Sunday, February 20, 2011

A New Year, Clearer Vision Workshop summary

Ian Plowman ran a very useful workshop for our Wednesday 16 February meeting to help us identify goals for the next 12 months, based on the practice of Meetings Without Discussion. Here is a short summary of the outcomes of the meeting, followed by a brief description of the process Ian uses. We had a smaller turnout than the average at this meeting, which was a pity because Ian’s approach is interesting especially if you have long been frustrated at decision-making meetings that go nowhere or produce sub-optimal outcomes.

We identified the following as the top-priority goals for the next year (from highest to lowest in votes):
  1. increase publicity
  2. organise a festival
  3. invite other groups to join in activities
  4. start a community garden
  5. set up a fun committee
This picture illustrates the big picture outcomes, as we summarised them. The top part of the picture is the summary that had the highest votes as representing the outcome; the bottom part the statement with the second highest number of votes.

The next stage is to convert all this to even more specific goals, including allocation of responsibilities and identifying resources, which would be useful to slot into another meeting soon, though it should not take up a whole meeting.

The Process
The general principle of the process is to reduce talking, to avoid the gap caused by extroverts who like to think things through by talking, and introverts who prefer to work through an idea mentally before expressing it.

The first stage was to ask everyone, in  groups of 5, to write down what they would say to a person 12 months from the meeting date what had been achieved over the last 12 months. Then each person in turn stood up with their imagined future conversation on a large piece of paper, and invited each of the other participants, chosen in an approximately random order, to say something positive about what they had written.

The next stage was to put all the large pieces of paper on the floor, and walk around choosing one point from each that we liked that we did not write ourselves.

We then split into different groups to come up with a unified statement based on the previous thoughts. This again started with each individual writing, before sharing ideas to produce a summary of the best points. We all voted on which of these new summaries was the best. Each person’s vote in this round counted as 2, but they could not vote for their own statement. In the second round of voting, they could vote for their own statement, but each vote counted as 1.

We then identified goals based on the summaries, and the same voting procedure applied to identify the top goals: round one, 2 votes per person, scored each goal, with votes for your own disallowed, and round two, one vote per person, allowed voting for you own goals.

Feedback Summary

After the workshop Ian invited participants to comment on what worked, what didn’t and what would have made it better. The table below summarises responses.

What workedWhat didn’tWhat would have made it better
wisdom without discussionsummarising different opinions into onemore time to write a better summary
facilitation worked very wellsmall group may not be fully representative
getting everyone involved; getting people thinking; effective manager; bouncing of ideasno closemore time -- a few ideas -- more clarification?
the processmore of the group present; more time to consolidate; goal activities resources responsibilities
our own thoughts, ideas used; all participated but not threatening; no hoggers, boggers etc.
choosing the goals and voting processstill had dominant folk in the immersion stagemore time to plan actual activities + responsibilities arising from goals
no talkingsummary stage a little hardsome hints on how to do the summary stage
space for range of ideas & opinions; practical outcomes

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