I have facilitated team meetings for thirty years. During this time, I’ve observed that when individuals gather in a corporate group or team setting, they often bring with them a preconceived mindset, expectations, assumptions, or positions that can significantly impact the conversation and, ultimately, the outcome. These preconceptions may be interpreted by others as aggressiveness, defensiveness, or resistance…and may undermine the outcome.
Analysts/Technologists who have attained a mastery of the business intelligence tools/software may become so excited about the analysis they’ve performed and the visually impressive insights/stories they’ve created with the data…that they leave little room for others to process, interpret, and make decisions based on the information. In their excitement, the Analysts might “push” their conclusions, rather than objectively “present” their findings. This key difference between prescribing (pushing) and describing (presenting) can influence the tone of the conversation that ensues. [Note: This applies even if the analysis is performed by someone on the team, rather than an external BI Analyst.]
Business individuals—including executives, managers, and other decision makers—who focus on their operational/organizational performance may feel apprehensive about what the data may reveal or about the changes that could result from the meeting…and consequently show up armed with firm positions and defenses.
The individuals described above—from both IT and Business—are not in a mindset conducive to collaborative exploration and discovery. They are not ready to listen and consider the information in the context of what is best for the organization.
In every group or team setting, it is important to understand that two factors are concurrently influencing the interaction: content and process. The content is the topic or issue being discussed…and the process refers to how the group is handling the content. Examples of process elements include: how people treat each other, what participation patterns emerge, how much listening occurs, how much real engagement is present, and how the meeting flows relative to the established objectives, agenda, and defined structure.
Investing time at the beginning of a group or team meeting to define the process—how individuals will work together during the allotted time—results in enhanced interaction about the content, increased ownership for the decisions, and higher quality outcomes. The suggestions that follow can make a positive difference.
Tips for enhancing the quality of group/team conversation and results
1. Establish a common purpose and objective(s) for your process, as well as a meeting agenda and structure. Getting everyone on the same page establishes a shared ownership for the process and outcomes.
2. Establish ground rules (guidelines) for your interaction/conversation—for example:
- Listen to understand
- All ideas and questions are welcome
- Look for ways to be part of the solution, rather than stay in the problem
- Stay present (be here now)
- Communicate respectfully—no blaming or finger pointing
- Focus on what is right, not who is right—i.e., focus on what is best for the organization
- Demonstrate a mindset of exploration, collaboration, and partnering
- Remain curious: Suspend assumptions, judgment, and firm positions
3. Keep in mind the difference between descriptive (presenting information) and prescriptive (pushing information/trying to sell conclusions).
4. Create an environment that encourages everyone to remain curious—ask questions, e.g., Any surprises in the findings? Any additional analysis needed? What are we learning? What else might this indicate? How can we translate our insights into improved performance? Suspending assumptions, judgment, and firm positions contributes to more substantive exploration and discovery.
5. Allow time and space for exploration, for possibility, for expanding thought/discussion (vs. judging and limiting thought/discussion).
It’s up to you: What will you do to ensure that conversations about analytics findings effectively generate inquiry, focus on possibility, and lead to elegant solutions that are best for your organization?
The Kobb Team +1 713-398-0128
mk at kobbteam dot com