Most brainstorming sessions I have participated in frustrate me because it seems that people are so inclined to jump into the part where you solve the problem before you have enough data or information. In an earlier post, I mentioned how useful Edward deBono’s Six Hat Thinking is for herding those proverbial cats in the workplace. What I really appreciate about the deBono model of facilitation is that it helps bring thoughtful order to collaborative work without forcing participants to use a highly constrictive process. If facilitated smoothly, it allows the group to separate their egos from objective sharing while still giving a voice to intuition and feelings.
Also, most importantly, Six Hat Thinking allows other voices to come into play in discussions other than just those four to five loud ones that typically are most heard the most vocal in many larger group discussions.
Recently, I held a project wrap-up and feedback session built around deBono’s Six Hats. We had a very limited amount of time and we were all pressed to providing meaningful contributions to a discussion after a heavy lunch. I did find four things most helpful for the discussion’s success.
- Allow people to gather their thoughts in accordance to the Six Hats thinking model prior to the meeting. I provided an optional worksheet or prompts for the discussion. At least people could frame their thoughts prior to the session rather than feeling as if they had to respond on the spot.
- Keep the explanation about deBono’s theories and the Six Hats to a minimum while restating the main objective of the feedback session which is to gather information to improve the project management process going forward.
- Gather the information ahead of time about the project charter (Blue hat thinking) and an initial set of project facts and stats (White hat thinking).
- Take the colored hats reference out of the agenda but share it later or as part of a handout.
The last piece of advice, I applied last minute to my presentation because I didn’t want to focus primarily on the process of using the hats but on our main objective to gather information to improve our process for future initiatives. The discussion was rushed, however being able to shift between the positive (Yellow hat) and negative aspects (Black hat) of the project before diving into the solution space (Green hat) allowed us come up with a more exhaustive list of areas for improvement. I was also careful to make sure to include time for the Red hat at the end to express our intuition and emotions about the project because it gave us an opportunity not to achieve some closure, but to express the emotions or thinking that are often pent up during a project as well as to celebrate our feelings of accomplishment and even relief as an end note.
I actually, wished that we had done this more regularly, but upon reflection, if the context and some guidelines (rules) aren’t provided around sharing of emotion and assumptions, discussions might not be as productive as you’d like. This is the part of meeting facilitation that I want to improve at going forward.
You can view the templates and slides I used for my feedback session here:
Slides used (pptx format)