This month’s Small Group tool is often referred to as SMART criteria.
Use this tool to clarify many/most of the components of a project and its assignments. The work can be completed on a sheet of paper, or on a flip chart filling in the data on Post-Its.
One great application is to use this tool as a brainstorming format which the employee and the supervisor fill out together. Both parties get heard. Let the employee lead the dialogue. Leaders may find employees set higher goals than you as a leader might have.
The purpose of this tool is to guide the dialogue to help the two parties learn and document what each really needs to know to feel confident that the project can be started and completed without a lot of micromanaging by the leader.
Add any criteria you’d want to see. I’ve added the last R, resources:
SMARTR with my preferred definitions
S:Stretch: Will this project help us attain new significant levels of performance?
M:Measurable: Is data available to objectively measure our starting point, monitor the project, and confirm successful completion?
A: Aligned: Does this project support the current company objectives and strategies?
R:Realistic; How feasible is success for this initiative?
T:Time bound: When will the project be done?
R:Resources: What (capital, cash, materials, people, etc.) will it take to complete this task?
A similar format from Intel went: who will do what by when, with success as measured by what?
In any case, determine the criteria for a well described project with the other party, and work together to fill it in. The format’s questions will lead your dialogue.
Smaller Group Collaboration Techniques Tips
The small group tools presented this and last month (AB See and now SMARTR) are most often used between two or three people, a smaller group. And as luck would have it because interpersonal issues often occur at this level, versus larger group, these tools are often used to redirect or diffuse unhelpful emotional situations that occur between people.
I also recommend if you find yourself apprehensive about a meeting, find another person you know to role play the discussion a few times before you begin the conversation with the person you really want to talk with. This builds both confidence and familiarity with what might happen. You can be more effective and less emotional. Copy and practice with the questions that follow. These questions will help you prepare your thinking and plan. Use them as you practice for your discussion. Do not wing it.
Tool Use Preparation Worksheet
The following questions are an example of a brainstorming format to help you prepare for a meeting like those described above. Spend the time necessary, preferably a day or two before an important meeting, so you can improve your chances for success.
Notice that you are targeting the behavior by inquiring about the thinking. The tool you select should help you and the other person(s) think more effectively towards your goals.
1. Situation (include type of conflict: perception, value, or need)?
2. What does the conflict looks like (behaviors)?
3. Goals, Measurements of your intervention (what’s a win for your intervention)?
4. Thinking (how are they thinking at the beginning and end of this intervention)?
5. Strategy, Process & Tools (choose AB See, or SMART criteria for example)
6. Debrief: How did it go? What will you do differently in the real situation? What will you do the same?
Remember you are using these tools to keep you and the other parties thinking intelligently, not letting the discussion go down the slippery, emotional slope. The tools you use will help you manage your thinking, and direct your thinking towards dialogue.
Another observation about using paper, flip charts, or whiteboards as the workspace for this type of conversation, and in larger group situations, I have observed having a neutral third place to look, vs. into each other’s faces, breaks eye contact and lowers the emotion level by keeping the parties focused on what’s important on the paper.
NOTE: if you think you’re moving into a potentially touchy situation regarding the possible emotional reactions of any of the conversation’s parties, I do recommend that you consult with you HR, and possibly Legal, departments to be sure what you plan to do is in your and the company’s best interest.
1. Associated Videos
2. Good Thinking Series – Part 2: Collaborate – includes about 50 collaboration tools
3. Visual Literacy Project – Periodic Table of Tools – roll your cursor over the issue and the supporting tool will appear.
5. Introductory video Interview John Canfield
6. Website: www.johncanfield.com and www.goodthinkingseries.com
7. Call or write 616-392-2634, firstname.lastname@example.org