The art of experiential learning facilitation is in how the debrief/review is utilized to cull learning from experience, and having a process that reveals the system and using the insights to create useful actions that transfer the learning back to the operational system—and still having some fun with it.
It can be frustrating as a change agent when clients bring in an experiential program just to have a fun experience. Great, but look at the opportunity we've all opened up here together. People have responded to the invitation to speak their truth and tell how they feel about it by writing and performing songs together. Now it's on the table, in the open, often revealed in clarity and with a string of interesting connections that begs to be revisited. There is a window of opportunity to move on that information. We're in a unique emotional state—euphoric, a bit relieved, precocious, and the expression has also given is some detachment from the issues that are so close to us—a detachment that can be very useful in developing strategic ways of addressing and improving our situations.
Tip: Don't provide a stand-alone experience in the hopes that a group will come away with learning or shared understanding on what that encounter meant. Provide a process to explore what happened, meaning, and implications.
The art is in facilitating this discussion toward meaning, learning and action. Each culture and system has it's own strengths, challenges, quirks, tactics for approach and avoidance, code words, unspoken standards, history, etc. The key is to create a group process where the participants come together authentically, speaking openly and positively (even in confrontation), with respect, clarity, succinctness, and building off of each other through good listening and collaboration.
"Face The Music is clearly the most efficient and effective teambuilding exercise I have ever experienced."
Charlie Portwood, President Wyeth Pharma
"Based on the survey feedback we received, this segment of the 3-day retreat got the highest marks, not only for the enjoyment factor, but also for relevance - and coming from a bunch of scientists, that's saying a lot! The program was well-designed to (appropriately) take people out of their comfort zones, allowing them to have fun while surfacing real issues."
Kathleen Asta Novartis
"It was a pleasure to watch my participants let go, have fun, and learn that creativity and innovation are essential to our business turn-around. You and the band were pivotal in making that happen.
On a personal note, I appreciated your personal authenticity, humor, skill, and sensitivity as you prepared with us for this event. The band was top drawer, too! I would use you and the band again-in an instant!"
Anne Kurzenberger Alcatel-Lucent
"Face the Music helped us to deliver a high risk strategy and achieve our outcomes for the day through their highly professional manner, and encouraging enthusiasm and participation from all attendees."
Claire Paul City & Guilds
FTM's programs are an invitation to "speak your truth, and how you feel about it." The common boundary in question can be summarized as "How much truth do you want?". It takes a leader that really want to go there—to hear what people are thinking, what their experience is, and to have an pen discussion that leads to the next place. One characteristic we have learned about the music approach is that people will say things in the lyrics of a song that they won't say in, say, a meeting with a facilitator at the front of the room with a flip chart—and, with the intensity of the emotion behind it. Once that bell is rung, it is our facilitator's job to support the group to discover meaning and insight that leads to new context and action.
The most common symptom observed in debriefs is a sort of over-politeness. They laid it on the line like a bad-ass bluesman or a take-no-prisoners rock 'n' roller, but in the light of day without the band jammin' behind them there seems to be a tendency to step back from the intensity of one's position the night before. In general, a boundary or cultural norm has been crossed, and in general it is one that needed to be expanded or redefined. Was that lyric a trail blaze to a new level of openness, or was it a misguided outlier that will be forgiven, forgotten, and don't let it happen again? Phony politeness is one of my least favorite cultural traits—the scope of that rant being too much for the purposes of this article, I'll just say that it is a big inhibitor of systemic progress and learning, and the facilitator has the job to invite the participants to work on that as part of the debrief process.
In a program with a large consulting firm, the overcoming of the cultural reticence to speak publicly about issues was the critical piece in the success of a 2-day offsite. The healthy antidote to the fake politeness is constructive confrontation—naming an action/behavior of another in the most objective terms that one can, and saying how that impacted you. In this way, there is not judgment, as in "you were wrong….[in doing what you did]", nor can the speaker be "wrong" since they are merely sharing their feelings and experience. This method can be useful in discovering the trapped energy in a system, where, perhaps, built up resentments, repressed opinions, and other things fermenting in the dark can be brought into the light and their energy released.
In the debrief, I like to use the Roger Greenaway framework of:
Feelings—What did you experience personally? How did it feel?
Findings—Why did that happen? How is that at work in other places?
Futures—Implications for moving forward? Actions? Possibilities revealed?
Music-based experiential learning can be a powerful and time-efficient tool for delivering meaningful, integrated, and impactful training and change projects. It gives participants the opportunity to create their own meaning and ownership to what is presented by the leadership and program designers. And it creates space for—Mojo…
LCS: A System for Continuous Learning
We want to start by thanking you for all the great feedback about Paul Kwiecinski's WIP tool (a system to help one work more efficiently) featured in our last newsletter. So we decided to offer you info on another great system.
LCS (Likes, Concerns, & Suggestions) is a system for idea evaluation and debriefing that was created by one of FTM's founding partners, Mitch Ditkoff, of Idea Champions. It has been successfully practiced by many different kinds of organizations as a way of assessing ideas without killing them, and as a debriefing process for organizational learning. It was introduced to this writer as a debriefing process on a Face The Music event.
FTM just finished one of its first events back in 1999 for FIS, a Nestle company. Having worked a hard day's night, I was packing up and eager to go home, when I was unexpectedly asked to join our team at a nearby table for "LCS". The facilitator led off by asking us what we liked about the event we had just completed. Well this isn't so bad I thought to myself; someone even said that one of the groups I led did an outstanding job, ("I like this process").
Now for Concerns and Suggestions... We went around in a circle and we were asked to voice ANY concern and then address it with a suggestion. Yes, it was a little hard taking in a concern, and my first impulse was to defend, but the facilitator said to "just, take it in". To my surprise it wasn't that scary because this was an open forum and even the top dogs (if I may) were open for concerns and suggestions. Remember, it was one of our first gigs and there were a lot of concerns, and a lot of room for learning and developing the process. All the concerns and suggestions (and likes) were reviewed, considered, and the FTM core team made decisions around those they would take action on.
I also teach music in a private school in upstate NY, and I've been (I hope it's ok, Mitch) using LCS at the end of each semester with the students to debrief the class — and it's had a great impact on my classes.
Well, I Liked writing this article for you. My only Concern is I didn't leave myself enough time to write it. Suggestion: I pay more attention to my calendar.
For a document on how to facilitate an LCS session in your organization (it's dirt simple), e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: "I want my LCS."
The LCS Process:
• Everyone involved in the LCS session voices what they like about the subject at hand (The program, the idea, the proposal, etc.). This establishes what it has going for it.
• When that round is complete, each person expresses any concerns they have. In the case of an event, what bumps in the road occurred, what could have been done better with some planning, miscommunications, misunderstandings, etc. In the case of an idea, what might be a roadblock to this idea working, what we need to consider in implementing it, etc. And then...,
• For each concern expressed, the person takes responsibility for their concern by offering at least one suggestion that might help address the concern.
• A scribe captures all of the feedback.
The process builds in an appreciative approach, and facilitates collaboration.