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Project Manager as Meeting Facilitator

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A few weeks ago, I was about to start a facilitated workshop with a very good customer. A South African colleague of mine, Michelle Booysen from Pétanque Consultancy, a South African consulting services in the field of project and process management, was invited to the session. We were preparing to start work when I confessed I was terrified. "No matter what, whenever I'm facilitating a session I always get scared."

Michelle is a savvy consultant and has a great deal of experience managing projects and facilitating meetings. She told me: "What a relief -- I am not alone." We both laughed.

That moment reminded me of my mindset when I earned my Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential. At that time, I thought having a PMP® was the ultimate achievement in my professional career.

Since then, I have learned that to excel as a project manager, you have to have more than a credential.

One of the skills you need is being able to facilitate. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)--Fourth Edition, chapter 5, mentions facilitated workshops:

"Because of their interactive group nature, well-facilitated sessions can build trust, foster relationships, and improve communication among the participants which can lead to increased stakeholder consensus. Another benefit of this technique is that issues can be discovered and resolved more quickly than in individual sessions."

Being a facilitator is a difficult art that is worth mastering. I have used facilitated workshops to build a project plans, to review mission and vision statements, to map business processes and to review deliverables.

Although it is always a challenge, if you understand how to play that role, you'll be leading (facilitating) the group to success. Prepare ahead of time, visualize yourself doing it and take the time to build an energized environment at the beginning of the session.  

It is said that you don't learn to swim by reading a book. You must dare to try it and learn by doing.

Have you played the role of facilitator as a project manager? What have been the keys to becoming a successful facilitator?

See more on the PMBOK® Guide.
See Jorge's prior posts.  


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I have been in various roles including both project and process management. The key to becoming great at facilitating is to know your audience and their expectations and establish at the start what you and your audience want to get out of the session. Listen to what is being said but also what is not being said. Don’t be afraid to bring issues out into the open and encourage discussion and resolution options.

Some of the most valuable training I've received was in how to hold and run an efficient and productive meeting and training session. My training was given as part of ISO and in preparation for applying for the Malcolm Baldrige award (given by the U.S. Congress).

As you say preparation is key. Some (not inclusive list) of the core principles include a) a published agenda b) meeting facilitator c) allotted time slots for agenda items d) designated timekeeper e) designated minutes taker and most importantly, let everyone know what you are trying to achieve.

By the way, a mentor once told me - ask yourself if you're nervous because you're not prepared or because you care. Both will be evident.

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