I am frequently asked about the tools I use to graphically record virtual meetings. “Virtual meetings” in this case refers to web-conferencing sessions where people are connected from all over the place using computers and various software tools including WebEx, Connect, GoToMeeting, Live Meeting, Elluminate, and so forth. The web-conferencing software has to either support screen sharing or have a really, really good whiteboard feature. Here’s why I choose the tools that I do.
The Short Answer
Mostly, I use the Wacom Cintiq tablet with WebEx meetings. The Cintiq is an LCD tablet that works like a second monitor you can write on with a special pen or stylus. I use SketchBook Pro software for drawing and editing, because it’s very responsive and has all the features required of digital graphic recording. I attach the Cintiq to my laptop, set up the monitors so they are not mirrored, log in to WebEx, and share the Cintiq screen.
The success of my book Visual Meetings brought publisher John Wiley & Sons back for a “sequel,” and I recently finished Visual Teams: Graphic Tools for Commitment, Innovation, & High Performance in time for a fall launch. Visual Teams builds on the concepts covered in Visual Meetings (top 5% of all business books during 2010) and will be available in stores October 11.
For those of you familiar with the Drexler/Sibbet Team Performance Model® (TPM) you will notice in the title the key words for the right side of the model—the pathway to high performance. Visual Teams is built around the idea that if teams learn to use visual meetings and other visualization methods across the full arc of their work, they will be much more productive, creative, and influential in their organizations. The book also uses visual language to unpack the TPM itself, and delves a little deeper into its theoretical underpinnings, most notably Arthur M. Young’s Theory of Process.
I organized this book around the TPM. Initial chapters make the case for teams working like designers—experimenting, creating prototypes, and using visualization to test ideas and share information and mental models. I’ve pulled forward a full treatment of the TPM, adding what visual teams would do to handle each stage of the model. I have a special section for team leaders and how they can manage the four flows of attention, energy, information and operations on their teams—building on our work with Agilent Technologies for its first-line manager training, in which The Grove’s Team Leader Guide was a source book for many years.
Looking for a way to track your progress as a graphic recorder and find out what areas to develop further? Try a chart critique. I recently printed small copies of charts that I created in meetings during the past six months — I picked one or two per month — and sat down with my colleague Laurie Durnell to critique them. We looked at how my style has been evolving, identified areas that are working well, and came up with a list of things to practice going forward.
Becoming Aware of Metaphor
Using metaphor consciously is another skill involved in mastering facilitation. Humans make sense out of things by comparing what they know with what they don’t know. If the comparison says one thing “is” another thing, it qualifies as a metaphor. If I say it is “like” another thing, it qualities as an analogy. For instance, I could say that the Grove Facilitation Model™ is like a mental keyboard for composing meaning along the “staff” lines of the Four Flows. This is an analogy. With this comparison one might infer that the real process of a group is as complex as a real piece of music, and not be confused with the keyboard. That makes the design and elegance of the “keyboard instrument” even more critical, and hopefully encourages improvisation and “playing around.”
Much of the complexity of working with groups, and especially working with groups as a graphic facilitator where one is writing and drawing down what people say, is learning to understand analogy and metaphor and fly easily through them without getting stuck and confused. (Notice the “fly” metaphor?) Just to make sure everyone isn’t stuck in any specific representation of these ideas (i.e. the specific way the Four Flows is drawn as channels), I also share it as a set of concerns that surround the body of a facilitator, shown in the illustration of the facilitator as a conductor accompanying this piece. Although this is still a musical analogy it is a different representation that chases out different understanding.
I want to reflect a little on why I think that personal development is essential to “mastery” in facilitation, and how we approach teaching about “mastery” at The Grove. We define facilitation as “the art of leading group process toward agreed-on outcomes with full participation, creativity, and ownership from all involved.” Facilitation is about serving the group and its collective purpose as distinguished from one’s own. Leaders and team managers are the ones who often set the purpose and goals for a group.
Consultants may often be acting as agents for leaders, but when a person says he or she is facilitating, most people would expect that person to serve the group. This intention plunges anyone who facilitates into the position of needing to take everyone into account during a process. Given that orientation, one measure of mastery would be the extent to which a facilitator can relate to, understand, and help a wide range of people. That capability requires one to come to accept, with humility, the different aspects of oneself and others that you might not be comfortable with, personally.
It is possible to facilitate within an industry or a given functional area and develop a great deal of proficiency without spreading out to the larger universe of experience represented in large organizations. It is also possible to be very facilitative without much experience if one is firmly anchored in a beginner’s mindset and able to learn VERY quickly from the group.