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Strategy Spotlight: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid During the Strategic Facilitation Process: Part A

There are times when a business analyst is asked to step up and become a strategic business analyst, effectively guiding the strategic facilitation process. Strategic facilitation is focused on the skill and art of guiding a process to solve business problems or leverage opportunities at the enterprise level.

However, that does not mean you forget the operational aspect of the organization. As a strategic facilitator, the business analyst brings together tools and techniques, methods and processes, and key business artifacts available for the strategic planning purposes.

In all forms of facilitation, there are some common mistakes that are made, mistakes that can be avoided with preparation and a keen sense of the deliverables.

Related Article: Group Dynamics and Requirements Elicitation

Here are 5 common mistakes to avoid during the strategic facilitation process – part A.

Not Having an Approach

This is a significant issue. There are many times I had to audit strategic business analysis gone sideways and have found a lack of a defined approach. Strategic facilitation only works if you are clear on what you need to do. For example, the S.E.T. Approach. In the S.E.T. Approach, you structure your approach, engage people and transform the business. The first part is about structured analysis and might include a combination of preparation activities including one-on-one sponsor and stakeholder interviews, short answer (open-ended questions) surveys to no more than 6 or 7 people for clarity purposes and maybe document review. The purpose is to understand the situation using an approach.

Lack of Clarity on the Issue

In strategic business analysis, planning and implementation there is usually some issue driving the situation. You need to answer the question, what is the driving force for strategic analysis and facilitation process?

For example, I had a situation where an important contract was not re-signed and the company lost 25% of its revenue. Due to rapid growth, another client experienced a lack of cohesiveness which negatively impacted their organization’s culture and its ability to perform. The point, something is driving your work, what is it? You do not want to be in the situation where the primary purposes strategic facilitation and planning is unclear. Get clear.

No Defined Method or Solution Domain

I am amazed at the number of meetings I have gone to, and professionals are trying to solve problems without a method to apply. Even worse is when there is a standardized method to apply, but they don’t know what it is. It happens all the time. You need to ask if there is a solution domain that you should be using. In this case, I am looking to understand if the business environment has a lean or six sigma standard, are they ITSM/ITIL, a Balance Score Card or Setability Model in the environment. There are lots of possibilities. It depends on the situation. Maybe you are introducing something new. That is fine as long as it fits. If you are the strategic facilitator, then you need to ensure that the method for discussing the issue is clear and communicated well in advance. Sometimes you will need to provide training in the method used to discuss and solve issues. This should be part of defining your approach.

Participating in the Solutions

It is easy to become the solution person and add your opinion, be the trainer and start teaching people stuff, or set yourself up as the expert and people look to you for the answer. They will ask for your opinion. Don’t allow this to happen. As a strategic facilitator it is not your job to participate in that way. You need to become neutral in the process and learn to be a guide to ensure that the discussion is lively and relevant at any particular point in time. This means you need a toolbox of approaches that you can use. Learn to deflect through redirecting questions or statements asking for your opinion. If you are to participate, recommend that you use a neutral facilitator, someone with experience in strategic analysis and planning. Remember strategic facilitation is about guiding a process through a maze of progressive elaboration to eventually converge on a common decision and direction.

Failing to Involve Various People Types

The engagement activity is a people skill on a number of levels. First, the introvert versus the extrovert. You need to engage effectively in leadership to avoid having a few opinionated attendees taking over. The people who talk the most do not necessarily have the best ideas. So get the quieter people engaged in the process. Second, learn to profile on the fly and adjust your behavior and communication style to the other persons or group needs. This means learning not to be you. For some people this is a difficult skill to master. But the better you understand you, the better you can understand other people. Third, learn group dynamic approaches to deal with the various characters in the room. Have private nicknames for the participant’s persona that give you a bit of a snapshot of the person’s character in a group meeting and approach you can apply to the situation.

There are lots of mistakes in strategic facilitation that the business analyst can avoid making. Often it means investing in developing a set of skills that go beyond documentation and providing technical solutions. These skills can be applied at a variety of levels in the organization and to a business analyst’s work. If you are a business analyst who is focused on strategic analysis, then the bar is raised when it comes to your strategic facilitation abilities. It is best to invest time and effort in avoiding some common mistakes.

Do your best,

Invest in the success of others,

Make your journey count,