Speeding-up team discussions is actually very easy – do not discuss! Let me explain.

I just returned from our course advanced Project Management: Cases and Coaching at ETH Zurich. Real world project management problems are discussed and solved in a group. These coaching sessions are insightful and inspiring. I am amazed to see, that problems get discussed and resolved in no time, always. Well, the problems are not discussed. You probably guessed that, right?

No Discussion

Discussions are an unstructured exchange of arguments. Arguments may lead to an agreement. Or may not. In our course, participants follow a structured process. The group is guided by a moderator and kept on track by a time keeper. Strictly following the script, the moderator, and timekeeper bring about successful outcomes. Tedious discussions thus do not happen.

Structured Approach

This structured approach facilitates co-working and enables the collective intelligence of the group. There are many different structured meeting or workshop formats such as brainstorming, 5-whys, consensus-meeting and many more, all serving different purposes. Selecting the right technique for the goal to achieve is key to speeding up the “discussion”.

Cookbook for peer group coaching

Peer group coaching enables a group of people to coach a colleague facing a challenging situation. The technique may be used by teams, within resource pools, or tribes. All you need is

▪        a room,

▪        a flip chart,

▪        and 90 minutes of your precious time.

Pro tip: Standing in front of a wall with the flips yields better results. True for all co-working activities.

Activities and Timeboxes

Minutes Coachee Coaches Flipchart / Result

Prepare

5 Define Moderator

Define Timekeeper

Moderator explains rules

Activate the group (e.g. Checkin)

Set Stage

15 Describe the situation and explain the problem.

Ask one well-defined question to be answered by the coaches.

Listen, take notes.

No questions.

1. Context information illustrated.

One question phrased.

15 Answer questions.

Just answer questions. Do not share your ideas.

Ask questions for clarification, or to test preliminary hypotheses.

Just ask questions. No discussion, no reasoning.

1. Context information amended.

Diverge

15 Keep strictly quiet. Collect hypotheses about possible causes of the problem.

Do not question any hypotheses.

Do not bother with solutions.

2. List of hypotheses
Converge
5 Ask questions for further clarifications.

Evaluate the hypotheses.

Rank the hypotheses according to plausibility. 2. Prioritized list of hypotheses
15 Keep strictly quiet. Come up with possible solutions for selected hypotheses. 3. List of possible solutions
10 Appreciate the contributions. Present the possible solutions. 3. Prioritized list of possible solutions

Conclude

10 Agree on next steps.

Moderator closes the session (e.g. Checkout).

 

Your Experience?

Satisfaction guaranteed? Please share your experience and your favourite technique to facilitating co-working and to unleash collective intelligence.

Acknowledgment

I would like to thank my colleagues Prof. Dr. Daniel Baumann, ZHAW Zürcher and Dr. Markus Zoller, RUAG Defence for developing the peer group coaching over the past years and for sharing it.

The cookbook above is adapted to be performed outside a classroom.