No bullshit guide 2 Product Strategy, Deep Management 3.0 & other awesome trainings

Navigating the Cost of External Facilitation

How to Measure ScrumMasters
Good day, good people!

I already talked with you about Effective Facilitation Strategies for an Annual Strategy Workshop

In one vibrant and intimate professional community, there was a recent discussion on the cost of external facilitation support. Many insightful opinions were voiced, and I shared my perspective as well, later realizing the value of sharing these reflections with you.

Here is my response:

Firstly, it is wise for a client to consider whether they need a standard session or one that is more complex.

For a standard session: as a client, you are absolutely certain that an annual OKR session (using OKRs as an example) is exactly what you need. This means there are no hidden agendas, conflicts of interest, or other unexpected twists. Moreover, you are completely convinced that the OKRs that are set will be embraced and vigorously pursued by all, and importantly, these are the OKRs that your business truly needs right now. Annual OKRs are mentioned here merely as a common type of request.

For such sessions, you could comfortably opt for a facilitator at the lower end of the pricing scale with minimal preparation needed. The lower level does not imply a novice who has read only a single book on facilitation. References and prior experience remain significant.

The rationale is that you essentially need a facilitator who, to quote from Sam Kaner's workshop, "lacks any understanding of your field and its challenges and serves as the powerhouse driving your session in the direction you've indicated."

Now for the more complex sessions: this involves facilitation with a deeper, underlying agenda. When a facilitator can preemptively detect subterranean games and conflicts and prepare for them. It is akin to conducting a preliminary audit of the situation, and during the process, the facilitator might suggest changing the session's format, its objectives, or even cancelling it altogether (something I've encountered a few times). Additionally, if an issue erupts during the session, they will adapt in real-time, potentially abandoning prepared scripts and improvising.

Moreover, if you need a facilitator to frankly tell you "your OKRs are inadequate and not true OKRs," that also requires a complex session. Or perhaps to have the ability to calmly interrupt your verbose senior executives—a particular skill indeed to assertively tell a CEO "stop!" multiple times within an hour.

A simple test: Recall the last sessions you commissioned at least six months ago and ask yourself honestly if they truly added value to your organization. Here, value does not always equate to "meeting the session's objectives."

Let me explain: if you achieved the goal of "annual OKRs," but those OKRs were later disregarded or heavily contested, that equates to a negative value.

In terms of assessment: a complex session "costs" at least the number of days of the session plus an additional 100-150% of that time for preparation. Another factor that increases preparation time is the number of participants and any challenges that arise during the planning process.

A specific example from my practice: a one-day session for 250 C1 and C2 level managers took seven full days of preparation. And that's not the upper limit.

That's the essence of it. Should you have any questions or additional thoughts, you are most welcome!
And that's all for today.

Do more with less and may the force be with you!
You Might Also Like: