Module 6: Sprint Design & Facilitation
Dealing with Difficulties
Why should you use this method?
- Involve everyone in team activities
- Deal with challenging behavior, such as dominant spekers, silent observers or jokers
- Make sure that a workshop has clear outcomes and produces results
- Stay focused on the goals
Do you have to deal with difficulties during a workshop?
First of all, don’t be afraid of difficult situations. They are part of every innovative process. Innovation teams that only have fun and move forward in a straight line are probably playing it safe and the outcome will not be groundbreaking. In innovation, we want to explore the boundaries and we want to test the waters in risky territories. And that brings feelings of uncertainty, which is often perceived as uncomfortable and might lead to friction in the team. Good! This means that the team is getting somewhere. Don’t run away from friction in an innovation proces. Embrace it.
Tips and tricks to deal with difficult situations
Difficult situations often occur because of the simple reason that the participants don’t feel heard or understood. Read through the tips below to prepare yourself for any workshop. Additionally, download the descriptions of difficult personas and tips on reacting to them as facilitators.
Understand who is in the room. Go through the participant list: What kind personality do they have? Are they the dominant type, the nay-sayer, the silent person? What are their desires and what are their concerns? Create an agenda that fits the group! It will make sure you know better what to expect and make sure they all feel heard during the session.
Get the negativity out as fast as you can. Make sure there is space for urgent matters participants feel the need to discuss. The same goes for the famous elephant in the room. Address it immediately once you feel there is something people are not saying out loud.
Write down on a flip/collaboration tool what the participants are saying. This will immediately mitigate the risk that people don’t feel heard. Everyone can see you heard them since you wrote down what they said. Another advantage of writing down what you hear is that this will endless conversations, the blah blah. Stop someone talking and ask: “It seems that you want to bring across an important point, but I struggle to sumarize it. Could you tell me what I should write down on this flip?”
Ensure every voice is heard. If you haven’t heard someone in a while, make sure you directly ask for their opinion occasionally. Another tip is to break the group into smaller teams throughout. Or include quiet, individual brainstorming activities that allow everybody to formulate their opinion and no escaping is possible.
Draw conclusions. Whenever you feel it is discussed enough, take the floor and state your conclusion as simply as you can. Writing it down will help you be short and concise and still give people room to adjust what you say.
Create a parking lot. You don’t want the group to get distracted by relevant items outside the topic you are in right now. Write their comment on a post-it and stick it on the parking lot. Ensure that you address the items on the parking lot at the end of the session and define the next step for these items.
Don’t allow phones and laptops on the table. Make sure participants put away everything that can distract them. In return, make sure the breaks are long enough so they can check their messages and make a quick phone call. When you communicate the breaks up front, they know they can schedule their urgent calls during these breaks to avoid disruption of the session.
Ensure people know why they have been invited and why their input is so important to you. Address this very specifically. It’s already within the invite, but don’t hesitate to repeat it. Explain why you believe their contribution to the workshop is of critical value. Most often, that will make them feel better and they will change their behavior. However, if it is not changing, don’t be afraid to tell them it is okay to leave and do something else. Just make sure you address the issue and take action. You dont want people in the room who take away energy.
Ask for written feedback instead of verbal. This will ensure you get the opinion of everyone, not just the loudest and fastest ones. And when you ask for feedback, make sure you structure it. Using the 6 Thinking Hats, ask them to write at least one post-it per hat per person. Instead, you can also frame the feedback in ‘I like, I wish, I wonder’.