Risk management plans can be some of the most challenging things to guide the participants through a series of predefined steps to arrive at a result that is created, understood, and accepted by all participants. Getting the facilitation fundamentals correct is the first step to producing an effective risk management plan. There are also three forms of disruption that must be overcome when facilitating a risk management plan.
The role of the facilitator is to guide the participants, not dictate or instruct. Furthermore, the facilitated result (risk management plan) must be created, understood, and accepted by all. These two aspects make the facilitator role fundamentally different from that of manager or subject matter expert.
There are a few facilitation foundations that every facilitator should understand and apply:
Prepare in advance - “who, what, why, where, and how”
Plan and distribute the agenda
Define objectives at the beginning of the event
Establish expectations with the executive sponsor and participants
Guide the group in presenting and sharing information
Provide closure and reiterate action items
Facilitators can often get cornered into a wider range of activities, such as notifying participants, reserving meeting space, bringing snacks, and providing session summaries.
There should be a recording secretary and a coordinator for any type of multi-session facilitations, including risk management plans. Nevertheless, facilitators should do the basics well and not let extraneous requests become distractors to their primary mission.
Changing Organizational Context as a Disruptor
A breakdown in definitions or the organizational context is normally the first source of disruption. Without good alignment, the facilitator struggles to move toward consensus. Especially in the case of risk management plans, the safe bet is that basic definitions and organizational context will be under continual challenge throughout the process. Plus, any crisis during the risk management project will be the basis for shifting participant perceptions.
Facilitators should start and end each session with summaries. A synthesis document, or decision log, should be maintained to remind participants of points of past agreement.
Other Risk-Related Initiatives as a Disruptor
Another disruptor comes from other initiatives such as safety, security (physical or cyber), physical asset management, environmental compliance, and capital project management. More specifically, the disruptor comes from their sponsors and subject matter experts who do not want to change their previous approaches. The nature of risk management plans means bringing people from different work divisions together. Few, if any, organizations have one single approach for addressing risk.
This disruptor is essentially an expert bias that is best checked by consensus definitions, reminders of the organizational context, and agreements that have been previously reached. A better-than-average facilitator is essential.
Types of Analysis as a Disruptor
Another disruptor relates to how quantifiable different aspects of the risk management plan should be. The debate concerning numbers and measurement most obviously applies to risk analysis. It is less obvious but equally applicable to how measurable the risk monitoring should be.
The breakdown is between symbolic (numeric) thinkers and verbal (narrative) thinkers. The conflict essentially creates noise in communication. The solution is that both sides must tamp down their positions to create solutions that are created, understood, and accepted by all participants – and implementable. Facilitators should remember that, in practice, organizations use a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches.
Communicating with FINESSE is important
The cause and effect relationships in the FINESSE fishbone diagram apply to effectively communicating at a milestone meeting. The seven bones are Framing, Illustrations, Noise reduction, Empathy, Structure, Synergy, and Ethics.
Reflecting on the Five Reasons Being An Effective Communicator Helps Your Technical Career will also help if you facilitate better risk management plans.
Facilitators should be prepared for the three most common types of disruptors associated with developing risk management plans. Being prepared means doing the foundations well and having specific approaches ready when the disruptors occur. Risk management plans can be some of the most challenging things to guide the participants through a series of predefined steps to arrive at a result that is created, understood, and accepted by all participants. Effective facilitation of risk management plans requires an accomplished, dedicated facilitator.