Organizational Consultation XXIII: Empowerment (Part Three)
Finally, Huber suggests that the assignment to be completed by the next meeting should be make both public and clear at the end of each meeting. Huber’s suggestions seem quite obvious, yet they are often ignored in poorly functioning groups. These guidelines can be seen in operation in effectively functioning groups. They should be acknowledged when used in an appropriate manner, so that the group will continue to make use of these simple but powerful procedures. In some cases, these procedures are introduced in a very informal way—often with a bit of whimsy or gentle encouragement. In other instances, they are employed in a more formal manner, especially when group members represent opposing constituencies. Frequently, the legitimate conflicts that arise in these politically charged groups can be successfully addressed and managed through the formal use of the innovative parliamentary procedures that I describe later in this essay. Appreciation is not reserved for friends. It can operate even when group members disagree with one another. We can appreciate another person’s perspective, and can respect the right of this person to voice their opinion, without having to agree with this perspective or opinion.
Huber’s third guideline concerns use of information displays. In the past this often meant the use of chalkboards, flip charts, newsprint hung on walls, overhead projectors, and handouts. Today, this usually means a computer screen and perhaps a projection of the screen on a nearby wall via the use of VGS cables. These projected computer-based images are terrific when used to display ongoing note taking by someone using a computer. They are a bit limiting, as were overhead projectors in the old days, in that it is hard to display multiple pages of material at any one time. It is particularly important that a group not get too enamored with Power point or other software programs as a group facilitation tool. In most cases, Power point and other digital tools that are now available lack the flexibility of other group recording modes. In the case of both VGS and overhead projection systems, be sure not to turn down the lights. Nothing dims the energy and direction of group meetings more than dim lighting!
The fourth guideline concerns helping the group achieve equitable participation by managing the discussion. Huber believes that one can effectively manage group discussion by establishing fairness as a standard. A group leader can enforce fairness by discouraging verbosity, redundancy or irrelevance, and by encouraging participation from among the quieter members. Leaders also enforce fairness by making use of the round robin technique, whereby each member of the group gets an opportunity, in turn, to make a comment or “pass”.