From the Electronic Discussion on Group Facilitation
www.albany.edu/cpr/gf/

Generating Agendas

 

From: Dutch Driver <choragus@worldnet.att.net>
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 2004 07:07:50 -0800

 

I am sure that we have all seen complex and intricately drawn agendas blow-up.  Also, I see lots of managers develop their meeting agendas one hour prior to their meeting.  Even agendas that take weeks to develop seldom get distributed to attendees prior to meeting time.

 

I think agendas like the ones I just noted are remaining vestiges of Command-and-Control hierarchy.

 

So, given that Open Space generates agendas on the fly, so to speak, are there new practices and procedures to generate “in the room” agendas?

 

What say you?

 

 

From: Jon Jenkins <jon@imaginal.nl>
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 2004 17:04:48 +0100

 

Dear Dutch and all

 

In the 1960's and 1970's the ICA used a technique call the Problem Solving Unit (PSU).  Here are the procedures from "Golden Pathways" an ICA CD.

 

PROCEDURES FOR A PROBLEM SOLVING UNIT

 

1. State the problem.

 

2. Get a diverse group of people committed to work on it for a definite time (3 ­ 44 hours).

 

3. Look at what has been done in the past on this problem.

 

4. Describe the product you want at the end of this definite time.

 

5. Write procedures to get that product. They may include brainstorming, gestalting, small group work, plenary sessions, making charts, interviews, corporate writing, spinning, wild imaginings and role plays.

 

Usually, we would dedicate two or three days to solve the problem.   As I remember it the problem was stated and the group committed before the session steps 1 and 2.  The first session would be dedicated to writing the procedures, steps 3-5.  Jargon: Gestalting = clustering but implied creating a whole picture, a gestalt; spinning = someone, in a narrative form stating the issue or challange or possibility or a proposed direction.

 

From: Rosa Zubizarreta <rosalegria@igc.org>
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 2004 21:06:01 -0800

 

>So, given that Open Space generates agendas on the fly, so to speak, are

>there new practices and procedures to generate “in the room” agendas?

 

Like Ned, I too generate "best outcomes" with the meeting sponsor ahead of time. Since I see any meeting as an expensive investment of people's valuable time and energy, I often build in the opportunity to elicit _everyone's_ "best outcomes" ahead of time through informational one-on-one interviews. In the process, I also ask about

what is working well, what it would be helpful to talk about, and what people are feeling so 'hopeless' about that they might not even bother bringing up.

 

I also use the informational interviews to describe the process we will be using. After this preparation is completed (and sometimes in the middle of it, as well) I check back in with the meeting sponsor to offer feedback on the issues that are surfacing.

 

While this is admittedly an intensive amount of preparation, it then allows me to facilitate a free-form 'idea jam', where we welcome everyone's 'initial solutions', along with diverse perspectives on 'what the problem REALLY is', and diverse concerns about any suggested solutions. This is all within the context of my serving as 'designated listener', to ensure that each person is fully heard and to allow others to 'overhear' one another without being put 'on the spot'.

 

The only 'item on the agenda' is to create a mind-map of everyone's varying perspectives on the situation at hand, including different problem definitions, 'initial solutions', critiques, etc., without attempting to 'manage' any resolution. The supportive listening to each participant reduces anxiety, while the variety of perspectives on everything, including 'what the real issues are', maximizes creative tension as it surfaces the wide variety of assumptions that are in operation.

 

As each participant is fully heard, the energy that often goes toward attempting to 'make a point' is instead free to do what we humans do best as pattern-recognizing and pattern-generating organisms... apply our creativity to the challenge of making sense of apparently contradictory information.

 

I sometimes describe this as working with the 'emergent agenda' of what is truly important to each person in the room, instead of working with an 'imposed agenda' -- even if it is a 'self-imposed agenda' that we all created an hour ago and is no longer relevant to the real issues at hand.

 

The process is effective, powerful, and a lot of fun... and, it is very much inspired by Dynamic Facilitation, as taught by Jim Rough.

 

 

From: Ned Ruete <nruete@myeastern.com>
Date: Sat, 7 Feb 2004 06:52:34 -0500

 

Rosa spoke of "emergent agendas":

 

> I sometimes describe this as working with the 'emergent agenda' of

> what is truly important to each person in the room, instead of

> working with an 'imposed agenda'

 

This reminds me of another favorite technique of mine about which I have written before in this forum: the affinity exercise.  With a well-crafted framing question, you can get hundreds of ideas from everyone in the room captured on slips, posted on a wall (ICA uses a sticky wall) and organized into groups that make sense based on where the energy is rather than a priori analysis of what the issues might be.  Those groups become agenda items.

 

Ned

 

 

 

From: Dutch Driver <choragus@worldnet.att.net>
Date: Sat, 7 Feb 2004 08:00:08 -0800

 

Thanks to Jon, Rosa and Ned for following up on this topic.

 

Hopefully, I can now present a better question.

 

I am now seeking how to get to emergent agendas without the first step of using a Straw Man Agenda?

 

Affinity groups is a very good start, and I have used these in training sessions for public speaking a couple of times.  It worked beautifully.

 

Are there other techniques for generating emergent agendas?

 

 

 

From: Tony Gill <Tony.Gill@PHRONTIS.COM>
Date: Sat, 7 Feb 2004 16:50:55 +0000

 

I am now seeking how to get to emergent agendas without the first step of using a Straw Man Agenda?

 

Affinity groups is a very good start, and I have used these in training sessions for public speaking a couple of times. It worked beautifully.

 

Are there other techniques for generating emergent Agendas?

 

I assume that you accept that there must be an issue or problem of sufficient importance to galvanise action around. Without this why should people commit time to getting together?

 

There is one democratic process that enables the creation of an emergent agenda that I am aware of. It is called Team Syntegrity. This determines the topics for discussion that the group feels are relevant for the issue or problem under review. See (Links not clear)