ICA: Group Facilitation Training 2016

If there is one thing I look forward to starting my first job at Titansoft, it is the numerous opportunities to go for external training which are of interest to me. Hence, when the sign-up email came for the 3 ICA Group Facilitation Training, I signed up immediately, as I would like to learn more about facilitation skills through the workshops (other than the facilitation books in the library).

The 3 ICA Group Facilitation Training consists of:

  1. Focused Conversation: A structured process that helps you plan and facilitate a meaningful exchange of ideas.  Discover ways to involve every member in thinking through diverse and difficult issues.  This process heightens your effectiveness in facilitating virtually every form of group communication.
  2. Consensus Workshop: A build on from the first training, it is a structured experience with 5 Key Steps which provides a foundation to move with flexibility and safety through any kind of group work. The process can help the group to deal effectively with large amounts of data quickly to form a larger, more coherent picture. It creates a climate of involvement and engages the participation of each group member.
  3. Dialogue Workshop: It offers the skills and motivation to work through tough issues in ways that bring shared understanding and commitment. It builds trust, strengthens relationships, and draws out the best thinking as well as new level of cooperation of all parties.

Focused Conversation Workshop

– Class Photo –

Attending the first external training of my life, I had high expectations, and I was not disappointed. The workshop, conducted by Mr Larry and Ms Freida, was very interactive, with group discussions and role plays catering to the different types of learners, peppered with moments of humour.

A short summary of what I have learnt:

  1.  Practical Result: What does the team need to learn, understand or decide? With the practical result, you can come up with good questions that cover enough ground to bring about more critical thinking for better understanding amongst participants.
  2. Experiential Intent: What does the team need to experience during the course of the conversation? Eg. Excitement, Safe to share etc.
  3. 4 categories of questions to ask (also known as ORID)….
    Objective (What do you see?): Asking factual questions to get objective information from participants. Questions asked are based on what you have observed using your 5 senses. Eg. What words or phrases were used?- Reflective (What do you feel?): Asking questions which illuminates emotional responses. The questions will bring about creative associations and feelings. Eg. How did you feel at the end of the presentation?

    Interpretive (What do you think?): Asking questions which highlights new meaning, significance of focus subject and implications caused. Eg. What difference will this make to us?

    Decisional (What are you going to do about it?): Asking questions which get people to think about what they have learnt, and what actions they will take. Eg. What will you do differently because you heard this?

We were given a piece of homework to submit before the next workshop: Conduct a Focused Conversation, get feedback from participants and send the homework reflections to both trainers. Although the assignment was hard, I found it useful to clarify my knowledge of the ORID method through doing a focused conversation on my own.

Consensus Workshop

– Class Photo –

Having enjoyed the first workshop, I came to the second workshop, wanting to know how knowing ORID can be applied to workshops with a larger group and to understand how to reach a more effective consensus within a group.

Just like the first workshop, we did experiential learning through case studies and role plays to practise what we have learnt.

Mr Larry going through the Consensus Workshop Method
Trying out the method with assigned topics

A short summary of what I have learnt:

  1. Focus Question: to remind participants of the reason for the workshop.
  2. 5 key steps in a Consensus Workshop…
    Context…Setting The Stage: Setting the context of the workshop, which helps participant understand the background of the focus question, and be aware of what will they be doing for the workshop.- Brainstorming…Generating New Ideas: This is done in 2 parts; individual brainstorming, followed by team brainstorming. This allows for rapid listing of ideas / issues, includes insights from all team members to form the group’s item cards.

    Organise (Clusters)…Forming New Relationships: Getting teams to display some item cards to form at least 4 pairs to discover similarities, then forming clusters for the remaining item cards. This opens up new perspectives for participants.

    Name Clusters…Discerning The Consensus: Involve asking questions for the participants to gain new insights and breakthroughs in understanding the clusters. The cluster names capture the insights and answer the focus question.

    Decide Meaning…Confirming The Resolve: Involves creating a chart or image to hold the consensus, allow the participants to reflect on the consensus and decide what are the next steps after the workshop.

  3. There are 3 types of focus questions. These types affect the way the ideas are being organised and the naming of the clusters during the consensus workshop. The 3 types are…
    Type 1 (Definitive/Vision/Quality): pair item cards by similar definitions
    Type 2 (Challenges/Issues/Barriers): pair item cards by root causes
    Type 3 (Actions/Directions -> New Ideas/ Action Strategy): pair item cards by similar intent

At the end of the workshop… (you guessed it) Homework: To conduct a consensus workshop.

Jasmine’s and Allan’s Consensus Workshop: What action can you take towards your personal growth?

Dialogue Workshop

The last of the 3-workshop series, I was expecting the same workshop format, so imagine my shock when there were no tables, only chairs in one big circle in the room! At that point of time I felt much more vulnerable, but as the workshop went on, I could see why there were no need for tables; the workshop style requires a lot of interaction and role play to learn. I felt more uncomfortable for this workshop compared to the first 2 workshops as there was not much “structured theory” (Eg. ORID) for the workshop, so I was mostly learning the theory from the activities, which is a new way of learning for me.

I especially enjoyed the fishbowl activity; this activity involves 2 groups of people: the observers (outside the “bowl”) and the fish (inside the bowl) The fish will choose the topic to have a dialogue (My group chose a tough topic: Conflict) and the observers will observe their “fish” behaviour and reactions during the dialogue. This was an interesting activity for me as my observer was able to tell me how I behaved so that I can attempt to try something different in the 2nd half of the dialogue to contribute more to the conversation.

A short summary of what I have learnt:

  1. 3 ways a dialogue can go
    Debate: No one can fully agree to viewpoints, may undergo voting to decide.
    Generative: There is consensus within the group, with respectful disagreement
    Dialectic: All viewpoints are available and hard data is being used to get to answers.
  2. Silence is participation
    It is okay to just listen to the dialogue and not give a reply or say anything. It does not mean that you are disrespecting the speaker, it just means that you have nothing to say about the points in the dialogue, or you are processing the information at that point of time. This leads me to the next learning point…
  3. Sharing my emotions to the group
    It is not easy to sit in the dialogue and not say anything, as the members may feel you are not interested in the dialogue such that you have nothing to contribute. It can be quite uncomfortable to be silent and thus you may force yourself to say something. By sharing your discomfort of having nothing to say, the groups understand how you feel at that point in time.
  4. Be vulnerable to share your insights to the group for the dialogue to dig deeper
    This is best explained with a real life example – during the fishbowl activity during the workshop, I was wondering if I should tell the other Fish that I was uncomfortable with the topic selected, and I had only agreed to the topic because the majority wanted it (this was a good example of conflict). In the end, I threw caution to the wind and told the group about it, and we managed to go deeper into the dialogue with the example I had given.

Throughout the 3 workshops, it really helps to come with an open mind, to absorb new knowledge. I also noticed that if I want to maximise my learning, I need courage to try out the methods, and be unafraid of mistakes made during the role play sessions. Lastly, it is a good opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, and interact with staff that I do not talk to as often, to do the activities.

I have enjoyed all 3 trainings; they have brought new insights to how I can facilitate and conduct my own workshops and meetings in a more engaging manner while ensuring that the participants are open to one another to learn more.

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