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 Preparing workshop participants  Preparing workshop participants   Workshop familiarisation   Workshop familiarisation

Have these ready on a white board and reveal them at the beginning of the workshop. You may prefer to scribble them onto a flip chart as you go. It is up to you but we need rules. Document them and communicate them but manage them and stick to them throughout the workshop. The following is a set of suggested rules which can of course be added to or adjusted as necessary.

  1. One conversation at a time

  2. Think of your favourite political debate on TV. Every now and again, the politicians talk over each other, getting even more and more irate as you hear less and less of the debate. We do not want this in our workshop. Make it clear that one person will speak; others will listen and will not interrupt. The first time it happens and it will happen; please make sure you go in immediately and stop the interruption. Just confirm we said one conversation at a time.

  3. Mobile phones

  4. Some time ago, a software company that we do a lot of work for, delivered a facilitated workshop for a client, a mobile phone company. They asked the workshop attendees to turn off their mobile phones and to demonstrate to the facilitator that they had successfully turned them off. There was almost anarchy, immediately. The culture in the client company is to have your company mobile switched on 24x7. So, the facilitator who works for the software company went around the room with a waste paper bin, demanding that each mobile phone is placed into the waste paper bin, or they leave the room. On that particular occasion, it was a success. All the mobile phones went into the bin and were placed outside the room, where they bleeped, buzzed and played various items of music (in muffled tones) all the way through the workshop. All workshop attendees, however, stayed inside the workshop. Now, whether you wish to take this approach is up to you. It is not one we recommend. You have to be aware of the culture of your client and of your organisation. If, like this customer, the culture goes against one of the rules of your workshop you have to consider what the impact is. In our experience, people are very used to mobile phones going off during the day. Certainly, there are quiet areas on trains and in airports that we all enjoy, but during the working day, things happen that require attention and we will be allowed to make those decisions for ourselves. It is annoying, we know, when you are halfway through a detailed discussion on a particular topic and a rock classic from led Zeppelin or someones irritating ring tone momentarily knocks you off your thread. Life is not always a beach. In our view, it is best to suggest that only desperately important or life-threatening telephone calls are taken in the workshop. It is an interruption that your best to avoid. If a workshop attendee will take a telephone call, you will need to spend extra time bringing them back up to the latest position of the debate, on their return. This is wasted time, of course. However, once it is done once and you have commented on it in these tones, it is less likely to care in the future.

  5. Participate actively

  6. We have no passengers on this type of project. We have no passengers in this workshop. We have participants who were invited for their imports and their contribution. So, you will tell the participants that they are called participants for a reason. You want them to participate. Tell them, you will notice if they do not participate and are quiet and you will try to repair that. The first time that you identify a workshop participant is quiet, just hold your hand up to the workshop attendees, go over to the quiet participants and tell them that they have not contributed yet or are being quiet. We will look at the ways to do that later.

  7. Respect each opinion

  8. Your workshop participants are valued members of the organisation, quite often senior members of the organisation. They may have worked to build up this experience for a number of years and this will mean that they develop views and opinions about the way things operate and the rate things should operate. It is quite likely that other workshop participants do not share these views. So, you will see and experience some conflicts in the views, analysis and observations of your workshop attendees. You will explain this to them. You will tell them that their views are important. What they say, summarise or define may not line up exactly with the views of another attendee. An awareness that this is going to take place is all that you need to know. However, you may have workshop attendees who are not used to having to sit quietly listening to the views of others with opinions they feel are incorrect. This is very strikingly the case with management attendees in positions of seniority and influence that would normally silence opposing views. You have to say that everybodys input is valuable. You have to say that everyone needs to hear the various opinions and approaches, with equal respect.

  9. Attack issues not people

  10. You have a team of people together and this may be the first opportunity they have had to contribute their opinion and make their views known, maybe strongly. There will be issues, agendas and opinions hidden in the background prior to the workshop which will take that event as their first opportunity to surface and provoke. This is fine as long as it is against issues and not against individuals. Look out for phrases that are personal and that name people. Request that the attendees do not use this type of phrase and that the scribes do not document them. If the comment was very personal, do not ask the commentator to apologise for the comments unless the recipient is upset and the workshop is being affected. Aggressive attackers and repeat offenders mostly removed from the workshop. Be prepared to do this at any point when it is deemed necessary.

  11. Criticism With Explanation

  12. It is important to state this, up front. It is important also to explain that criticism is important and expected. Any critique however needs to be followed by a description and some justification for that critique. If the attendee says something is wrong or bad or incorrect or out of date or whatever, this is not enough without a description and precise explanation of the maladjustment.

  13. Issues are tabled

  14. Issues are brought to the workshop and presented for debate. You will get the opinion of all attendees and it is best to get the immediate reaction of the attendees. This is a great way to identify risks on your project, early. Brainstorm the issues, if necessary, collects in the comments without reaction or evaluation, simply writing them down in a bulleted list.

  15. No Bad History

  16. We want to hear participant comments, not war and peace by Leo Tolstoy. If a workshop participant has some named history associated with the project, this can be taken as an issue outside. The rest of the attendees do not need to hear this. If there is an issue or a risk that needs to be documented, then document it. Then, move on.

  17. Crack The Ice

  18. It is useful to have an ice breaker session at the start of the workshop. There are loads of ice breaker examples across the World Wide Web, so use your preferred search engine. Enjoy the session, while you still have a lot of work to do, it is important for the attendees to be relaxed and, if you are relaxed, this will help the flavour and ambience of the event.

 Preparing workshop participants     Preparing workshop participants   Workshop familiarisation    Workshop familiarisation

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Workshop ground rules


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