In Facilitation Skills, People Skills, Project Management, Team Effectiveness

Recently Honda released their latest gardening tool nicknamed ”The Mean Mower”. It can go from 0 to 100mph in 4 seconds accelerating faster than a Porsche 911. It has the same engine as a 996cc motorcycle, all-terrain suspension and a racing seat. So is this a redundant and over-engineered piece of kit?

No matter how outrageous the idea might seem, let’s suspend our judgement for a moment.

Will this be a suitable solution for your mowing needs? Well, if you don’t mind employing a mini pit-crew to help with changing tyres and refuelling, oh yes….and emptying the grass box, then I would say yes! After all, you’ll get the lawn done in no time at all. Certainly, the groundskeeper I see in the paddock opposite me, dragging what looks like some giant’s medieval chainmail behind a tractor for half a day, may well appreciate it.

I recently attended our new APMG Facilitation Certification course. It was an intensive 3 days, with much to learn, covering and equipping us with a wide variety of tools, techniques and processes for resolving difficult issues.

One of the key messages was the need to consider the most appropriate tools and techniques for the task at hand, so the objective is achieved in the most efficient way.

Some tools are more helpful for logical, rational reasoning, which help teams converge on one solution, whilst other tools help with more creative thinking to generate many possible solutions.

For example divergent thinking should be encouraged when teams need to think of fresh innovative ideas, to break away from their usual way of thinking and doing things. Techniques like brainstorming enable teams to generate ideas in an open and safe environment, where no idea, no matter how quirky, is dismissed. Once ideas have been generated, they have to be assessed, so now convergent thinking is necessary. Clustering the ideas into themes and identifying links between them helps to narrow them down. Some tools that help with decision making are Matrix Charting, Relative Importance Grid or Force Field Analysis.  Skilful facilitators are able to select the most efficient tools for the context they are working in and the goal to be achieved.

So, what can we learn from the launch of the new Mean Mower? Clearly, we need to keep an open mind and be prepared to push boundaries sometimes considering a variety of scenarios. What if you’re part of a humanitarian disaster response team, tasked with preparing a safe landing area for relief planes. Your team is to be helicoptered into a makeshift base camp and you have just a few hours before the first relief planes start arriving. Your rough estimates suggest it would need 50 people working for 6 hours to prepare the landing strip. You neither have the time nor the resources available.

In this context, the 0-100 in 4 seconds lawnmower doesn’t seem so outrageous. it could be the best possible tool for the job.


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