You never own a workshop, you are the transient custodian of it.
Late last year I was asked if I wanted to run a certain workshop, and I said yes. I was then asked to fill in an expression of interest and go through an interview to do it. As an organisational (internal) facilitator, this was a first for me. What it made me do was truly assess the importance of what I was about to undertake, and to act accordingly. Last Friday I handed over that workshop to two new facilitators; I ran it, they observed it, and it is theirs now. It will be in good hands. They are both people with wide business acumen, subject matter experts and their emotional and social intelligence is evident. I really like them, and I have shared with them with every single idea, resource and experiment I have concocted for this workshop.
I consider this to be a proper hand-over. The first two times I saw the workshop run (October 2012) I took 5000+ words of running observation notes each time. Most of the notes were of the free-form discussion, and therefore from participant voices. These have provided a benchmark for where I and another colleague have subsequently taken it, and an idea of what the pure, original version was. Kind of like comparing the Mitchum and De Niro versions of Cape Fear. But less terrifying!
One of the new facilitators was there at the original pilot and noted how differently it was now run, more than two years on. I didn’t feel threatened by that, nor particularly proud. To me it is natural that a workshop be curated by those who facilitate it. Operating environments, technology, management theory, cultural attitudes, corporate strategy, they all evolve; thus a workshop must as well. If facilitators let themselves stand still with the content, they get bored, stale, it shows and affects the delivery.
When you are handed a session plan or facilitator guide, it is the bones only. Facilitators knit the sinew, ligament, flesh, fat, nerves and blood. 3 years ago I learnt an important lesson from a (rather brazenly) content-averse colleague facilitator. His favourite expression to utter at the end of a day ignoring the F.G. was “learning outcomes achieved”. I followed in his long shadow for a while, wondering how many instructional designers he was pissing off with that attitude. As it turned out, there were none. As an I.D. once reminded me, “It is just a guide, Paul.”
This freedom to wander that you discover as a facilitator was sufficiently alluring for me to name this blog after, but the selfish nature of it caused me unease. So I have been driven to share. In my post ‘Sandpit’, one way I have attempted do so is canvassed. There are better ways though, such as sitting in a room with others who run what you do.
This is exactly what two colleagues and I did 2 weeks ago for our core 4-day lending workshop. What combined was the rarity of a day where we were all in the office and available, with the spirit of renewal emergent from the backwash of our big corporate restructure. We sat down, went through the participant workbook page by page, and threw our thoughts into a good old-fashioned spreadsheet. The vast majority of the 80 separate thoughts were things that belonged outside the facilitator guide or participant workbook. In other words, the stuff that facilitators normally keep close to their chest, but nonetheless is most crucial to the embedding of learnings. How this information will be further shared and used is unclear, but fear not dear reader, I will keep you appraised of that! There is a circle to be closed.