Archive for May, 2011

I have finally been published in the Harvard Business Review (May 2011). Sure it is only 29 words (if you count the prepositions and definite article) but it’s a start. I responded online and ended up in print. Pure irony!

My comment was in response to thoughtful article on better meetings by Tony Golsby-Smith of Second Road, a Sydney-based consulting firm. Tony’s article discussed the use of conversations replacing meetings and attracted one comment that said “many meeting leaders are not emotionally equipped to deal with a meandering conversation…” I picked up on this thread and provided my thought that “the missing link is good facilitation, which ensures everyone is heard, tough topics are pursued, and genuine outcomes are achieved.”

Many people see facilitation as a meeting management role. In fact it is far more than that passive, administrative perception. Ensuring everyone is heard is a management task yet ensuring they are really heard and tough topics are pursued is an active interventionist role that requires wisdom, persistence and patience. To get beyond the unstated assumptions, arse covering and grandstanding that occupy many organisational meetings requires, according to Bob Dick, an ironical model. First there must be a trusting environment where one can speak one’s mind and second an ” acceptance that the whole truth is too much to tell.” (Dick, 1991:327) And that’s where the wisdom comes in. A good facilitator wants to have an open and enquiring style but must also know when to stop and realise that some unmentionables are best left unmentioned.

Good facilitation is a critical component of Action Research. One objective of any meeting is to achieve outcomes which is what differentiates them from just a friendly conversation. Thinking about your meetings like a piece of Action Research where at the completion you summarise, what has been learnt, what it means and how it can be applied will provide you with meaningful outcomes. And that is what good conversations provide; a result where we come away better informed and invigorated and looking forward to the next conversation.

Bob Dick’s “Helping Groups to be Effective - 2nd Ed.” can be found here:

The full HBR article is here: