Facilitated Learning: Setup

When coaching teams and organisations on their path towards a new way of work, we frequently get asked to transfer specific knowledge to people. The context does not always allow for a "full training", and that may not be actually needed.

4 March 2013
4c, facilitation, learning, training

When coaching teams and organisations on their path towards a new way of work, we frequently get asked to transfer specific knowledge to people. The context does not always allow for a "full training", and that may not be actually needed.

Depending on the nature of that request and contextual constraints, when we are asked to deliver a training session, what do we do?

I recently published the session design of a Lean Startup session I ran with client teams, and will now share the basics of how I set it up.

Back of the Room

I used the 4Cs from Training from the Back of the Room. Sharon gives us a simple structure for an engaging training session:

Start with a quick exercise that connects what people already know to what they want to learn. Continue with an explanation of the concept, and create a space to exercise the new knowledge with concrete practice. End with a conclusion that makes the ideas stick.

Back of the Room 4Cs

My colleague Ralf Kruse explains the model with a tangible metaphor: You open the head (Connection), place the new knowledge inside (Concept), then shake it all up (Concrete Practice) and close the head again (Conclusion). He focuses his conclusion activity not only on making ideas stick, but also and mainly on relating to the students' daily work. 

We commonly use the 4C model in our trainings, well designed and prepared in advance. In this case, I created the 4C "on the spot". I will share how to do this.

Instant Setup

When you set up an impromptu 4C session, you start with the outcome and impact you want. Sharon calls that “Begin with the End in mind.” What do you want participants to take away? And, equally important: What do they want to take away? It's important to align "client driven" (what they want) and "client focused" (what you think they need) purpose.

In my case, I had two goals:

  • I wanted them to realise they already knew enough, they needed to become confident enough to just go ahead and do it.
  • I wanted some concrete product ideas to test for them to take away from the session.

Next, think about where you are (specifically, where your participants are). Discern your understanding of the present.

I knew (assumed) the following about the context:

  • These guys knew enough to start; they just lacked confidence.
  • They had thought about this new product for a while and had more ideas than they realised.
  • They had amazing technological background and quite a few capabilities up their sleeve that no competitor had.
  • They had no idea of what customer development really meant, and the developers were hesitant to get out of the building ("our job is to write code.")

Knowing where you are and what you want, you put things into place...

I decided to

  • show and articulate my trust in their abilities,
  • create a context for an overwhelming amount of ideas to get on the table (walls) in a very short time,
  • enable them to combine these ideas into concrete, testable hypotheses at the end.

So I quickly sketched the session design, and went in and did it. When you get used to it, it only takes a few minutes... If you haven't read my previous post with the session design and impact, it may be a good idea to do that now.

Comments on this Example

In a standard training which is supposed to work in many common situations, we usually focus the connecting and closing activities on the content, the learning. I twisted these activities to achieve my goals. The connection activity showed them that many people in the team had quite a bit of knowledge already about Lean Startup (so they did not need to wait for an expert) and the conclusion activity gave them concrete takeaways to elaborate and work with.

Session Whiteboard

My concept activity was intentionally very short, as I couldn't tell them much they didn't know already. I connected it to the first activity, which I usually avoid as it carries a risk: when people do not gather a lot of knowledge (or they write down things that are debatable or wrong) you need time to add/correct it… If that happens, correct their misconceptions in a loving and appreciative way so that no one feels frustrated. On the whiteboard photo above you can see how I added “Get out of the building!” to the picture.

You can use different approaches for the conclusion activity depending on context: Summary of the content/experience (to make it stick through repetition) is the most common case. An action plan ("what do we do next?" with the new knowledge) is equally valid and typical for short "knowledge injection" sessions. The outcome of my conclusion activity in this example combined the two: it summarised the results of previous exercises, and it gave them specific MVP ideas to implement and test in their new project.

This session has been very specific in context: the need to "inject knowledge" arose from a coaching situation. That's why in this session coaching interests (giving confidence) overlapped with teaching interests (transferring knowledge about Lean Startup). This is important to know so that you are aware of both and independently validate if both intended impacts actually happen.

Thanks to my colleages Ralf Kruse and Steve Holyer for greatly improving this post with their reviews and improvement suggestions!

Your Experience?

I assume that this is not rocket science and that more of us have tips and tricks on creating a learning environment on the spot, according to observed needs and purpose. How do you do that? Please share your experiences in the comments!


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