Challenge of Group Dynamics–Facilitating Case Studies

Sometimes it can be very difficult to get a group motivated, to keep them on track, to deal with personality conflicts and competitive behavior, and to build consensus. The temptation is to overload and overwhelm the audience with information and data. Remembering the Magic Number Seven Rule of cognitive working memory is important.  The rule states that participants in learning activities are limited to absorbing + or – 7 chunks of information in one setting. 

A facilitated session is… a highly structure meeting in which the facilitator guides the participants through a series of predefined steps and questions to arrive at communicating a message that is clear and concise, understood and accepted by the participants.

The role of the facilitator is to use interactions and techniques that engage the hearts, minds and souls of the participants in the work group. At their best, facilitators are able to help participants increase their learning and understanding of information in a meeting by focusing on their needs and issues, building a common language for discussions and inspiring commitment to actions that will bring new information and behavior to their attention.

Ground Rules for Facilitating Case Studies

We developed a set of ground rules, which describe specific behaviors for effective group facilitation and communication:

1.  Let group members volunteer for different roles — Test assumptions and inferences.

2.  Share all relevant and pertinent information. Don’t feel that you must have all the answers.

3.  Don’t take cheap shots or “zingers”. Respect people and make wrong answers right. 

4.  Focus on needs and interests, not persuading the audience to a particular point of view.

5.  Ask questions rather make statements, and then invite reactions and comments.

6.  Try to limit generalizations.  Be concrete and specific—use relevant data-based examples. 

7.   Don’t argue with participants.  Be assertive and candid with your point of view.

8.   Discuss the difficult issues and challenge group.  Be honest and leave the “spin” at home.

9.   Try to get everyone involved. Encourage participation.    

10.  Convey information in clear and concise way–leave the jargon at home.

11.  Listen, Ask and Problem Solve, not “tell and sell”.

12.  Be open to suggestions, and feedback.  Encourage the group to use the Think, Pair and Share. 

13.  Use the “go around” technique so everyone gets opportunity to contribute.      

14. Keep the discussions moving ahead, focused on task and on time.

Principles of Case Study Discussions

Principles of case study facilitation form a bridge between values, strategies and techniques. Principles are those things we do that enable us to live in sync with our values.  I have identified the following:  Principles of Case Study Facilitation for your review. Briefly they are:

Plan before doing, but be flexible in execution: Design the session using the Presentation Design Template)and prepare for potential obstacles and questions before the event, not during.

Remain in the present and be neutral and unbiased: focus on group process, maintenance, and critical messages.

Be pragmatic and results focused: Plan and engage participants to accomplish targeted message of the case and desired learning outcomes.

Encourage Participation: Engage participants by using a variety of high participation techniques. For exmple the “go around technique”.

Collaboration in problem solving and decision Making: Build participant support by using dialogue, effective discussion, and testing for understanding.

Manage the Environment and Climate: The facilitator creates a safe environment for positive interaction while using structures and group dynamics and communication tools to create success.

Seek and Use Feedback before, during and after the meeting: Feedback is crucial for content, process and outcome effectiveness

Monitor and Manage Yourself: Practice self-assessment and self-awareness of your strengths, preferences, style weaknesses and model appropriate behavior.


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