19 April 2006

Today's workshop

One thing that I have learnt as consultant is that my opinion doesn't count. I could be the world's greatest expert on a particular topic and it still wouldn't matter. It took me a long time to realise this. As a new consultant I wanted to be an expert - to be admired for my knowledge. That kind of expertise is rarely helpful to clients for longer than a few hours. What matters is what my clients think and how they think. Their decisions and behaviours will be made on the basis of models that they have constructed when I'm not around.

So, if you need to challenge a view of the world, a strategy or the way a team works together, you need ... a workshop. A workshop is a room with some chairs and flip charts and a facilitator. A facilitator can have a point of view but the outputs from the workshop can't be his or hers - the outputs have to be owned by the participants. One of the first partners I worked with at Coopers & Lybrand believed fervently that "You should never have a workshop unless you know the answer first". There is some truth in that, but often the world is not so black and white. If our side of the table has the "answer" then the workshop can be a slow reveal of the "truth", but it may have failed to challenge the thinking process hard enough.

For me, going into the workshop with the "answer" is part of developing my worldview - I'm just a single datapoint - if I allow that "answer" to get in the way of challenging the client and getting them to an answer that they really believe in, then I haven't done my facilitation properly.

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