Structured Thought Processes

A key competency for a Facilitator is the ability to Plan Appropriate Group Processes.  A well thought out process (agenda) makes the difference in enabling participants to achieve their goal.  A poor process leaves the group struggling.  A process that mirrors a structured thought process enables the group to progress without missing key ideas.

Structured thought processes organize the thoughts of the people enabling them to methodically think through a problem, make a decision, prioritize a list, etc.  These help when you are designing a process and/or when the people get stuck on something.  Knowing the basic structured thought patterns helps.  Some basic structured thought patterns are:
  • For Problem-Solving:
    • Symptoms – Cause – Solution
    • Problem Statement – Objectives – Solutions – Select Solution
  • For Setting Direction:
    • Vision – Goals – Objectives – Tactics
    • Why – Where – How – When
  • For Defining Actions:
    • What – Who – When
    • What are we Doing – What are the Barriers – What do we want to Accomplish – How do we get There
    • Overall Goal – Steps to reach Goal – Sequence of Steps

Note: These help without missing critical components, such as “Overall Goal”.

Questions to Think About 
The following questions will help you think through the process to ensure a well structured thought process.
  • Are the potential Participants disagreeing about Objectives?
    • Yes – have them define the Overall Goal.
  • Are the potential Participants disagreeing about Criteria?
    • Yes – have them define a clear Objective.
  • Are the potential Participants disagreeing about which is first, second, etc.?
    • Yes – have them agree on the end result – the Outcome.
  • Are the potential Participants stuck on how to solve a problem?
    • Yes – Have them agree on a clear Problem Statement.
  • Are the potential Participants disagreeing about Priorities?
    • Yes – have them define the Overall Goal or Objective.
Note:  All structured thought processes build top-down, i.e., they begin with a broad, overall understanding and delve into the details.

Author: Gary Rush

Gary Rush, IAF CPF is Founder & CEO of MGR Consulting since 1985 becoming a leading facilitator and facilitator trainer creating his own facilitation technique - FAST revolutionizing it with FoCuSeD™ - a unique approach to structured facilitation transforming the facilitation industry. He has trained thousands of people from more than 18 countries, and has delivered his structured facilitation class in 8 countries within North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. His students have gone on to become CEOs and CIOs, crediting their success to the people and process skills gained in his facilitator training classes. He has written numerous “how to” books covering facilitation, collaborative leadership, strategic planning, data modeling, etc. During a hiatus from consulting, Gary owned and was "Chef" of a highly acclaimed restaurant in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico – MG Rush dba Mirácles Restaurant. Gary has facilitated significant workshops including the first strategic plan for the combined EDS/GM organization. He facilitated Star Alliance where they identified that in-flight Wi-Fi was possible – a critical service offering on airlines today. He facilitated and trained Texas Joint Military Forces in Strategic Planning, creating their 2035 Strategic Plan. Reviewing this 4-page plan, the length of the U.S. Constitution, is now part of their monthly meetings – something they were unable to do previously. He is an IAF CPF Assessor and former IAF Chair. Gary also formed and led the IAF Chicago Chapter, the second IAF chapter to be established in the U.S. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. He holds a BS from Excelsior College.

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