One of the main objectives of a PMO is to support and enable effective decision-making. It’s such a great objective because there’s a lot of scope with how the PMO can do that. From creating reports, giving insights from data, supporting stakeholder engagement activities and the part we can play when people come together to solve problems, make decisions and take action.
In this article, we take a closer look at facilitation skills. Within P3O it states that “the P3O is ideally placed to provide an independent facilitation role” and we totally agree with that.
Over the last few weeks we have already covered several different frameworks, approaches and techniques that the modern project practitioner can utilise in their day-to-day work that make a difference to people and their performance levels. We have also shared ten different things your PMO can be thinking about to make a real difference to the performance of your PMO.
We’ve already looked at the following areas:
In this final article of our PMOs Supporting Modern Project Management series, we take a look at facilitation.
First up, how is it defined:
In the PMO world we’re talking about facilitation in meetings and workshops and there really is a whole host of different ones.
Back to P3O for a moment, here’s the typical types of sessions the PMO can be expected to get involved in:
The Facilitation Process
If there is one thing the PMO feels comfortable around it’s a process and thankfully there are many different processes, methods and techniques we can look to help us plan and carry out facilitated sessions.
We did a session called the PMO as a Facilitator which gives a great overview of the planning process. You can get into that one for more detail but essentially the process starts with:
- An objective for the facilitated session
- Which in turn drives the tasks for the session which are needed to meet that objective
- The tasks are made up of a certain type of format and technique (for example we might try brainstorming)
- You can have a few tasks, format and techniques for each session you’re facilitating.
Types of Facilitation Techniques
There are different techniques you can use depending on the type of session you’re facilitating and the type of outcome that is being sought.
If you’re looking for a great source to get you started on the different techniques and approaches that are out there, we like the SessionLab website.
Some Science on Facilitated Sessions
If there’s one important thing to know about getting a group of people into a room and hoping that a good session, with lots of interaction, conversation and debate ensues, it’s understanding the divergence and convergence flow.
The diagram below shows how before we can get to a place of decisions and actions, we have to open out the discussion to have as many people participate as possible.
Here we are thinking about the different formats and techniques we can use to open out the floor. We’re looking for everyone’s thoughts, ideas, opinions, insights and experiences.
Then we’re looking for discussion and debate on a few ideas or choices – using formats and techniques to narrow down the options.
The convergence is all about now starting to narrow down and work through the ideas where consensus has started to happen, before finally getting to the part where everyone agrees on the actions needed and more importantly who owns those actions.
It’s a simple diagram but important in every facilitated session you will run.
With more than 100 episodes available, there are ample topics to broaden your skills and knowledge. First Time Facilitator is available for iPhone and Android users, visit firsttimefacilitator.com/podcast
If you’re more of a book reader – the Art of Gathering is a great alternative ideas book for getting people together – we loved it.
Link Between Facilitators and Leaders
A September 2020 article in the journal Talent Development featured an article called Use Your Facilitation Skills to Become a Better Leader by Carrie Addington.
It’s looking at the facilitator as a trainer but equally applies as a facilitator in other types of sessions as we’ve discussed here in this article.
It gives some great insights into individual roles and the knowledge, skills and behaviours required. Something to think about for yourself and your team.
10 Things to Think About for the PMO
- If your PMO team are relatively new to facilitation and it’s not a service you’ve provided before – start to use different formats and techniques to work on your own PMO problems. Why not take it in turns to lead a session – or share your findings in a Podcast Club.
- When planning facilitated sessions, make a catalogue of all the formats and techniques that can be used for divergence and convergence parks of the session – creating a picklist, share it with the wider delivery organisation.
- Create facilitation as a service from the PMO – add it to the service catalogue once you have PMO members who are trained in different sessions, such as lessons learnt or kickoffs.
- Start working on the core facilitation skills required within the team and individual members of the team. The Facilitator and Leaders picture above gives some great areas to start thinking about.
- Learn to facilitate better by gaining invites to lots of different types of workshops and meetings that are happening across the delivery organisation as well as the wider organisation. We learn better when we see things in action so where there’s an external facilitator at work, try and grab the opportunity to observe.
- Offer to help facilitate a meeting or workshop with your project manager or programme manager – work alongside them or ask to lead it as a facilitator if you’re confident enough in your skills.
- Make recommendations of different formats or techniques to use for project and programme managers – or self-organising teams based on the sessions they’re running. Share the formats and techniques with step-by-step guides and gain feedback on their uses.
- Think about the metrics and measures you could use to demonstrate the success of the PMO as a facilitator and the facilitation service you offer. How can we demonstrate the link between the facilitated sessions and more successful outcomes in actions and decision-making?
- Consider an in-house course for all the team based on facilitation skills – train and learn together from an external source whilst developing your service offering as facilitators. You could even consider giving a facilitation course for others in the delivery organisation once your service is a success!
- Finally, the new PMO Competency Framework, features key skills and behaviours aligned with facilitation – for example; active listening, engage, manage conflict, communicate and present from the key skills. What other skills and behaviours could you and your team be using and modelling? How would we see those skills being used and where would we see those behaviours?
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