You are dreading the meeting — you know the issue at hand is highly controversial. You’ve talked to a few people and there are two or more proposals floating around that are mutually exclusive and people feel passionately about them. You are looking at a few uncomfortable hours in which at least half of the group will be disappointed. Here are a few hints for a process that helps you get to a solution that is well thought through, gets as much buy-in as possible and does its best to prevent people being offended.
We are often asked to facilitate meetings of this kind: board meetings, meetings between two departments, customer-meetings, supplier-meetings, strategy meetings etc. Here is the process that we use as facilitators (and if you can’t hire us, we recommend you get yourself a neutral facilitator or someone who can convincingly act neutral or “multipartial”).
1) Clarify the framework before the meeting
We recommend to involve as little people as possible but definitely representatives of all who will have to implement or are touched significantly by the decision, people who make the decisions, people with special knowledge. We’ve made the mistake (once) of involving too many resulting in chaos in working groups (everything has been said but not by everybody) and involving too few (resulting in pertinent information not being available). In the meeting:
2) Clarify the process goal
3) Clarify the content goal
4) Clarify proposals
5) Take a break
6) Take the decision
7) Compliment group on whatever you observed in the process that will enable them to take such difficult decisions again in the future: “I see that you all felt very passionately about the issue. You managed to stay enthusiastic AND you were able to listen to each other and change your mind. Your ego did not get in the way, etc.”
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