Facilitating, Consulting, and Learning

Leading client engagements

From April 2016 - January 2018, I worked as a design lead, largely facilitating workshops, activities, and discussions for IBM with internal and external clients. Many of these client engagements involved educating participants on new methodologies, concepts, and techniques for solving problems.
Current Number: 41 (and counting…)

Specifically, I have been facilitating IBM's Enterprise Design Thinking workshops and sessions in attempt to move the needle in a more design-driven direction. I lead discussions pointed at particular problems, ensure focus on defined users, and navigate personalities, obstacles, and debbie-downers. In most cases, my teammates and I are one of the only “Subject Matter Experts” (SMEs) of design in the room. We help add the perspective of product teams, realistic timelines, design research, user-testing and more. Although we don’t participate in the delivering the workshop outcomes (products, services, process changes, etc.), we add insight into how these can actually be constructed.

A parallel to a previous life

Reflecting back to my high school years spent competitive cheerleading, I had learned more than just motivational chants and the importance of timing. I have recently discovered, that facilitating and cheerleading are one of the same.

Cheerleaders break the ice for fans to scream, go wild, and move their parts. They are always excited, positive, and knowledgable. If even a single member of the squad doesn’t know a cheer or a routine, it becomes incredibly obvious, so that is prevented at all costs. They are a constant temperature gauge on the game. If you don't know anything about football, just watch the cheerleaders to learn when to celebrate, encourage, or mourn. In high school I was the cheerleading captain. That meant that I called the shots for the team, who all worked together to coerce the audience to follow our lead. It starts by educating the crowd, usually through repetition. We follow by demonstrating the motions or excitement for the crowd to mimic or feed off of. Finally we empower the crowd to carry on without us.

As a facilitator, we work on a team, always appearing to be informed and in agreement with our fellow facilitators, thus functioning as a cohesive, facilitation unit. Our team leads the workshop, instructing participants on what to do, why, when, and what it should look like. Going through a cycle of educating, demonstrating, and empowering.

Giving instruction to a group of hilarious, friendly folks at a Midwestern insurance company.

A bit about the process:

In preparation for workshops, my team follows a fairly repeatable process, although the context is always different. We start with meeting the sponsors of the workshop to understand the landscape of the workshop request (client initiated, internal training, relationship building, purely alignment, etc.). From there we ensure there is an interesting problem to solve. Even if it’s a figurative problem for the sake of training, we confirm there is a problem the attendees could actually tackle. Most often, this means we need to scope down a problem and avoid telling a bunch of salespeople to “make more money”. This problem definition is dependent on identifying users and advocating for the importance of thinking about humans within a system, not just an entire corporation or business unit.

Working through /design prompts/ with our stakeholders is an interesting learning period for the facilitators, asking copious amounts of questions and doing some of our own secondary research. Each problem space we get involved with doesn’t require a great depth of understanding, other than an appreciation and emphasis on the users involved. Typically, I try to get an initial understanding of the players in the ecosystem, sketching out a rudimentary stakeholder map, then probing to find out who needs to be prioritized.

Lessons learned from witnessing account teams and (attempts at) deal signings:

• If Superman is Innovation, then the Kryptonite is Corporate Red Tape.

• Nothing closes a deal quite like a personal relationship.

• As I progress through my career, at any level, there is no excuse for being disrespectful. Stern, sure. Confident, YES. Disrespectful, no…. there’s too much of that already.

• Try trusting new things. Knowledge is power, so why not trust a researcher to investigate the landscape of the problem before the workshop?

Industries worked with: 

• Industrial
• Banking
• Insurance
• Telecom
• Education
• Drones
• Retail
• Agriculture

Using Format