Today’s Group Process
In gathering strategic planning information
Organizations are quickly changing and everyone is getting into the act! People in school settings in particular are responding to the call to action and the need for significant transformation in how visionary planning is accomplished. Both internal and external pressures have prompted this reality. Over the past decade evolving structures, work-related values, competitive dynamics, market demands, workforce diversity and economic realities have led organizations, and schools among them, to seek new and deliberate ways to extend planning beyond the board room and into the classroom, administrative offices, and even our students’ homes.
While many tools are available, the best are based on three key lessons learned over the past decade:
- Participation is important.
- Teams usually perform better than individuals.
- Process effects outcome.
Two of these learnings (#1 and #3) have resulted in more processes that are deliberately inclusive in the data-gathering phase of strategic planning. In the case of schools this means finding ways to involve people from up, down and across the institution. As these groups are assembled and tasked the quality of the results hinges on the preparedness and abilities of the facilitator.
Relies on Polished Facilitation Skills
Fundamental skills of a good facilitator include:
- Designing structured activities and processes
- Listening, paraphrasing, observing, clarifying and elaborating
- Interpreting verbal and nonverbal behavior
- Confronting dissension
- Collaborating with others
- Managing differences
- Analyzing accurately and rapidly, organizing, summarizing and connecting data
- Thinking and speaking clearly
- Fulfilling the role of guide, not leader
- Keeping focused on the process and achieving its desired outcomes
Ten Degrees of Separation: What Makes Good Facilitators Great
Beyond polished skills, certain personal traits separate a competent facilitator from an inspired one. Inspired and inspiring facilitators:
- Inspire Confidence and Trust
- Relinquish Control of the Results
- Super-charge the room with their Energy and Passion for the Process
- Are infectious in their Enthusiasm
- Are eminently Adaptable
- Ditto Fair
- Win others over with their Authenticity
- Ditto Humility
- Are Protectors of each and every idea until evaluation time
- Are Outcome-Driven yet Detached from the results
Centered on Four Key Processes
There are multitudinous group processes that great and even good facilitators can lead. While core group processes include everything from creating and implementing structures to navigating decision processes, the core processes involved in the information-gathering phase of strategic planning must include four key exercises. Each of these is designed with a different purpose and together they create most of the essential knowledge base for strategic planning.
- Determine strengths and weaknesses inside the institution while evaluating threats and opportunities outside the institution (SWOT or OTSW Analysis)
- Identify core values that express the institution’s “soul” and serve as the grounding rod for mission and vision
- Develop a shared vision of a future state: answers the question “If we could have the school of our dreams and the impact we most desire, what would our school look like in the year 200X?)
- Develop mission statements (institutional and departmental) that answer the question “Why do we exist?”