What To Do When Your Group Size Is More Than Ideal

You’ll recall from your Compression Planning Institute that we suggest you work with smaller groups when getting started.  Large groups have their own unique dynamics and challenges and can be tough to deal with while you are still getting grounded in the basics.

Once you get comfortable with your CP design and facilitation skills, you can mange larger groups more effectively.  Large groups just don’t move as quickly or as nimbly as smaller ones.  While we still suggest you try and work with smaller groups, the reality is that you are going to be faced with opportunities to facilitate larger ones.  Working large groups can be fun and you can be effective.  Just understand that it’s a different dynamic so your design and facilitation must be focused.

If you are facing a large group challenge, it might be a good time to call us for a Design Alert!

Here are some of my “Tips and Techniques” for managing the dynamics of larger groups.

  1. Plan your timing.  Things take longer with large groups and there’s a greater chance of getting bogged down.
  2. Design for the diversity of the group. You will have more perspectives, so know the group makeup and turn it to your advantage.  Be thorough with your background!
  3. Look ahead to group management.  One of the best ways to handle a large group is to sub-divide into smaller groups.  Think through which of your Headers lend themselves to being worked in a sub-divide.  Are there people who could help you facilitate, even if they are not trained?  Will each small group work the same or different headers?  How do you break the group up into the smaller groups?  Ask yourself these kinds of questions.
  4. Sub-divide by table-topping.  Give each of your groups a set of Headers to work on at their table, without pinning the cards onto the storyboards.  You can consolidate onto boards when the groups finish. Simply give them the green Header cards, yellow subber cards and markers.
  5. When you sub-divide, have each group select their top ideas to report out to the big group.   Trying to focus in a large group can be cumbersome.  Invite each group to bring up their 3-5 top ideas, pin them to a storyboard and place the rest in a retrieval envelope at the bottom of a storyboard under that particular Header.  When you go to dot, you are now asking the group to dot the top ideas of the “top sub-group ideas.”
  6. When your teams report back their top ideas, give them 5×8 index cards.  They will capture the ideas on 4×6 yellow cards, but have them reprint their top ideas on larger cards.  This makes them easier to read and gives them more space for dots when you go to focus your group.
  7. Be open to NOT creating a plan in a large group.  Often the primary purpose of a large group will be to generate ideas, then a smaller team can move the output into action.  However, if you find that you have to leave with a plan, look for opportunities to sub-divide the group around “responsibility for implementation.”  You can often take top ideas and recruit an implementation team around that idea.  Set the space with Action Plans and let the smaller groups build their own implementation plans.

It’s not impossible to work large groups.  We’ve professionally facilitated over 50 groups with more than 100 participants over the years.  You do need to plan how to orchestrate the time and the movement through the Master Model.

Good luck and let us know how your experience goes!

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