I was standing at the front of the room as the clock ticked down the time when we had to wrap up our quarterly planning session. We had been at it since first thing in the morning. The energy in the room was low. We had been going in circles for a while in making the final decision on the #1 priority for the quarter and what the theme should be. I had let the group have their say, we had brain stormed everything onto the wall, but now it was time. I gathered my own energy together and then said “it’s time to decide.” For the next twenty minutes I just pushed, and pushed, until the group had made up their mind.
Sometimes the best solutions pop up with seeming ease. At other times, it feels like an impossible mountain to climb. No matter how much energy you put into it, you think you’ll never get to the top. While pushing is sometimes required, try these ideas to see if it can be easier.
When I am facilitating, I coach people to get the ideas out and written down, before they start to edit or challenge the ideas. If you break the process into two steps, idea generation first and then assessment, theme-building, and critiquing, it is both easier and you get much better ideas. Sometimes it is very challenging for participants to withhold their comments. Keep encouraging everyone to get the ideas out, no matter how silly they might seem at first, and only after you have exhausted the ideas do you start processing them.
People often mistake collaboration for agreement. Bring together people with widely divergent points of view. This diversity forces all of us to look at challenges from different points of view. Those varying viewpoints are much more likely to lead to a new creative solution. It can get very uncomfortable at times when people are disagreeing with each other. Your job is to hold the space for the discussion–not to shut it down just because it feels uncomfortable in the room.
Take A Break
Is it time for a bathroom break? More coffee or tea? Even better take the group and go for a short walk. Change the dynamics, the environment, and introduce movement and motion so that participants have a physical feeling of change from the stuck place they are in.
Tell A Story
Share a story of another time where you were stuck, how you got through it, and what came out of the process. Even better is if you can get one of the participants to share a success story they went through where a group was stuck and how they pushed through to find a solution.
Skip A Piece
In day-long planning sessions, you are making more than one decision. If no solution is appearing, skip over the place where you stuck, and move on to the next thing in the agenda. Creating momentum on another issue to help carry you through making a tough decision when you return to the issue everyone is stuck on.
In the end, you may find that after trying all of these ideas, everyone is still stuck. Then it is time to pour in the energy and push everyone to make a decision. Sometimes all you need to do is stand at the front of the room, look everyone in the eye, and say “Decide”. Then stand back and wait to see what happens.
What are you pushing on today?Tags: decisions, diverse, planning, push