It’s been three years and one pandemic in the making. I am so proud to finally announce the release of this fully-illustrated, definitive resource on how to facilitate groups and design collaboration.
It presents a holistic view of facilitation – based on Integral Theory – and includes an array of contributions from expert voices, including co-author Geoffrey Nelson, David Sibbet, Lauren Green, Brian Tarallo, Jim Kalbach, Mark Tippin, Natalie Nixon, akasha, and Michelle Royal.
If you (or your team) want to get better at guiding conversations, making decisions, surfacing opportunities, or driving outcomes, you must grab a copy today. They even come in hardcover!
Inside you'll find:
Here’s What People are Saying About the Book
“Whether you're a seasoned veteran or brand new to facilitating meetings and group processes, Facilitation is required reading. Everything in it is essential to the design and delivery of facilitation. And yet somehow in all 272 pages, nothing is superfluous. I tried to highlight everything that every facilitator should know; it would have been faster to have dipped the entire book in yellow ink.”
- Brian Tarallo, Lizard Brain, author of Surviving the Horror of Online Meetings: How to Facilitate Good Virtual Meetings & Manage Meeting Monsters
“Facilitation is packed with essential knowledge and practical tips. This book is the perfect tool for group facilitators looking to feel more confident and capable in today's complex world. It’s an exciting and hopeful guide that delves into the underlying dynamics of group collaboration and places human experience at the center of the process.”
- Rebecca Ejo Colwell, MBA; Founder Ten Directions, Co-Founder Integral Facilitator®
Change is a book burning.
It stands at the podium in all its righteousness and altruism and asks you to willingly throw your stories on the fire. The well-worn chestnuts you’ve told a hundred times. The stories you’ve clung to and retold for decades. Stories that have garnered you attention, laughter, applause, love, and connection.
Change asks that you give all of that up in faith that new stories will arrive. That new stories will magically fall from your lips, pour forth from your soul, or be woven together by a community of people that doesn’t yet exist.
I always tell the story of change in personal terms. When I stopped smoking I lost a few friends. You know the ones. The ones that don’t want to see you change. The ones that would rather see you suffer (or die) with them rather than confront change in themselves. I don’t miss those friends so much.
But then I got married and I lost a few more friends. The ones that weren’t ready for serious relationships or were struggling to find a part of themselves they could truly give to another.
Then, I had children, and I lost most of my friends. Choosing to bring a new life into this crazy world is a bridge too far for some people. And, it added to my responsibilities, making my precious spare time all the more precious.
In 2012, I founded the Integral Church – an interfaith group committed to pluralism, religious literacy, and spiritual practice. As you can imagine, my friends thought I had gone off the deep end. And at this point, I could count them on one hand.
Even though I had pruned the bushes of my life back to a nub, I didn’t succumb to isolation or depression. I was constantly meeting new people and making new connections. Each decision to step into a new way of being was chosen with intention and I stayed curious about myself and what kind of people I needed to surround myself with. Leaders, visionaries, creatives, those unafraid of change.
You can move to a new city; give up your career of 20 years; or come out as gay, bisexual or polyamorous. The effect will be the same. You will slough off some people that you didn’t need in your life anymore, shaking them loose like a winter coat.
Living happens on the precipice of change. The most important growth happens while standing at a crossroads.
Where I sought a spiritual life, there are also those who seek to leave it behind. For those sitting in the front pew of their church (having spent years working their way forward from the back pew) deconstructing your faith can be scary. Admitting that you’ve outgrown an institution or set of beliefs takes massive courage. These people are melting on the inside (like a caterpillar in a cocoon), dying to be reborn as something else.
Republicans and Democrats alike sometimes find themselves in the sanctity and anonymity of the ballot box only to end up voting for someone outside their party. They realize that their values have changed. Their beliefs about the role of government, policy, and responsibility have changed. It could be that they have changed; it could also be that the party has changed (hasn’t moved with the times, or is too progressive).
In consulting, we find no shortage of business leaders struggling with change – grappling with a vision in flux. Their strategy is now obsolete and they no longer have the right people in the right seats. For leaders in changing organizations, that means onboarding and aligning your team to the new vision and finding new team members who can help you accomplish your mission in the world. It means rallying the team behind a bright, clear, bold vision even as that vision is dissipating and you are anxiously crafting a new one.
You can plant a sapling and wait for it to bloom or you can repot a plant that needs more room to grow. Either way, change happens in an ecosystem – in a forest.
If you are the tree, then that tree has a lifecycle – a kind of toroidal function where the acorn and leaves are falling and debris is composting into something else. Turning into food and being reabsorbed through the roots. There is rhythm and motion and life.
But this tree is also connected to the mycelium and mycorrhizal network – the fungus and mushrooms and other trees around it. It's literally and invisibly holding its neighbor’s hands underground, forming a living community, a thriving marketplace or a well-regulated nation right underneath your feet.
Beyond the forest is what's called the purlieu. The frayed edges of the forest, where it turns into savannah or desert or plain is where mutation (or innovation) happens. It’s where the laws of the forest start to break down.
In business, this means we must manage our personal cycle of growth (from levels of listening to unconscious competence), the lifecycle of our business (from start-up to maximization to irrelevance), as well as the innovation portfolio being created on the farthest horizons of the purlieu.
In the sci-fi/horror movie, Annihilation, based on the best-selling Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer, the edge of the forest is called “the shimmer.” Inside the forest – beyond the shimmer – things grow at accelerated rates; the DNA of plants, animals, and humans is re-combined before the naked eye; and there seems to be no boundary between physical being and time. The forest in Annihilation is a sandbox of evolutionary emergence.
This is exactly the kind of jungle we find ourselves in as we navigate the 21st century. With our political post-modernism seeking to include, our decentralized media marketplace seeking to give access, and our remix culture seeking the novel and the new, change is a constant.
Our quest is to get off the well-worn highways and tromp new trails and pathways through the forest.
Our challenge is to be two people at once: the Wise Planner who thinks big thoughts and manages complex processes by optimizing or creating new routines and the Impulsive Toddler who will narrowly focus on the process at hand by executing existing habits.
Our task is to push our chests into the fog of uncertainty with the courage and contentment of a master. To love the tightrope strung between the known and the unknown. To compost and be composted.
Our aim is to live in a state of anticipation and curiosity, not expectation or entitlement.
There is a Greek proverb that states, “a society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.”
I believe a man grows great when he plants trees that he knows will be chopped down and turned to pulp. Pulp that will be pressed into books and thrown on the future fire.
Consent is a charged word. You usually only hear about it when someone has filed a complaint with the HR department or someone has crossed a boundary they shouldn’t have crossed.
You may be wondering what does consent have to do with my work?
Consent is defined as “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.”
An example of this might be, “no change may be made without the consent of all the partners.” Consensual leadership is about encouraging acceptance and agreement before actions are taken and this approach has never been more relevant considering the power differentials between leaders and teams.
We recently worked with a Board Chair of a well-known faith community who told us they had never consented to filling the role. She was told that it would be an interim position and that certain criteria would be met (a job description would be provided, regular reviews would happen, there would be administrative support, etc.). The model of governance allowed for her to be nominated without her consent, and she was voted in. She begrudgingly did the work, the criteria were never met, and she ended up serving a term of three years.
She admitted that she would have been more than willing to devote herself to fundraising and community development – activities that would have really lit her up – but no one asked her. By the time three years had passed, they were desperately trying to rebuild after the pandemic and critically needed someone focused on bringing in money and reaching out to the community. Unfortunately, it was too late. She was burned out and resigned.
We also work with married teams in our executive coaching program. We call it “Power Couples Coaching.” Unsurprisingly, sometimes issues that hinder these intimate relationships also affect the bottom line and their ability to turn toward each other, communicate effectively, and lead as a team.
In these cases, we find it useful to discuss consent in terms of how it affects the communication inside the household and the business (i.e. ill-timed business updates over dinner, or worse, during date night).
FRIES is an acronym for the elements of consent developed by Planned Parenthood to inform and educate young people about the importance of consent in relationships. Here’s what it looks like when applied to organizations.
And, enjoy the FRIES!
In complex business environments, leadership cannot be off-boarded or outsourced. As leaders and executives, sometimes we blame the bad things happening around us on others, or the market, or circumstance.
Things like ineffective meetings, staff turnover, teams not hitting their goals, people holding back, lack of work/life balance, and not sticking to the strategy. These have nothing to do with other people and everything to do with the way you show up as a leader.
It’s been said that “people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers.” The opposite is also true. People don’t follow ideas, they follow other people. Is your mission confusing and convoluted? Are there too many initiatives to remember? Have you made your vision of the future (and their role in it) crystal clear for the team? If not, chances are they will burn out. If they stop believing in your capacity to lead, you will no longer be their leader. No amount of bonuses or self-care days will undo it.
Executives and leaders experiencing complexity and overwhelm can do two things to establish leadership in complex environments:
This alignment will look more like group storytelling than strategy. It will involve all of your people and involve them in visualizing things like retrospectives, journey maps, and cones of plausibility.
Consider how the diversity of voices, perspectives and competencies you convene and empower today will impact, amplify, drive, or disrupt your work in the future. Visionary leaders prepare for this long tail and are able to manage the business along multiple horizons.
The emotional benefits for leaders who can do this include:
Some measurable results we have seen in leaders and businesses that can enable this kind of thinking and behavior in those around them include:
As mentioned in our book, Visionary Leadership, these types of leaders are able to do three things well:
Raise more visual leaders. Celebrate them. Watch them shine.
At Illustrious, we pride ourselves on a commitment to quality outcomes. We've been doing visual consulting and facilitation for nearly a decade and have seen first-hand the negative effects of a poorly-designed and executed meeting, session, or client engagement.
As external facilitators, here are the top four reasons our clients give for using our facilitation services rather than facilitating themselves:
Our clients want to participate in the process. We’ve found that OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) in particular are difficult to facilitate if you want to also participate in the session. It’s not easy to consider your team’s interdependencies, listen to your fellow participants’ 90-day needs and goals, determine how it will affect your department, and come to a consensus on how to measure progress while also sorting and organizing stickies, summarizing and reflecting the group inputs, and keeping an eye on the clock.
Over time, our team has developed a mastery of visual collaboration tools like MURAL and facilitation methods, ranging from The Grove’s Strategic Visioning process to Liberating Structures and Strategyzer to StoryBrand. Our clients rely on us to know which tool to use to help them solve their complex problems.
Deciding on the theme for a session; coordinating everyone’s calendars; sourcing artwork, illustrations, and photography; coding and deploying the surveys for the pre-work; designing the MURAL (or setting up the room); writing up the agenda, facilitator guide, and other necessary copy; collecting all of the deliverables from the session (survey results, recordings, graphic records) – these things take time. Most of our clients have roles that impact their business directly and know that time spent designing and prepping the session will be time spent not leading their team or fulfilling their role.
Sometimes when a team chooses to facilitate themselves, they may neglect to ask challenging questions in order to protect their strategic plan (or someone’s job). Or they will design a session to reinforce a currently-held belief. This is called confirmation bias. Sometimes authority and esteem (see The Fundamentals below) hasn’t been established by the head of HR. Sometimes the VP of Sales has too many inside jokes or treats the women in the room differently than the men. Sometimes the Chief Innovation Officer talks too fast or over everyone’s head. Sometimes the CEO or President takes herself too seriously and elicits snickering when her back is turned. We are constantly told that people behave better and create the desired results when an external facilitator is leading the group.
I was fired for doodlingRead Now
It was 1995, and I was fresh out of high school. I had been a busboy, a bag boy, worked construction on and off as a mason’s assistant and labored in a fire sprinkler shop. It was time for me to buckle down and get a real job. I applied anywhere and everywhere. I wanted to be a graphic designer, and that's what I was studying in college, but I didn't have the experience.
Eventually, I was hired at the Florida Spine Institute as a medical transcriptionist. A family member must have pulled some strings as a favor. My words per minute wasn't the most impressive, but I managed to land the gig. My interviews went well, I had filled out my W-2 forms, I was placed in the system and told to report to work on Monday. I was all set to go.
It was my first day on the job when I sat in front of a computer screen, received a pair of headphones and began to drown in a stream of surgical dictation.
It wasn't long before my eyes began to sting and my brain began to slow down. I choked on the flood of foreign, multisyllabic words coming through the headset. So, I paused the recording and took a break.
Next to the computer sat a blank yellow legal pad and a blue ballpoint pen. I had been doodling on that yellow legal pad for no more than 5 minutes (probably a skull, unicorn, dragon or something) when the supervisor walked up behind me. She came to a full stop, cleared her throat, and asked to see me in her office.
Being caught doodling was a horrible feeling. The shame and remorse ran through my body.
I was sure that I was to be reprimanded for the doodling. I was convinced that I would be scolded and asked to focus and promise not to do it again and put back out on the floor.
But that's not what happened.
The venetian blinds in the supervisor’s office were drawn, giving her a slight silhouette. She sat in an overstuffed leather chair at a huge wooden desk. On the desk was one of those green banker’s lamps. It was the first time I’d seen one of those in real life.
She said, “We don't pay you to draw.”
Then she took a deep breath and said that it wasn't “going to work out.”
I was fired on the spot. And, it was baffling to me at the time. Part of me was shocked that there would be no second chance. Another part of me started to think that this was the way “grown-ups” in the “real world” operated. I feared this was the way adults did things – and that I wasn't ready for a real job.
I began to think that there would never be a place for me in the workforce unless I stifled my creative side; that my creativity might be my handicap.
Some people don’t recover from a soul-crushing brush with white collar corporate America. Some people allow the criticism of others to extinguish their spark. But, I knew that if I was to be successful and remain in integrity, I would need to either find a box to fit in that looked more like me or find a way to create my own. I vowed to find my tribe among creatives.
I worked in music and PR and spent over a decade in media as a Marketing Director at a scrappy alternative news-weekly. Eventually, I landed a gig working for a consultant as a Graphic Recorder. I was paid to actually doodle in business meetings.
At the consultancy, I was surrounded by people who harnessed creativity and play to drive business outcomes. We made a living by thinking outside the box. We sketched, doodled, mind mapped, and built analog prototypes using scissors and glue. We filled every bit of blank space on the walls with Post-its.
Today, I own my own consultancy and have trained many facilitators to do what I do. At Illustrious, we enable the art of visual thinking and innovation. And no one gets fired for doodling.
For those of you leading organizations in growth mode, you are continually having to balance efforts between the business you are and the business you are becoming. As your team expands, you’ll need to consider new and exciting (yes, they can be!) iterations of your org chart.
I recently worked with a corporate team coaching client. We were tasked with building an interdependency journey in Mural that would allow leadership to measure where interdependencies were happening on their global finance team. Interdependency is not only a function of a team, it’s also a quality that emerges at the higher stages of team development (think storming, norming, performing, etc.).
If you’re familiar with McKinsey’s innovation horizons, you know that each level of product or portfolio planning requires new or different team members, leadership styles, mindsets, language, business systems, experimentation frameworks, and management methods.
Just as in innovation, interdependency has a similar way of scaling. According to the 1967 book Organizations in Action by sociologist James D. Thompson, for each level of team interdependence (pooled, sequential, or reciprocal), there are different levels of coordination required (standardization, planning, or mutual adjustment).
Pooled - This type of task interdependence combines separate parts. Business units perform separate functions, not necessarily interacting or overlapping. Like a gymnastics team, however, their individual performance can negatively impact the rest of the organization.
Sequential - Like an assembly line, this type of interdependence means that one unit depends on the output of another before they can do their part. Planning and scheduling become vital to avoid bottlenecks in production.
Reciprocal - These units are highly interactive and reflexive. It’s sequential, but with the addition of multiple rounds or cycles. Teams or departments may adjust as the situation changes (think sales, marketing, product development, R&D, etc.) and if one department underperforms, the house of cards could come crashing down.
A lack of agreement between the types of interdependence and levels of coordination can reduce results, bruise relationships, diminish well-being, or shutter businesses.
For now, consider these questions:
For more posts and templates like this, sign up for our newsletter, and if you need help designing or facilitating a workshop, let’s set up a call.
Innovation Types and HorizonsRead Now
THE 7 TYPES OF INNOVATION
ISO TC 279 defines innovation as "a new or changed entity realizing or redistributing value."
At Illustrious, we define innovation as the act of creativity and experimentation that turns your best ideas (and even your best failures) into value. This means that whether we’re talking about corporate innovation or a small business that encourages innovation best practices on small teams, you can’t have innovation without the ability to 1) generate and elevate new ideas, 2) iterate ideas into process maps and prototypes, and 3) validate and scale those idea prototypes into the right audience fit.
Innovation strategy falls into numerous categories. These include:
THE 3 HORIZONS OF INNOVATION
An organization’s innovation strategy also falls into what McKinsey and Company call horizons. These are the time-bound areas of focus for innovation efforts.
The first horizon (H1) is the home for any short-term innovation strategy and includes both “incremental” and “notable” shifts along the value scale. Incremental shifts include improvements or additional unique features to products and services (think a toothbrush with rubber grips or a flipchart with handles).
According to Magnus Penker, author of How to Assess and Measure Business Innovation, “notable” shifts include a “distinguishable advance in design, process or business model” (think the RAZR phone or disposable hearing aids).
The second horizon (H2) includes mid- to long-term innovation efforts and results in significant or “radical” shifts. This means there is an advance in the product or experience design as well as to the process or business model (think Southwest Airlines or iPod/iTunes).
The third horizon (H3) is where we see game-changing transformational shifts. The hallmark of the third horizon is that at least two important advances are made in a combination of design, process or business model. (Think market disruptors like the razor and blades model or the light bulb and electrical grid.)
Each of these corporate innovation types requires a different leadership style (entrepreneurial, democratic/participatory, coaching/charismatic, etc.). Each type requires a decision to buy, build, partner or do “open” innovation (collaboration outside the walls of the business). With each leap, what got you there will not get you where you’re going. At each horizon, you will take on new or different team members, mindsets, language, business systems and management methods.
When you commit to the practice of innovation, you are not only committing to changing your surroundings, but also to changing yourself.
If you’re ready to have a conversation about the inner work required to lead innovation in your business, we’d love to help you shine.
by Rachel Blasco
From updating your strategy to scaling your team, growth is change and change is hard.
Visual Consultants are hired to “facilitate the organization to perceive, understand, and develop the organization’s business and human processes, in order for the client to improve the situation themselves, as they define it.”
Visual Consultants work with clients to (quite literally) paint the picture their teams are trying to describe in vivid details that is clear and easy to understand. In other words, visual consultants are the map makers and cartographers for our ideas in order to define and put plans into actionable stories.
Visual consulting is at its essence, storytelling. The practice developed out of the constant need for innovation in businesses that want to remain not only at the top of their game, but to continue to move the ball forward in their field.
Visual consultants are at the intersection of three fields that have given rise to a new way of working: Visualization, dialogic practice, and change consulting. The outcome is both rewarding and inspiring to executives and teams alike. Visual storytellers and consultants both design and lead change in organizations and communities that may otherwise feel unmotivated or simply unclear on what the objectives and expected outcomes of the group may be.
Ultimately, this is an orientation in process thinking and process leadership. So, clients seeking alignment on new visions, process transformation, innovation, culture change, and sustainable results get the results they are looking for in hiring a visual consultant to bring order to the chaos.
Why Seeing is Believing
In both high profile corporate coaching and small personal development circles, creating a clear picture around your goals and steps to get there is a central topic. Look at the vocal facilitators and consultants as pros at this. Navigating both verbal story and visual landscape, these experts bring design thinking and creativity to the gray landscapes of corporate agendas and enhance team enthusiasm and commitment.
An article in Forbes, Neuroscience Explains Why You Need To Write Down Your Goals If You Actually Want To Achieve Them, discusses the research behind describing or picturing goals and the strong association with goal success; and, people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish what they set out to do. Think about visual facilitation and storytelling as the map to your destination. It’s much easier to get to where you are going if you have a better picture of what to expect or look for. It helps our monkey brains process more efficiently, and focus on what matters.
If you are experiencing the following, you may need someone to consult with on your vision, culture, story or strategy. Some of the main complaints among brands and businesses that would benefit greatly from visual consultants are:
With all of this in mind, and especially if you are experiencing any of these issues, it makes sense to hire visual consultants to facilitate innovation workshops and improve overall team output and performance while defining what the next chapter of your business will look like.
If you still don’t know where to start or what this might look like for your organization, we’d be happy to schedule a quick 30-minute call.
Do you sometimes feel like the people in your business are speaking different languages or reading from different playbooks?
Do you fear that, if asked, your team wouldn’t be able to tell you what your top priorities for this year (or this quarter) are?
You are not alone.
64% of leaders believe their team can tell them the top priorities from memory. Unfortunately, only 2% can do it.
Why the disparity?
Your business goals need to be kept simple. They need to be reduced to the fewest possible metrics, the fewest goals, the fewest steps, the fewest moving parts.
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is a goal-setting framework used by individuals, teams, and organizations to define measurable goals and track their outcomes.
It all began in 1954 when Peter Drucker published his book The Practice of Management, which introduced the concept of “Management by Objectives.”
In 1975, John Doerr, at the time a salesperson working for Intel, attended a course taught by Andrew Grove where he was introduced to the theory of OKRs, then called "iMBOs" ("Intel Management by Objectives").
The development of OKRs is generally attributed to Grove who introduced this approach at Intel. Grove later documented OKRs in his 1983 book High Output Management.
Then, as fate would have it, in 1999, Doerr introduced the idea of OKRs to Google. The idea took hold and OKRs quickly became central to Google's culture as a "management methodology that helps to ensure that the company focuses efforts on the same important issues throughout the organization."
Doerr published Measure What Matters, his definitive book about the OKRs framework, in 2017.
Christina Wodtke, who worked at Zynga with John Doerr, published her shorter (and arguably superior) book, Radical Focus in 2016.
WHAT OKRs ARE (AND AREN’T)
OKRs are not a strategic planning, project planning, or performance evaluation framework. They are an alignment framework and are intended to get your team facing in the right direction and reading from the same page over the next 90 days.
Imagine a construction company - let’s call them ABC, the Amazing Building Company - with no foreman, no plan, no deadline, and no meetings. The workers may feel pulled in many different directions, working on many things at once, and never have a sense of what anyone else is doing. You may actually feel like that now in your business.
If half of the workers at ABC are digging holes over the next few months, and the other half are filling them, the company makes no progress on their plans to break ground. However, if they decide that there is plenty of time to move earth later and that for the next 90 days they need all hands on deck to dig, dig, dig, then they will make significant progress on the plan. The workers will expend the same amount of energy, but now instead of feeling like they are in a swirl of inefficiency, they will feel oriented toward a common goal and be working toward something together.
OKRs are an ideal solution for businesses needing to achieve a specific goal or finish a certain project, prove or disprove a hypothesis, or get everyone on the team leaning into a specific process or change (a.k.a. “steering the elephant”) over the next 90 days.
An aligned team is an efficient team. And an efficient team is a powerful team.
WHY USE OKRs?
In practice, using OKRs is different from other goal-setting techniques (KPIs, SMART Goals, OGSM, Balanced Scorecards) because of the aim to set very ambitious goals. When used this way, OKRs can enable teams to focus on the big bets and accomplish more than the team thought was possible, even if they don’t fully attain the stated goal. OKRs can help teams and individuals get outside of their comfort zones, prioritize work, and learn from both success and failure.
Plenty of leaders do not put in the time to do their OKRs well. They are busy hiring, dealing with emergencies and top priorities, or chunking their time in an attempt to leverage and maximize their activity to output ratio.
The best leadership doesn’t break when it comes to setting strategy and key initiatives. They put in the time to discuss important ideas with their top executives because they know that an extra day spent planning will reap rewards down the line if executed properly.
Taking the time to plan OKRs and adequately assess them after each time period is a sign of respect for your colleagues and employees. It means you respect the placement of their time and efforts.
OKRs are only as effective as your commitment to using them and your efforts in creating them.
If you need help implementing OKRs in your business, let’s set up a call to see if we can help.
You can also download our free e-book, OKRs 1.0: A Beginners Guide to Measuring What Matters in Your Organization, to learn more about the anatomy of OKRs and when to use them.
ABOUT THE Author
Joran Slane Oppelt is an international speaker, author and consultant with certifications in coaching, storytelling, design thinking and virtual facilitation.