An additional idea on top of one of my recent posts – Co-designing with client http://www.ask-nottell.com/?p=747. I talked about a lot the benefits in designing the process with a representative nominated by the sponsor. It is however risky if the facilitator relies too much on the representative. The facilitator may not have a correct picture of what the sponsor wants. In fact, in the book I recommended ‘The Secrets of Facilitation’, the author argues that facilitators should simply NOT take on job if we can only work with the surrogate sponsor.
I agree a lot. In a strategy planning meeting last year, I worked with the sponsor’s executive assistant most of the time during design. Despite all our hard work and creative ideas, the sponsor was not very impressed and in fact found the whole thing ‘over-engineered’. My lesson learnt is that the need analysis and expectation setting process should ALWAYS be done directly with the sponsor. Preferably face-to-face. Their needs are often not explicit. I would even say sometimes they do not know what they really need. For example, some would say they want clear action items after discussion. In reality, what they really want is some fun and an opportunity to see how the participants behave and fun. They will not respond to any action resulted from the event.
Thus, I think it is balance (again!). In the ideal situation, the facilitator should have the initial conversation with the sponsor first. It is to understand the need and set the expectation. The facilitator then works with someone appointed by the sponsor to co-design. But then before the implementation, the facilitator checks with the sponsor again on the whole design and deliverables.
What are your other thought in how to engage the sponsor well?
[The photo contains flipcharts in my recent Train-the-Facilitators]