Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: Two Cheers for Outliners

Author:Phil Wolff
Posted:2/9/1999; 9:03:50 AM
Topic:Two Cheers for Outliners
Msg #:2777 (In response to 2661)
Prev/Next:2776 / 2778

Dave, Bernie:

There is this whole art of meeting facilitation.

My first glimpse was when BMUG (the Berkeley Macintosh Users Group) ran their weekly meetings in a lecture hall at UC Berkeley in the late 1980s. They hooked up a notebook with either Word or some other Mac outliner (what could it have been?) to a projector that threw its image on a 10 meter screen in the front of the hall. BMUG started each meeting with an agenda. As folks got up to speak in the business meeting, the scribe, typing what seemed a 100 words a minute, traversed the outline, expanded the appropriate section, created a heading, and then added notes as appropriate. All while someone was still describing the Mac they had for sale or the new product announcements from Apple or the next speaker. It was happening in real time before your eyes in front of everyone. Mistakes? Sure, but everyone saw them and they were corrected on the spot. When BMUG got a bulletin board, you saw these same minutes the next day.

The next place I saw facilitation done well was at Bechtel. They have a deeply developed structure for tackling big projects. One of their keys to success is in building a project leadership team and having that team develop clarity on the problem. They often facilitate these meetings with professionals (not usually the person at the keyboard) who

A really skilled facilitator, gear or no, was amazing to see in action. You could see these strangers who walked into a room at 0800 become focused on a goal and having the makings of a team that could rely on and work with each other by the end of the day.

Bottom line: it was 90% the knowledge, power, and experience of the person facilitating and 10% the toolkit. With less experienced folks, the tools are a vital crutch on our way to improving our understanding of small group dynamics, decision making processes, and other aspects of human behavior.

- Phil

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