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Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats

Good Group Tips

In principle, a look at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, referred to as a SWOT analysis, is an effective way to take stock of an organization or project and the context it exists in. It is often done at the start of a strategic planning process. It provides a solid foundation to build plans on.

Practical Tip: Ask the opinion of all stakeholders or at least key stakeholders—those who stand to win and lose most from the endeavor.

Ask their opinion about strengths and weaknesses, the balance sheet, what’s good and bad about the organization or project. This is an internal, current look at things like financial gains and losses, assets and liabilities, staff capacity, board capacity, reputation, mission impact, etc. These are all things within our general control.

Also gather feedback on the external view, the look into the future. What opportunities and threats loom? This is a look at projected trends regarding market demand, supplies and personnel, policy and regulation, and other external factors that might affect the organization or project. To look at opportunities and threats is to assess things that we don’t fully control but that we need to consider.

Take stock of your organization or project by making four lists: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Discuss them as a group. Good assessment is key for good strategic planning.

– Craig Freshley

Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.

Put the Tips in action for your group. Click here to learn about Craig’s Keynotes and Seminars.

Should facilitators make suggestions?

Excerpt from this video: “There are times when I think it’s perfectly appropriate and in fact extremely helpful to the group if the facilitator makes suggestions, makes proposals.”

What times? Craig explains in the video.

This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody! Hey it’s Craig Freshley here.

There’s a school of thought out there that a neutral facilitator should never make any kind of suggestion when facilitating a group; that all proposals, all ideas, should come from members of the group and the facilitator just manages and, well, facilitates that. I don’t subscribe to that school of thought.

First of all, let’s take a look. I think there are three types of suggestions.

One type of suggestion is purely content. “Oh, you guys are talking about where to have your annual meeting? I know this place. It’s really great. And blah blah blah.” That is a content suggestion. I think that content suggestions, by and large, are off limits for neutral facilitators.

But there are two other kinds.

Another kind is what I would call a process suggestion. So maybe we’ve designed an agenda, we are working through a decision making process, and I have an idea of a process that might serve the group better. Process suggestions, I think, are perfectly fine for a group facilitator to make. That’s what the facilitator has been hired to do; manage the process. The facilitator should be always thinking about better processes and should make suggestions accordingly that will help the group.

There’s a third kind that’s kind of in the middle.

Maybe it’s a suggestion about content but it is based not on my personal knowledge, but on what I have learned from you just now in the meeting. And I tend to think that those types of suggestions are also okay if the facilitator is being absolutely truly neutral and if that suggestion is being made based on what he or she thinks will serve the group well. “Look, I’ve been listening to you talk for an hour; I have an idea for a solution that I think might serve you well.” I think that might be okay because the solution is based on what I’ve heard you say from my neutral point of view.

There are no hard and fast rules about this. Mostly it depends on the group culture and your agreement with that group on how you’ll behave as a neutral facilitator. But I am just pointing out that there are times when I think it’s perfectly appropriate and in fact extremely helpful to the group if the facilitator makes suggestions, makes proposals.

Thanks for listening everybody. I hope this helps your group make good group decisions.

Put the Tips in action for your group. Click here to learn about Craig’s Keynotes and Seminars.

Different views

Good Group Tips

In principle, how things look depends on where you sit. It’s not that one is right and one is wrong, simply that the views are different.

In hierarchical relationships, the person or group at the top has a wider view than the people or groups below. The supervisor considers many things of relative importance at a high level. The subordinate considers fewer things in greater detail. Even though the views may seemingly disagree, each is doing their job, seeing things from their proper perspective.

In other relationships too, our viewpoints are different by design. Tension and initial disagreement are expected. Good group decisions result when we consider all the different views, work out the tension, and identify what’s best for the group as a whole.

Practical Tip: Rather than spend energy arguing which view is correct, assume that all views are correct. Use all available perspectives to better understand what you are looking at.

Ask group members to say how it is for them, how things look from where they sit. Ask people outside the group, “What does it look like from out there?” Listen without judgment.

If you are asked to give your view, offer it without expectation that it will prevail. Speak for yourself, from your own perspective. Humbly offer a piece of the puzzle to help create the larger picture.

– Craig Freshley

Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.

Put the Tips in action for your group. Click here to learn about Craig’s Keynotes and Seminars.
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