Inclusive Facilitation – Using Liberating Structures to Go Beyond Sticky Notes and Dot-Voting

Are you ready to take professional facilitation to the next level? Sticky note brainstorming and dot-voting are awesome facilitation techniques. However, there are so many more out there that help mix it up and target specific collaboration outcomes.

While a 60-minute talk can only scratch the surface, the point of this session is to give you some fun and powerful facilitation techniques to try as soon as you get back to work. This one is going to be ultra light on theory and super heavy on actual methods and pointers to resources to learn even more.

This session will focus on Liberating Structures, created, curated and refined by Keith McCandless and Henri Lipmanowicz. These are a set of simple yet very powerful facilitation techniques we can use every day to create a truly transformational collaboration experience.


Outline/Structure of the Talk

Introduction – (5 min)

  • VERY quick background – no resume reading
  • Liberating Structures are publicly available online and so the purpose of this session is to introduce them to you and demonstrate how I use them in real life.

Connections - (5 min)

  • Quick poll to drive emphasis through the rest of the talk: Fist to five, how many are here because of:
    • 5 - you know about Liberating Structures and just want to dive deeper
    • 3 – you have heard of it, but want to learn more
    • 1 – coming in ice cold on the topic
    • 2’s and 4’s somewhere in between
  • Second quick poll – Your experience as a facilitator
    • 5 – Expert, 1- Beginner
  • Some variability here based on above answers, but make the clear connection of facilitation to collaboration and ultimately better decisions and outcomes.

Concepts – (20 min)

  • Why the emphasis on “Inclusive” facilitation?
    • Inclusive focus pulls out the best from everyone and not just the loudest in the room
    • Create a space for true collaboration of everyone present
    • Stop placating a boss or other authority presence
    • Distribute control of the collaboration
  • Brief Overview of Liberating Structures
    • Introduce the website ( and walk-through some of the basics
    • Show the principles briefly so people get a feel for the mindset we want to establish – show, don’t read
    • Show the big grid that lists all the structures
    • Use a few examples to walk through the site organization - the following are examples I have used in past talks, but I sometimes mix it up
  • Problem and Solution Example
    • 15% Solutions
      • Each person writes down solution ideas that focus on where they have direct control – may not solve the whole problem but where they could quickly make a dent
      • First, solo – then review and refine in pairs – then the group reviews each per person
      • This method gets away from endless discussion about things we do not have the power to change – gripe sessions – focus on action – make tangible next steps
    • Other possible options
      • Discovery and Action Dialog – deep dive to find solutions that deviate from the norm (out of the box)
      • Troika Consulting – get practical help from colleagues
      • Wise Crowds – ask for help and build trust
  • How can we get better? Possible for retrospective for example
    • TRIZ
      • Use really terrible outcomes, things that are very unwanted and what are the steps to get to these poor outcomes
      • Then compare the steps we define to things we actually do today – there will likely be some exact matches
      • Look for ways to STOP doing those harmful things
      • Super fun and interactive way to get better by doing a bit of shock value for your group – “Wait – so we are going to spend time talking about the worst possible outcome?!”.
  • Ice Breaker – In a much better way…
    • Impromptu Speed Networking
      • I like to adapt this one a little – At the very beginning of a session, I ask each person to come up with a really provocative question or topic that relates to the meeting topic (solo)
      • Everyone gets up and then shares their topics with one other person – preferably someone they don’t know
      • Then rotate a couple of rounds – depending on time
      • There are a couple of subtle points that I really like – first, it sends a clear message that this is not going to be like every other meeting – second, it gets the collaborative blood flowing through everyone getting a chance to talk from the beginning.

Concrete Practice (20 mins)

  • Use one method to actually do together as a group to show one of my favorites and most used
    • Gather Collective Intelligence – One I sometimes use instead of listing and dot-voting
      • 25/10 Crowdsourcing
        • Ask the group to think of BIG idea and write on a card – the subject may change, but one topic might be ways to make agile conferences more valuable – open to suggestions – sometimes I ask the audience for ideas
        • Perform the 25/10 exercise and then drive to a top ten or five list
        • During the “shuffle” phase, people usually have some fun and it gets the blood flowing
        • We will probably also come up with some really good and actually useful ideas…

Conclusion (5-10 mins)

  • Work to get some active feedback on if people are excited to try some of these methods out – see if people would be willing to commit to trying
  • Offer to follow up with people individually – maybe have a call in a few weeks to share experiences

Learning Outcome

See how the Liberating Structures can apply to your environment and how they could help you and your organization

Add a critical tool to the facilitation tool-box using real-life tested techniques

Develop ways to inject engagement, enthusiasm and fun in to your corporate collaboration methods

Target Audience

Primarily Scrum Masters and Coaches, but anyone who wants to enable better collaboration

schedule Submitted 1 year ago