March 19, 2012

Detroit Facilitation Guild

March 19, 2012

Appreciative Inquiry


Sandra Yu

Sarah Szurpicki


Jacob Stevens Corvidae

Kathy Murphy

Alison Heeres

Sarah Coffey

Meeting Minutes:

Jennifer Young

  1. I.                   Welcome and Intros


  1. II.                 Favorite Birthday Teaser Activity
    1. This activity could be considered part of one’s facilitation toolbox.
    2. Structure of activity:

                                                              i.      Groups of two (each person has a partner)

                                                            ii.      The meeting facilitator asked participants to write down what was their favorite birthday.

                                                          iii.      The meeting facilitator asked participants to write down what made it their favorite birthday.

                                                         iv.      Next, the first person in the group shares about their favorite birthday and what made it their favorite birthday while the other person listens for about 30 seconds.

                                                           v.      Next, the second person in the group shares about their favorite birthday and what made it their favorite birthday while the other person listens for about 30 seconds.

                                                         vi.      The facilitator reconvenes the group together and facilitates the group in sharing what they got out of the activity.

  1. Benefits of structure of activity:

                                                              i.      “I knew that I would have the time to share all that I had to say” (because of knowing upfront how much time each person had to share)

                                                            ii.      Creates the space for people to reflect before speaking

                                                          iii.      Participants can opt out of sharing with the entire group because they have the option to share with a partner

  1. III.              Theory of Appreciative Inquiry
    1. Sandra and Sarah Szurpicki’s background are participating in the Great Lakes Leadership Academy (GLLA). GLLA is a leadership program which meets once a month for 18 months. GLLA utilizes the practice of Appreciative Inquiry (AI).
    2. Sandra and Sarah reviewed the handout, “Appreciative Inquiry – “a new yoga of inquiry”.
    3. Jacob asked how to frame AI. Sarah S. responded that by focusing on the things that are working it crowds out everything else. AI creates a new way for people to share what we have in common. AI fosters unlikely partnerships. AI is an opposite paradigm to “problem solving” – it is a systems-wide approach to creating relationships and can be used in any situation in which people are in relationships. There is also a concept of “Appreciative Living.”
    4. Examples of when to use AI:

                                                              i.      Employee evaluations – provide examples to employees of what is working

                                                            ii.      Conflict resolution – can facilitate finding common ground

  1. Jacob asked how to craft/introduce the concept of AI. Sandra responded that trust in the mediator is key. Sarah responded that the process can’t be rushed – to be effective it must be based on having a relationship with each other.
  2. Why is it so much more effective to share about what works?

                                                              i.      It energizes people

                                                            ii.      It brings people together

                                                          iii.      It helps excite people’s imaginations

                                                         iv.      It is aspirational – it imparts a sense that I can contribute something

  1. How can AI be used in an organization?

                                                              i.      Ask:   

  1. What worked?
  2. What lessons can be learned that are relevant to the person’s other experiences? (e.g. how could what worked about identifying a caterer for an event be applied to finding a venue?
  3. What could we do more of?


  1. AI vs. Brainstorming

                                                              i.      Brainstorming fosters idea generation

                                                            ii.      AI focuses on reflection

                                                          iii.      Studies show AI to be more effective

  1. How do we acknowledge what we didn’t want (i.e. what is not working) inside the model of AI?

                                                              i.      (1) At beginning of dialog, create our shared norms. Give time to creating the atmosphere where people feel safe to share.

                                                            ii.      (2) Living your shared norms. Create a safe space.

                                                          iii.      (3) Acknowledge what did work

                                                         iv.      (4) Acknowledge where we didn’t meet our goals.

                                                           v.      (5) Ask, how do we do more of what worked?

                                                         vi.      (Ongoing) Check-in. How is our process going? Grant people the freedom to share criticisms.

                                                       vii.      (Ongoing) Learn to think appreciatively


  1. Teaser Activity

                                                              i.      Facilitators asked: What was your most positive teamwork experience?

                                                            ii.      Participant answers:

  1. Ego set aside
  2. Trusting my partner / teammates
  3. Clearly defined roles
  4. Clear goals
  5. We share goals, values, vision, standard of excellence, expectations, emotional bond
  6. My efforts are appreciated
  7. We are there to work together


  1. IV.              +’s & D’s
    1. Facilitator challenge: Identify 3 things a week you can appreciate between now and the next Detroit Facilitation Guild meeting to be shared at the next meeting.


Next Meeting:

Wednesday, April 25

Facilitators: Alison Heeres and Sarah Coffey

Continue reading

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Group Works Pattern Language cards

Here’s a set of cards you can download for free, that can be used to help facilitate meetings, train facilitators, refresh your facilitation habits, etc. You an purchase a deck, but you can also download them for free and use as you like. The website includes a variety of ways to put them to use, and they’re even working on an app.

Group Works Deck

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Boring Meetings Suck

Well, I was a little sad to see this book’s title is so close to my seminar “Meetings Shouldn’t Suck”, it nonetheless looks pretty promising: and has a blog with lots of ongoing content….

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How are my meetings? A meeting assessment tool

Hey folks,

Based on the Consensus Basics training we conducted, here’s a self-assessment tool you can use to see how good of a foundation you have for the functionality of your meetings. As always, note that these principles are really useful for any meeting – not just consensus based meetings.

Let us know if you use this and if it helped.


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Consensus Basics

Thanks to everyone who came out to the training we held in December. It was a great success.   Here’s a quick “cheat-sheet” overview of some consensus basics, as a Word file that you can download (Consensus-Overview) or just read on here below:

What is consensus?

a)      Decisions that are backed by full group

b)     Creative process for finding solutions that meet everyone’s needs


            Note that consensus refers to people’s “consent” not necessarilly full agreement with a decision. In other words “I can live with it” or “good enough”.

            Also note, you can use a consensus process without using consensus decision making, although in all cases the decision-making process should be clear.


Why use it?

a)      By considering everyone’s viewpoint and needs, can often reach a better solution

b)     Doesn’t alienate people

c)      Decisions are often enacted faster and with greater support


When should you us it?

Here are some key questions to ask when considering using consensus:

a)      Do you have the skills to make consensus work?

b)     What’s the group’s relationship to work after the decision?

c)      How accountable is the group to their decisions? How will the effectiveness of their decisions be measured?

d)     Why were the people in this group selected to be in it?

e)      Do you have a commonly agreed upon goal for your decisions?

f)       Are you open to creative or unorthodox solutions?

g)      Will consensus with this group facilitate positive change or protect the status quo?


4 Essential Ingredients for consensus (borrowed from Laird Schaub)

a)      Explicit, shared values and purpose for group

b)     Work appropriate for the group

c)      Willingness to engage in process (buy-in)

d)     Belief in the process


3 Basic responses to a call for consensus

a)      Agree – usually meaning “I can support this”

b)     Stand Aside – I can’t support this, but I won’t stop it from going forward.

Note: If this happens a lot, then it’s an indication that the group is quite divided and the consensus process may be weak.

c)      Block – This decision cannot move forward

Note: A block must be justified according to the explicit purpose and values of the group, not personal interests. Also, if a person should typically only expect to block a decision a few times in their lives. If it’s happening more than that, then a serious flaw in the process or the person’s understanding of the process must be addressed.

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Weighted Voting

This is useful when there are concerns about either A) having the ability to implement a decision or B) people expressing strong opinions without considering the real implications of implementing those opinions.

  1. People are asked to vote among a variety of options. This voting can be done a variety of ways including paper or online surveys, sticky dots on flipcharts or white boards, etc.
  2. People are asked to mark those votes according to some criteria such as the voters willingness to implement that decision. For example, people might mark a regular vote with a blue dot, but use a red dot to indicate that they have a burning passion to work on that item.
  3. Tally the results to see what all the votes were for and which items received highly weighted votes. This can be done in a variety of ways:
  • any item that got a special vote (e.g. willingness to implement) might automatically be in a category or accepted as an agreed upon action. This may require further discussion however, depending on the nature of the material. Some participants may have specific objections to certain items being acted upon.
  • All votes are tallied up but special votes are given a particular weight (e.g. special votes are worth 3 regular votes). If this is the approach used, you must first consider if it’s okay for an individual highly weight all of their votes. In some cases this would be appropriate and useful information, but in other cases this wouldn’t work.

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Amoeba Discussion

This is a useful way to quickly gather information and conduct discussion on a topic while getting input from all participants. It also helps get input from people in a less verbal way and helps add energy to a meeting by getting people out of their seats.

CONS: doesn’t always worked in tight spaces or places with fixed furniture. Also can cause problems for people with mobility disabilities.

  1. Tell people that for this part of the meeting, they should move around at any time to show their opinion. They should feel free to move at any time to show any changes in their opinion in the course of the discussion.
  2. Ask someone to state an opinion on the topic at hand.
  3. Ask that person to stand in a particular place in the room and ask others to move to stand closer to or farther from that person depending on how much they agree with that opinion.
  4. Ask someone who is standing still or standing far away from that last opinion to state their opinion.
  5. Define a location in the room for that opinion (possibly where that person is already standing) and remind people to move as they see fit to represent their opinion in relation to these different options.
  6. Summarize or ask someone in the group to summarize what pattern emerged.
  7. Return to step 4 and repeat all following steps as needed.

This process may just highlight different opinions and stances on a topic and can be a useful tool for gathering information and eliciting new information and opinions. However, it can sometimes lead to decision making. As people see the emerging patterns, they may state an opinion or idea which is a modification on other stances which everyone can agree with. Suddenly instead of having 4 different camps across the room, everyone is clustered into one spot: consensus or clarity has emerged!

If trying to create agreement, then modify step 4 and ask for anyone to try to make a statement that they think everyone could agree with and repeat as needed.

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