Change - Strategic Facilitation

by Tony Mann

Perceiving ourselves and others

This is a model for exploring inter-group working. It is used as a tool to help people explore issues that affect the working relationship between groups, departments or individuals.

It should be used with groups/departments where there is a willingness to build bridges and improve the quality of relationships. The groups need to be kept small (four to six people) and the input of a strategic facilitator might be required.

How to use

  1. Ask members of each group/department to think about the image they have of themselves and list the following on the chart (see Perception chart):
  • The first five or six words that come to mind
  • A vehicle
  • A TV or film character
  • A food
  • A musical instrument.

Stress that it is important for them to work quickly and record their first thoughts.

  1. Explain that it is their own interpretation of what the words and images mean to them that contributes to the image they have of the service they provide to other groups/departments.
  2. Ask the groups to interpret the meaning of those words and decide whether or not each element of their image is a part of their open areas (known to themselves and known to others) or hidden areas (known to themselves, but not known to others).
  3. Ask them to record their responses under step 2 of the chart.
  4. Ask the group to write down, under step 3 of the chart, examples of how they communicate to others and important elements of their open area. For example, do they feel responsive and believe people see them as responsive; how do they behave to communicate responsiveness?
  5. Repeat the exercise for each of the other groups/departments/customers/suppliers represented in the room and complete the columns on the chart.
  6. Ask groups/departments/customers/suppliers to share their perceptions with each group on a group-to-group basis. Ask them to collect and record information as they go from group to group. This can be done in several ways:
  • On rotation (much like speed dating) – half the number of groups stay static while the others rotate around them, then the static ones rotate (group)
  • One group at a time can share their thoughts (one to all)
  • The groups could display their findings on the wall and everyone walk round as if in a gallery (everyone).
  1. Ask people to consider what they have learned about themselves and their group/department/customer/supplier from the perceptions that others have of them. Ask them to consider what needs to change in terms of
  • (Strategic) focus
  • Structures and processes
  • Systems and procedures
  • Roles, skills, behaviours and knowledge.

Get them to record these on their chart. Alternatively, mix the groups so that there are members of other groups in each group.

  1. Feed this back in an open forum or set up another round of group interaction. Invite other groups to comment, perhaps by making notes on the group’s action plan.
  2. Encourage everyone to say what this has revealed for them and what they see as the key message coming out of the session in relation to the change agenda.