Posted in Liberating Structures

How to involve and unleash everyone in a group

As a team facilitator, your responsibility is to ensure that everybody in the group

  • Has equal possibilities to contribute
  • Feel that their input has been heard
  • Take ownership for whatever decision the group makes
  • Feel their time is well spent – Efficient and valuable

Seem like a big responsibility, and if the list makes you feel a bit anxious, I perfectly understand it, because I feel the same way. Yet, I need to say, there is more to it. Today’s world is changing faster than ever, and everybody needs to move faster. This also calls for a need to be able to foster “Creativity and Innovation” when facilitating.

Did you lose your breath now? I almost did, just by writing it!

When it comes to facilitating retrospectives, I have a decent toolbox to pick from to achieve some or all from the list above. However, I have been struggling to find ways on how to ensure equal contribution, ownership for decisions, efficient processes and room for creative thinking, outside of the retrospective.

Søren Weiss, who is an agile coach, change agent and someone who inspires me a lot, introduced me to Liberating structures. It changed everything.

Looking back at the situation before I was introduced to Liberating Structures my “go to methods” was not as effective, as I could wish for, and I can now identify some of the patterns, that weren’t helping me. I tried different things, with some success, but still ending in this pattern, or variations of it.

  • Presenting my thoughts and my perception of the situation which justifies my selection for processes and activities. I am the only one talking, and I don’t get to hear the team members perception of the situation.
  • And then I ask the team about their perception to have an open discussion. It tends to be words of the most outspoken people that often shapes the next steps. Leaving the uncertainty: Did we really explore all options?
  • Then I tend to manage the discussion by asking specific people about their opinion. Then I’m suddenly in charge of who can speak and when. And since I don’t know what everybody is thinking, how can I ensure that people get to talk when they have something on their mind?

So, what is Liberating Structures?

Liberating structures is a set of structures that allows everybody to be involved and contribute equally, as well as unleashing the creative and innovative potential in the individuals and in the group. And because of this it makes the individual take more ownership on the groups decisions. And this goes for groups in any size

It was almost to good to be true, but after reading about it, and trying a few of the structures on my own in smaller group I must say, that so far Liberating Structures live up to what they promise. I can’t wait to expand the use in larger groups, once I get a chance. If you are a ScrumMaster, Team coach, Agile Coach or facilitator, the chances are high that you’ll find these structures valuable to your work too.

If you want to know more about the concept of Liberating Structures, I suggest that you go to liberatingstructures.com for the original source, or visit “The liberators” and their introduction to liberating structures.

My personal key insights and reminders

My adventure with exploring liberating structures has only just begun. I am eager to learn more, to truly understand and master them, because I see they have great potential. Some of the new insights and the ‘reminders’ that stands out as the most important to me right now are…

  • When preparing for a session or workshop, don’t plan to control content. Plan to achieve a purpose and not to get to a specific conclusion.
  • During facilitation, make the invite, and step back. Let the group unfold.
  • Liberating structures breaks the limits of conventional meeting structures such as presentations, open discussions, and managed discussion by removing limitations and barrier for contributing – Awesome!

I’m still exploring the concept of Liberating structures and trying to figure out how I can use them in my daily work as a ScrumMaster. I see the potential to use them not only in retrospectives, but other Scrum ceremonies, group discussions, department meetings etc.

In the following posts on this blog I will write my reflections on my experience with the Liberating Structures that I have tried so far, and how I have used them in my daily work as ScrumMaster.

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