Getting people excited about the work ahead

I facilitated a short brainstorming session today, and thought I'd share a bit about the experience.

The meeting was with a newly re-constituted employee committee; I led a short segment to help them start thinking about their work plan for next year. I had no time to prepare (I was asked to do it about 20 minutes in advance) and we had only about 15-20 minutes for the discussion. 

Clearly, we weren't going to be able to tackle a detailed plan! It was more about whetting their appetites for the work ahead and ensuring alignment on main focus areas.

Rather than facilitate a round-table discussion around the two questions provided to me ("what would you like us to focus on?" and "what are we best positioned to make progress on?"), I decided to frame the question a bit differently: "Imagine we're meeting a year from now. It's December 2020: looking back on the past year, what is the one thing this committee has done that you are most proud of having contributed to?" 

People were asked to reflect for a few minutes on their own and then share their ideas with the people next to them at the table. The small groups then shared back and we discussed the ideas as a larger group, where we started to see some themes emerge (which is amazing given we had 15+ people of various backgrounds). Not only that, but I had the individual ideas handed to me to type up, for some very tangible actions the committee can consider including in their plan.

We got some great ideas, saw we had some good alignment, and even managed to build some excitement while doing it.

I was reminded of a similar approach I helped build into a strategic planning workshop offered by a consulting firm I was part of 25 years ago, which invited start-up company execs to write the headline of the news story about their company that they wanted to read 5 years down the road.

Imagination is a powerful thing, especially when it helps create a shared vision of the future.

Did I say I love my job? Yup, I did. Sessions like today's are satisfying, and that's part of the reason why.

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