot be rushed, and some participants began to get nervous that we would run out of time.

As the group got closer to crunch time, on the third day, we switched to SWOT analysis and other linear techniques, sitting at tables with access to their computers, policy manuals and similar supports.

As usual, the “aha” moment happened and the group found the essence of their new strategic direction. Then, the group revised the Strategic Plan live, together, with the text edited on a screen.  Amazingly, the last session finished early and everybody got to leave and beat the traffic.

In retrospect, I think that the organization did itself a favour by taking the time in the “open” facilitation modes, which allow more heart and soul into the equation. This allowed a group cohesion and consensus to build, so that when it came time to apply the “linear - rational” modes, things fell into place surprisingly quickly.