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Part 2: “One skill every Safety Professional needs to know to be successful; Facilitation”

July 20, 2013

Facilitators Meeting

Part 2 of 2: “Event Delivery”

Now is the time to start the real planning and organisational approach by designing a workable agenda to ensure the successful delivery of the event. Because a facilitator is working with groups, and not individuals, it has it own distinctive dynamics, in that each type of group may need to be handled differently, and have different expectations. The agenda is the foundation stone that must be right or all may fail.

Designing the agenda goes in tandem with designing the group activities. As you cross over between designing the activities and designing the agenda, the event will start to take shape. There will be a big difference between creating an agenda for short duration event, to an event taking place over several days. However the basic principles will always apply.

You will need to structure the agenda around the OHS topics to be discussed and resolved. Keep your topics flowing naturally from one subject matter to the next, and you will find the event will be more productive.

The 75/25 Agenda

You will need to maintain people’s retention span by a combination of structured and well organised sessions. One of the approaches I have established over the years is the 75/25 agenda, which is ideal for change management, from single day’s events to multiple sessions spread over a longer period of time.

The 75/25 agenda, relates to 75% discussion/debate and 25% activities, designed to promote changes in-line with the agreed objectives and outcomes. If you plan the event around this simple rule you will achieve a high participation and success rate with the group.

You will also need to consider time constraints. For best results you should try to keep any event to less than 7 hours per day, this would include frequent coffee breaks and lunch etc. Any more than 7 hours and you will definitely hit a point of disengagement, which can result in destroying a day’s work. Remember you need to leave the team motivated and clearly focused at the end of the day, not tired or irritable.

There are certain things you should always include in your agenda regardless of duration or type of event. This includes:

• The facilitator introduction

This should be given by the requestor of the event, never introduce yourself. The biggest impact you will ever get is when someone else introduces you, it’s like having a stamp of approval, and that you’re the right person to be facilitating the group.

• Opening Introduction

A short opening introduction can be presented by the Facilitator or jointly with the event requestor. You must ensure that you outline what is expected from the participants and the safety outcomes that everyone can expect to achieve. One to thing to keep in mind, it is a facilitated event not a training course. So keep the opening session short and precise.

• Participant introductions.

You will need to consider how to get the participants to introduce themselves to each other. In small groups it is easy to have everyone stand up and give a quick intro. However in large groups you may have to consider alternative methods, such as using team breakout sessions, or pre-prepared introduction sheets.

Break down of the Event Objectives.

Allocate sufficient time against each of the objectives that have been set for the event. Try not to run too tight an agenda and remember the 75/25 rule. That way you will always have some flexibility.
A typical agenda will be a combination of activities or processes to ensure participation. You will need to consider what you wish to include in the agenda very carefully taking into consideration the 75/25 rule. Processes may include:

• Short DVD presentations.

When using DVD’s you must ensure they are appropriate to the audience and event objectives. Ideally if a short 2 or 3 minute DVD can be made with fellow colleagues within the organisation, it will give the participants a direct connection with the message being delivered.

• Breakout groups

Select break out groups carefully. Try where possible to have a diversified mix of people from different age groups, gender and professions. If you can achieve a good group mix you can end up with a broader input of ideas and suggestions for improvement.

• Motivation Activities

There are times when the participants may not know each other, and you may have to use short motivational activities to get people to join in the event. However a bit of advice on this subject, keep it geared to team participation and do not use any games or exercises that could belittle or embarrass a participant.

• Guest Speakers

The use of a guest speaker can be a useful addition to an event. Participants will often listen more intently to people from outside their organisation, who have dealt with similar problems. Try to get a senior speaker who has credibility, that way you participants will feel the information they are being given is creditable.

By the end of the planning stage you should have a solid agenda, which will flow from one item to the next, keeping everyone focused on the OHS objectives and outcomes.

Event logistical considerations

Once you have come up with the agenda and processes, you will need to consider other logistical items. It may seem obvious, but many people still fail to appreciate the location and type of room that may be needed for the event. You must make sure that room is set-up to encourage participation. In small groups the U shape set-up is ideal, in large group events you may have to use several round tables.

The next thing you should consider are the supplies or props you might need. For instance, computers and projectors, white boards, marker pens, flip charts, post-it notes etc. There is nothing worse than a facilitator who is not prepared.

Maintaining control of the event

health and safety consultants

Once the event starts you will need to immediately set the scene and ensure that participants are clear about the agenda, ground rules, and the expectations and outcomes. From the start to finish your role throughout the event is to ensure that people stay focused on the safety objectives and progress towards a successful outcome.

Hopefully you have accepted the importance of being an OHS facilitator and the hard work that goes into establishing and running a successful event. The following are my top tips to help you in maintaining momentum throughout the event:

• Resist Pre-Judgement

Never go down the path of prejudging people or the organisation and developing your own conclusions prior to the event. As a facilitator it is vital that you are perceived as completely objective and are not viewed as taking sides during a discussion, otherwise you will come across as biased, and you’ll lose the trust and respect of everyone.

• Articulate the Problems and event Objective.

The key to any facilitated event is starting with a clear articulated opening introduction and ensuring that all meeting attendees agree with the purpose of the event. Write down the OHS problem areas and key objectives on a whiteboard or pin poster sheets in plain sight of the participants so that everyone can refer back to it throughout the event.

Encourage inclusion of all Participants.

You will need to be observant to what is happening during the event. Take note of anyone who is not speaking, or seem to be lacking interest. You need to watch both verbal and non-verbal aspects of the participants. Body language can have both a positive and negative effect to behaviours of individuals and the group. This also applies equally to the OHS Facilitator.

• Keep things on Track.

Frequently throughout any event you’ll find that a discussion will often drift off course and will not be contributing towards addressing the OHS issue. Your job as facilitator is to bring a discussion back in-line, while at the same time not being so rigid that you’ll stifle the participants. Remember you have an agenda to follow, so stick to it.

• Know when to Park unrelated discussions.

There are times a facilitated event will uncover other important OHS issues which should be captured but are not included in the present objectives. Capture these items in what we call a “parking lot” to be addressed in later discussions or future events. Ensure the parking lot is visible to all participants and refer back to it as necessary.

• Facilitator not Preacher

Facilitating doesn’t mean you should take over an event and start preaching solutions or expressing your own OHS knowledge on the topic at hand. Facilitation means you use your knowledge and skills to help others get to a common, agreed-upon resolution.

• Stopping corporate domination.

I’ve seen too many facilitated events fail due to them being hijacked. This is when the most senior ranking person in the event continually expresses their opinion and subsequently turns the event into a personal agenda. Once this happens other participants will fall to the wayside very quickly afraid to challenge due to fear of potential comebacks. Have a discussion with the senior ranking person before the event to ensure that they understand what effect they may have on the event.

Recoding Outputs of the event

Finally one of the key responsibilities of a facilitator is ensuring the recording of outputs. This does not necessarily mean the OHS facilitator is the one who has to be the physical recorder. From a more productive view-point having a dedicated person to record OHS outputs is the preferred method. Make sure people’s responsibilities are 100% clear, whether they are yours or others involved in the recording process. Remember you are the Facilitator and the guiding and controlling functions must be attended to as a priority.

The best way is to record in a set sequence. One method I use is the W’s, what needs to be done, who needs to do it, when does it needs to be actioned, and what the action resolves. Also make sure you summarise all the action items at the end of the event to ensure everyone’s agreement.
When recording outcomes and actions remember:

• Try to use words that the group uses and if in any doubt, ask them to explain especially if they use trade names or acronyms

• Ensure all decisions and actions are recorded. Ideally using a dedicated person to do this, so that you can stay clearly focused on the group and the process at hand.

• Always check with the group that the recorded decisions are a fair and accurate reflection. Make sure responsibility for action is obtained and recorded when necessary.

• At the end of an event recap on the objectives and summarise all the outputs and actions that have been agreed.

• Post event; follow-up to ensure outstanding actions and issues are progressed, and that the proceedings are brought to a successful conclusion.

However one thing which should remain solely under the facilitator specific responsibility is the collating of information concerning outputs and action parties, preparing a close out report and issuing it to the participants and other appropriate people.

My final Comment

I have touched on several areas of facilitation and the role of an OHS facilitator. I have tried to keep it as simple as possible, so that people can use and adapt to their personal style.

Facilitation is without doubt one of the most important skills you will ever learn and undertake as a safety professional. It will allow you to bring business added value to an organisation and help introduce a change management process that can deliver exceptional results in creating an OHS culture.

Take pride in the role of OHS facilitation, and enjoy watching the ideas and solutions become a reality.

Part 2 A skill every HSE professional needs to know

About the Author; Wayne J Harris

Wayne is a highly regarded international specialist in developing corporate risk and HSE management systems with over 30 years’ experience within high-risk environments. He has advised major organisations both private and governmental, on key issues of strategy and organisational risk and safety management. Wayne’s experience in dealing within the international arena and multiple cultures from Europe, Asia-Pacific, to the Middle East has given him a comprehensive understanding of the global risk issues facing an organisation in today’s business economy. He has held various senior corporate roles, and has sat on the Board of Directors of several companies including a Chamber of Commerce.

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One Comment
  1. Your blog is giving complete information about risk management. So if anybody wants to get knowledge about workplace safety, then It’s enough to read this blog.

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