Group Technique

Okay to change plans and rules

Good Group Tips

In principle, an amateur may follow the script perfectly but a professional knows when to change the script or even leave it entirely, depending on the energy of the audience. A novice may know the rules but a veteran knows the exceptions. It is good to have scripts, plans, and rules, but experience warns against unwavering allegiance to them.

Practical Tip: Keep in mind that plans and rules are never an end in themselves but are rather just means to an end. Plans and rules are there to keep us on track toward long-term goals, but if we get off track we need to change plans and rules accordingly.

If a meeting agenda is not achieving the meeting objectives, change it. If an annual work plan is not resulting in the right amount or quality of work getting done, change it. If a law is not having the desired effect, change it.

If you find that a plan or rule is not working for your group, don’t make an independent decision to ignore it. Rather, work within established group processes to change it.

Achieving long-term ends requires ever-changing means.

– 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.

Six Simple Ground Rules for a Civil Conversation

In this two-minute video, Craig tells a live audience about the six ground rules that we use at Make Shift Coffee House: 1) Speak from your experience, 2) Listen to understand, 3) Everyone gets a turn, 4) No one criticizes, 5) Neutral facilitation, and 6) Share with others. These rules were designed to help us navigate challenging conversations about strongly held political opinions, but they can also help us keep things civil in families, teams, organizations, and communities. Learn more about Make Shift Coffee House guidelines here.

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

Here’s what Craig says in the video (speaking to a live audience):

In a moment here I’m going to ask one of you to put up your hands; I’m going to ask for a volunteer to tell us your answer to this question: “What’s right and/or wrong about how we handle guns in America?” And I might ask you a follow-up question. I might ask you, like I did with these folks, “Why do you believe what you believe? Where does that come from?”

As we have our conversation here, I want to keep in mind some of these typical ground rules that we have at these Make Shift Coffee House conversations:

  • We’re mostly about listening. As I said in the beginning, we’re not here to change each other’s minds on these topics. We’re here to understand the topics and understand each other.
  • I’m asking you to speak from your personal experience. I want to know not just the theory, the law, or even the science. I want to know why you believe what you believe.
  • We’re going to try to give everybody a turn. I’m going to ask that you raise hands.
  • No one criticizes. We are not here to blame, criticize, shame, or offend anybody else. That’s just not the purpose of this. The purpose of this is to understand each other.
  • I’m being a neutral facilitator tonight.
  • And the last one there says “Share with others.” And my hope here is that — after the conversation tonight — tomorrow, next week, next month, you will share with others what you learned here about how people think about guns but also the ways in which we had the conversation. I am imagining that we’re going to have a very civil conversation tonight. We’re already off to a great start. Watch how that happens and try to model and replicate these techniques in your conversations in your questions tomorrow, next week, next month. Share with others.
Put the Tips in action for your group. Click here to learn about Craig’s Keynotes and Seminars.

Measure to manage

Good Group Tips

In principle, to manage any activity—to know what to do more of, less of, and what to do differently—we need to be able to measure it. We ask, “How is it going?” And to measure any activity we need a measuring stick, something against which to compare.

Some call it “benchmarking,” where progress is compared to:

1. A reference group of similar activities or organizations (like an average or median),

2. One’s own past performance (like how you did last year, or over the past several years), or,

3. A quantifiable goal (like a fundraising thermometer/sign posted in front of the building).

Without anything to compare against, we cannot actually say anything about the success of an activity or how to manage it for greater success.

Practical Tip: When your group decides on a new activity or policy, decide also how you will know if it is successful. Set a goal. Be specific. Write it in such a way that you will be able to know if you achieved it. If possible, state the goal relative to the performance of other similar groups or activities, or relative to your own group’s past performance.

Measuring progress not only helps you manage future activities, it encourages better performance.

– 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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