Small changes to make big differences to your virtual calls that fill your calendar - Part 1
Updated: Sep 23
Is your calendar full of virtual interactions that bore, steal time, and are not-inclusive? Let me share some examples:
12 Managers around the world meet with the global department head on a bi-weekly basis to discuss performance goals, share accomplishments, and review strategic plans for their respective teams. The meeting stretches for an hour with most of the time taken by the department head and a couple of managers. The others have spent several hours preparing are asked in the last 5 minutes to upload their work to a shared document folder due to lack of time.
The next virtual call is an update from an expert in the workplace delivering a mini-training on best practices in leading teams. The person promises an inclusive session with plenty of engagement. He then shares a PowerPoint slide and drones on for the next 30 minutes. He then stops for a small brainstorming exercise for 5 minutes based on what he has shared and on and on... Not once in that session, I find myself included and the 5 minutes of brainstorming is a disaster with all the participants speaking at the same time... I could go on, instead, let's look at what can we change?
Would you like to get back the time back from these meetings, would you like to involve everyone in a training? Would you like to know what companies like Capital One, Merck, Microsoft, and the World Bank are doing differently? If so please read on...
Let's look at the above examples, the intent is, of course, to involve everyone and in order to do that the department head or the trainer fell back on conventional structures like status updates, presentation and brainstorming.
If you look at the picture below these techniques excel when a single person is involved or a few involved. Liberating Structures is a simple yet powerful set of techniques that distributes control and ensures that everyone's voice is heard. Liberating Structures can be scaled up or down depending on the number of people.
"Liberating Structures introduces tiny shifts in the way we plan, decide, and relate to one another. They put the innovative power once reserved for experts only in the hands of everyone" - According to Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless, the founders of Liberating Structures.
Liberating Structures is a repertoire of 33 and steadily growing microstructures (techniques) that if used in a string (combination) can unleash amazing conversations, decisions, and innovation.
Depending on what you like to achieve you might consider picking 3 or 4 techniques and using them in a series of invitations to engage the participants. Here is a great matrix of the techniques you can use to design for everyday solutions, notice patterns together, unleash local action, draw out prototypes, or spread innovation.
There are 5 design elements that the facilitator needs to ensure for the success of these techniques both in person or on a virtual meeting or training.
Make an invitation - Craft an invitation that will resonate with them deeply so that they can conduct meaningful conversations
Distribute participation and roles - Always consider who is your audience and what roles are participating
Configure groups - Configure members in different groups based on criteria like affinity, types of departments, etc.
Arrange space - Make it easy to create white space, have participants not worry about the tools used, and make the experience seamless, especially in the virtual environment
Sequence and allocate time - This is the most important aspect where things might fall apart. Sequencing the invitations and ensuring that there is enough time for the participants in each sequence.
Curious to know more about how LS will work for you to help you to facilitate effective meetings and training and get more time in the day for yourself and your participants? here are a few concrete steps you can start with
Join the conversation LS conversations on Slack where you can find some amazing participants help and receive help on Liberating Structures
Use the Liberating Structures website or the app to learn more about each technique
Practice design, get help, and experiment. Then practice, practice, practice.
In part 2 of this blog, I will share some example LS designs to add a new suite of facilitation and training techniques to your toolbox