An endless number of tools exist to help individuals and organizations become more productive. Like weight loss "solutions," most are a lot more hype than help.
There is, however, one thing that I have witnessed that really does begin driving individuals and groups to improve in their productivity:
Understood and applied facilitation skills.
We all despise poorly run meetings.We all see projects—or parts of projects—fall apart, slip through the cracks, or consume exorbitant time and resources beyond reasonableness. And we see groups come together to accomplish something and struggle to formulate an approach, much less execute it.
My two-year term on the board of International Association of Facilitators, as the US Regional Representative, is coming to a close in April. I will miss the depth of interaction with expert facilitators who teach by example how to maximize results within a given period of time. This wasn't really something I thought facilitation would teach!
One can learn some of this through formal training (more on that below) but I've learned even more from working with volunteers who lead or participate in the various committees of the organization. These people KNOW how to plan and execute.
I joined IAF to get better at facilitating leadership groups. But in the four years that I've attended conferences and become involved in the organization, I've also been gleaning core methodologies for:
- time management
- task management
- project leadership
- maximizing participation from even the toughest of characters
- managing dysfunction in a group
This was all something of an unexpected find for me.
I expected to learn how to most effectively lead groups in participatory decision-making and healthy dialog, but over the last two years, I've also observed some amazingly skilled project managers guide committees (of scores of crazy-busy volunteers, mind you) through some really complex stuff.
I cannot think of a single firm that couldn't benefit from some skill-building in all these facets of facilitation. In fact, I think these should be core competencies of all leaders in all organizations.
This isn't a magic pill. If you're serious about getting the most out of yourself and your team, you need these skills to do so.