Project management doesn’t happen in a vacuum. A huge portion of the discipline revolves around people and the dynamics at work when they get together—conducting needs assessments, justifying objectives and costs to leadership teams, coordinating with end users to mitigate project impacts, communicating with stakeholders, and devising practical solutions to potential problems. Unfortunately, many project management training programs skip over group facilitation skills.
The what: Project management is one long list of opportunities for group facilitation expertise, from the creation of project charters to performing the post-project wrap up. Strong facilitation skills enable almost anyone in the Project Team to lead others through the project’s complex stages without losing focus, to maximize the effectiveness of group work sessions, and to deal with difficult personalities in a group setting.
The why: Getting groups of people to effectively work together is at the heart of successful project execution. Without a good facilitator, the various groups involved in the project become much more vulnerable to inefficiency, ineffectiveness, in-fighting, and poor communication. Any one of these factors has the potential to put the project’s success in jeopardy. Meaningful progress—especially when facing difficult time or budget limitations—often hinges on good group facilitation. If all that sounds extreme, remember that simply running productive meetings (especially when teams are particularly diverse or include a number of competing priorities) may require better-than-average facilitation skills.
The how: By its very nature, facilitation training should be highly interactive. If your Project Team already has someone in-house with top notch facilitation skills, they may be able to offer others on the team solid and very focused instruction. Otherwise, look for an experienced outside consultant so you know your organization will receive quality training. Group facilitation skills are so important that cultivating bad habits is sometimes worse than having no habits at all.
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