Monday, March 31, 2008

Scribing and Facilitating as a Team

On March 28th, Delphine Batton commented...

"Together with another facilitator we are scribing for each other regularly. So during a session we switch from facilitation to scribing. Knowing the process, even the agenda precisely is of a great help for scribing. Even more when as a facilitator we have to change the agenda during the session: the one who is scribing this time can follow easily!"

Working regularly as a team, a scribe and a facilitator build a communication protocol that allows them to continually make the other partner look good and thereby provide a much better experience for the client.

I am doing a two-day facilitation with a scribe the week of April 7th and will report back on how it went...

Any other experiences people would like to share? I am still looking for another name for the scribing function....

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Pitfalls of Having the Wrong Scribe

Kristen Peterson related an interesting story in a March 3rd comment that I thought was worth sharing...she points to several of the pitfalls in facilitating a group when you don't have the right scribing resources...

"This is very timely -- I did an all day facilitation with a client last week. An in-house facilitator at the client had read Tim Hurson’s book Think Better and wanted to try the process internally on their biz relationship with one of their clients -- a $20 million account for them - on how to improve the relationship, increase revenue, be seen as a trusted advisor, and broaden and deepen the relationship.

I was primarily there to "observe," introduce the principles of productive thinking, and step in if things started to fall apart I stepped in halfway into the first step -- mostly because the facilitator, Tina, had arranged for someone on her team to "take notes" on a laptop – basically a clerical from the team -- which clearly wasn't happening. So I took over facilitating and Tina picked up the scribing. The scribing dragged me down as a facilitator -- Tina didn't know the process well enough. I would have moved to paper and scribed for myself but the room was tiny and there was little space to move around.

Lesson learned: the scribe must know the process AND be a fast and accurate typist -- otherwise they can totally slow things down and divert the focus of both the facilitator and the group . If asked again I would say no to a "note taker" and provide my own scribe, or less desirably, scribe for myself.

Big additional benefit having a scribe -- having an expert in the process greatly improves the quality of note capture and dramatically speeds up convergence.

In feedback from the group, one of the more senior participants recognized that the electronic note taking got in the way."

Any other stories out there?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

John Sedgwick makes a good point in a comment about Tuesday, March 4th's posting regarding using Post-It notes for idea generation and the role of the scribe. In fact, whether scribing with flip charts or on a computer, using Post-it notes when trying to capture a long list of ideas is very effective. (Having a big wall that can take lots of notes or using poster paper to cover a wall and then attach the notes are two quite effective methods for doing this.)
  • The scribe can be of great assistance here in doing some of the preliminary clustering as the ideas are stuck up on the wall, with the participants doing heavy clustering once they have stopped generating ideas.
  • Alternatively, the scribe can capture the ideas on the computer as they are called out...but this can be difficult when the ideas are coming fast and furious.
John then asks: "Now this brings up the question of dealing with these ideas, once they are themed. If we split the participants into sub-groups and allow each sub to take a cluster away, for word smithing immediately, or for some future report, what role does the scribe play in that process? Secondly, how might the scribe facilitate that, so that we get the maximum breadth of participation, but also a high degree of efficiency?"

My thoughts here are that as each subgroup reports out it's word-smithed-idea -- whether immediately or in a future session -- the scribe captures that idea just has s/he has been all along. The scribe can't capture each subgroup's deliberations, but that is probably okay. Also, as the subgroups are doing their word smithing, the scribe can support the facilitator in rotating through the subgroups to keep them on track.

Any other thoughts from readers about John's questions?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Text scribing

Text scribing can be done in two ways -- one low tech, one high tech:
  1. On flip charts with a marker
  2. On a computer with the output presented on the wall using an LCD projector

Monday, March 3, 2008

What the Scribe does...

The scribe:
  • Captures what is happening
  • Writes down what participants say
  • Is concise
  • Lists the data/information captured by section/category/group/topic
  • Checks with participants regularly to ensure accurate capturing of ideas
  • Screens out the unnecessary and redundant
  • Thinks about what is being said
  • Knows the process used by the lead facilitator so doesn't need to think about the process
  • Dances is step with the lead facilitator
  • Thinks fast
  • Juggles flaming balls
  • Helps support the choosing from the long lists
  • Synthesizes and distills
  • Puts the data in the OJ juicer and extracts the pulp
Any other thoughts or ideas would be greatly appreciated. Also, suggestions of other blogs or websites that talk about scribing and facilitation would be nice to link to this blog.

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Scribe Needs to...

Some things that the facilitating scribe needs to do...
  • Understand the process being used
  • Have a facilitator's mindset
  • Take down information in an organized fashion
  • Take down information so the room can follow it
  • Know how to capture, distill, and organize
  • Be active, effective, and visible to the group
  • Have the knowledge base and the experience base
  • Be accurate, useful, visually evocative, and meaningful
  • Have the ability to milk the information and pull out the essence
  • Not be right all of the time, but close to right most of the time
  • Have a servant's attitude to change what has been captured
  • Be able to switch places with the lead facilitator
As always, comments welcome...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Text Scribing vs. Graphic/Visual Scribing

I have been fascinated by the concept of graphic/visual scribing like that promoted by Grove. (I just received an email from Grove which sparked this post.) While the visual approach of Grove is quite appealing, I have never actually seen it used. I would like to hear from others about how effective it is.

I know that text scribing -- when done well -- generates very useful output that can be put to use by the team. Does the visual scribing approach actual produce output that can be put to use? I suspect the visual approach may be fun to experience, but am concerned about the usability of the output. It is probably a matter of context -- the visual approach works well in some applications while the textual approach is better suited to other situations.

Any thoughts from others with graphic/visual scribing experience?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Scribing Role Defined

When we talk about scribing in the facilitation sense, we are talking about capturing the ideas and decisions produced by participants in a facilitated meeting. This mostly involves capturing long lists of ideas and helping the facilitator and participants choose the best ideas from those lists.

Capturing long lists of ideas
The scriber needs to accurately capture the ideas generated. This is often done with flip charts and markers. It can also be done electronically on a laptop with the screen projected on the wall so all can see what is being captured. The scribe should capture as accurately as possible the ideas generated, but does not need to capture verbatim all comments or ideas. Part of the skill in effective scribing is to distill the sometimes loquacious ideas of participants while capturing the essence of their ideas. The scribe needs to be continually checking back with the participants to be sure the captured ideas accurately reflect the participant's ideas.

Upcoming posts will talk about how the scribe helps the participants and the facilitator choose from the lists and work closely with facilitator. We will also talk about the skills of the scribe, tools for the scribe, and other topics generated by the comments.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Facilitating meetings and scribing introduction

I have started this blog to explore the nature of meeting facilitation and scribing. I facilitate meetings and help others facilitate meetings and have found that the assistance of a scribe -- or note taker or recorder -- greatly enhances the meetings. Yet, when trying to convince clients of the usefulness of an independent scribe to work with the lead facilitator, we often meet much resistance. Sometimes clients do not want to pay the extra as they do not see its value. Sometimes they say "oh, we have someone who can take notes." Yet, when we have provided a second facilitator to act as scribe, the meetings turn out to be at least twice as productive.
  • The lead facilitator can focus on the people in the room and managing the discussion without worrying about what is being captured.
  • The second facilitator provides a second set of eyes and ears to support the lead facilitator.
  • All ideas are captured and saved for use in the future, so no one's ideas get "lost."
  • When done electronically and posted with a projector on the wall, the ideas evolve with the discussion and the meeting ends with a report already written.
Most of the meetings we facilitate use an approach we call Productive Thinking. Productive Thinking grew out of the Osborne-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Process that many of us learned originally at the Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) sponsored by the Creative Education Foundation. The Productive Thinking approach was developed by Tim Hurson and is documented in his recent book "Think Better." Tim Hurson and Kristen Peterson are the principles of thinkx intellectual capital inc. and I work with them as Consulting Partner.

This is just the beginning of my thoughts and I am hoping others will join in with their thoughts about the role of a "scribe" in facilitating meetings. (I would even like to come up with another name for the role...)