Monday, 3 November 2014

Graphic Facilitation & Recording Skills for Absolute Beginners Part 6

Welcome to the final part of my series of workshop-blogs. At the end of the Part 5 I gave you a group exercise about planning a party. As I said then, this exercise was originally devised for working with individuals who have particular difficulties: Substitute planning a party with helping someone to plan activities they would like to be involved in and you have a person-centred tool for supporting people. Some of the exercises later are similarly derived from person-centred working, but could easily be adapted for working in groups, organisations and businesses.

Templates and Visual Metaphors

Templates are visual guidelines for directing a process or discussion. Basic templates probably originated in the work of mathematicians, scientists and engineers, but have been used in business and in organisations for many years as part of planning and in management training. For example, simple matrix drawings have been used to illustrate or support various concepts across many disciplines.
I designed this one with feint lines for a recorder or a trainer to ink in and write on as required. There are many other basic templates, some more complex than others.
As graphic facilitation and recording grew we began to see other template ideas emerge. Often these were designed to serve a particular function either by employing a relevant illustration or by using a visual metaphor for that function. Take, for example The Grove's two meeting start-up templates; one is a straightforward illustration of a meeting room with areas to write in the agenda, roles, rules and outcomes....
©The Grove
...the other uses the metaphor of a raft on a river to illustrate and encourage the process of the meeting.
©The Grove
Over the years The Grove has developed a large range of templates for use by graphic facilitators and recorders and to suit an array of different business and organisational situations. They have also developed business manuals which incorporate a lot of these and much more. See

Ready printed templates and digital file versions can be purchased from various companies which either specialise in products for graphic recorders/facilitators or work in fields where graphic facilitation and recording are widely used. An example of the latter is the field I used to work in; services for people who have learning/developmental difficulties. Person-centred approaches to supporting people with disabilities was at the forefront in using graphic facilitation. Various styles of person-centred planning are based around specific templates which enable planning meetings to be directed towards the wishes and needs of the person involved. For example, this is a MAPS template:

While it may be useful to have this kind of guidance for p.c.p., the downside of templates, in all fields of work, is that they may direct a meeting one way when the conversation could usefully go in an entirely different direction. In business and organisational situations it's possible for the facilitator to have a preconceived idea of what the meeting is about and should achieve. The facilitator may use a specific design of template to direct the meeting and then find it's not working because other issues and needs arise in the conversation. The skill required here is to be able to change tack and develop a new chart. For this reason I prefer not to use ready printed or pre-prepared charts, but, rather have template designs committed to memory or recorded in a notebook that I can then reproduce as I need them. This is also one of the reasons why my favourite p.c.p. style is 'Personal Futures Planning' which uses multiple charts, each with a very simple template, in a very flexible approach. In actual fact, most of the basic templates are very simple and easy to reproduce. A lot of other template designs are expansions of basic ideas and with a little creative thinking I think you can quite easily produce your own version of any one of them to suit the situation.

Some templates and many of the charts produced at meetings or events are based around a visual metaphor. That is, an idea that represents the meaning of the discussion(s) is given visual form on the chart and often becomes the main theme of the chart. Here are some examples I have gathered.
Annual-Report-v21 - Tom Benthin
color_acorn - Mariah Howard Visual Facilitation
pcl_blog -
TheStruggle - Mariah Howard Visual Facilitation
MovieVision © The Grove

Most charts, however, tell the story of the meeting and the talk or discussion and if they employ a metaphor it is often only part of the whole. In the following example Anthony Weeks used a journey metaphor, with a signpost and a road, as part of a larger recording of a business development discussion.

Quite often a recorded or facilitated discussion will involve identifying a process. Depending on the nature of the process the scribe may use a template design as the basis for the chart or s/he may develop something entirely original. Because such 'process graphics' may have a wider audience than those involved in the meeting, the client may want to keep and display the graphic or have copies made. There is also a market for having the graphic re-drawn and produced as a printed poster, as in the following example:

A common area for process graphics is the use of a 'History' template to record the development of a product, a service or a business.
©  “Graphic History” Graphic Guide © 1996 The Grove

Here are some exercises for you have a go at with some friends or colleagues.
1. Getting to A Meeting. The first exercise involves the use of a simple SWOT template. As with the “Planning a Party' exercise there should be one person acting as graphic facilitator; one person chairing/leading and others participating in the planning meeting. You can move the roles around from how they were for the previous exercise.

Your General Manager has to get to an important early morning meeting on the day after tomorrow (pick a place for the meeting that is a fairly long distance away). Budgets are tight, but he needs to be on top form for the meeting. Using a Swot analysis (with graphics) decide how he will get there.
2. A History Map
There are two options for this exercise. Move roles around in the group again depending on which option you choose as the most relevant to you.

Option one is to identify a focus person in your group and map his/her life story. You may need one person to be a facilitator who asks questions and directs the discussion; you will need one to be the graphic facilitator and others to participate as friends, acquaintances, etc. The facilitators need to work sensitively with the focus person to bring out the story of his/her life (as far as s/he is willing to reveal) and record it as a graphic.

Option two is to identify and record the history of something relevant and familiar to your group.
This is an example 'History' template for you to copy or you can devise your own ideas for the graphic:
© The Grove

3. Solution Circle – A creative problem solving tool.
A Solution Circle is a person centred tool, designed by Marsha Forest and Jack Pearpoint. It is excellent for getting unstuck and teasing out logical practical steps to take in any situation.
© 1996 Inclusion Press

Again, move roles around in the group – make sure everyone has had a turn at doing the graphic.
Time required: No more than thirty minutes. People per Solution Circle: Best with 5-9.
Roles to be played:
  • Problem Presenter (focus person)
  • Process Facilitator (team manager, time keeper)
  • Graphic Recorder
  • amazingly creative Brainstorm Team
Step One:
(6 minutes) The
problem presenter will have 6 uninterrupted minutes to outline the problem. The job of the process facilitator is to keep time and make sure no one interrupts. The recorder takes notes (creates a graphic of the presented problem). Everyone else (the brainstormers) listens. If the problem presenter stops talking before the six minutes elapse, everyone else stays silent until the 6 minutes pass. This is key! The problem presenter gets 6 uninterrupted minutes.
Step two:
(6 minutes) This is a brainstorm. Everyone chimes in with ideas about creative solutions to what they just heard. It is not a time to clarify the problem or to ask questions. It is not a time to give speeches, lectures or advice. The process facilitator must make sure this is a brainstorm. Everyone gets a chance to give their brilliant ideas. No one must be allowed to dominate. The problem presenter listens - without interrupting. He/she must not talk or respond. The recorder charts the solution ideas.
Step 3:
(6 minutes) Now the group can have a dialogue led by the problem presenter. This is time to explore and clarify the problem. Focus on the positive points only and not what can't be done. The recorder develops the chart accordingly.
Step 4:
(6 minutes) The First Step. The focus person and the group decide on first steps that are doable within the next 3 days. At least ONE step should be initiated within 24 hours. This is critical. Research shows that unless a first step is taken almost immediately, people do not get out of their ruts. A coach from the group volunteers to phone or see the person within 3 days and check if they took their first step.
Finally the group just does a round of words to describe the experience and the recorder gives the chart(s) to the focus person.

Experience shows that people love this exercise and find that it generates action. It does not guarantee a solution, but it usually gets people "unstuck" and at least points to the next logical step. 

The Final Bit

I would like to end this series of workshop-blogs with a round-up of important things to remember when you are out there, in front of a group of people, recording and facilitating their discussions. But first, I want to thank you for taking the time to read my work and for getting involved.

When you are doing the work, it is important to always be working for the group of people in front of you and, as far as possible, to try to meet their needs at the time in order that they can get their task completed successfully. Always be present; that is, be totally attentive, listening carefully, interpret and graphically record the discussions without making any judgements or biasing how you record, keep up and draw quickly. Listen for images suggested in the discussion, use colour to code different levels of the recording, and to add meaning in terms of mood and feelings. Where appropriate, enter into dialogue with participants to get their ideas for images and colours, etc. Above all, keep it simple.

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