Have you ever heard someone – your manager, team lead, trainer, or teacher – give directions during an important group exercise, and afterwards, you felt more confused than when the person or session started? Facilitators must be experts at giving directions because the quality of their instructions often affects how well the participants understand, execute, accomplish results, and enjoy the activity.
We believe there is a science to giving directions that are accurate, clear, and concise – every time. We use the acronym “PeDeQs” to describe the process.
- State the overall Purpose of the activity.
- When appropriate, use a simple Example, outside the topic area, that helps participants understand how to complete the activity.
- Give general Directions using verbal pictures and gestures.
- Explain specific Exceptions and special cases.
- Ask for Questions.
- Ask a Starting question that gets participants visualizing the answers.
As an example, suppose you want the participants in the meeting to identify the problems that occur in the organization’s performance review process. Along with identifying the problems, you also want to identify the symptom and root causes for each of the problems. The table to be completed follows, along with a sample dialogue applying PeDeQs to give masterful directions.
- We will use this table to help identify the problems, symptoms, and root causes related to the performance review. (purpose)
- For example, if we wanted to drive our car, a problem might be a flat tire. The symptom might be that there is no air in the tire. The root cause might be that I haven’t put air in the tire for a while. What else might be a root cause? (example)
- Well, we’re not driving a car. We are analyzing the problems with our performance review process. Here’s how we will do it. First, we will list all of the problems. Then, once we have identified the problems, we will determine the symptom and root cause for each. (directions)
- Now, there are a few other things you need to know. While we are discussing problems, you may come up with a root cause. I will place it in the root cause list until we identify the problem related to it. Likewise, after we list all the problems and are talking about symptoms and root causes, you may mention a problem, and I will add it to the bottom. (exceptions)
- Any questions? (questions)
- Okay, think about our last performance review cycle. Consider the things that were real problems, the things that frustrated you, and the things that worked very poorly, took too long, or were just real concerns. Imagine the things that made you say, “There’s got to be a better way to do this!” What are some of those frustrating problems with the current performance review process? (starting question)
PeDeQs provide a systematic way to ensure that you give directions that are accurate, clear, and reasonably concise – every time. There are a few additional tips for giving PeDeQs:
- Before the session, be sure to create a bulleted list that you will use to convey your directions to the group. Once you have developed your bulleted list, ask yourself, “Where might someone be confused?” Add verbal pictures, examples, or analogies to further facilitate understanding.
- After you state the purpose, use an example or analogy to help the participants better understand what is desired. In giving the example, you start it (“For example, if we were cooking a turkey dinner, our problem might be a burnt turkey”), but let them finish it (“What else might be a root cause?”). This helps them better understand the process and gain ownership of the activity. Avoid recording their responses to the example, however; recording typically takes more time than is warranted.
- Make sure the example you use is entirely unrelated to the session purpose or content. An example related to the topic can lead participants into debating the accuracy of answers to the example!
- After describing the example, give all the general directions first for how the facilitated process will work. To avoid confusion, leave out any exceptions or special cases until all of the general directions have been given. (“Now, there are a few other things you need to know…”)
- Your starting question is the question that will begin the process. Because this is the last thing you will say to the participants, it has the greatest effect on whether their subsequent responses will be on track. Plan the wording of this question carefully. (As shown in the sample dialogue above, start with an image-building phrase, expand the image to the answers, and then, ask the direct question.)
Note that for complex processes, you will likely use all parts of PeDeQs. For a simple listing or brainstorming exercise, however, you might just give the purpose and then jump straight to the starting question.
Learn more facilitation techniques like this (plus hands-on practice) in our course, The Effective Facilitator. The four-day course provides a structured approach for leading teams and facilitating meetings and covers over 100 techniques for getting amazing results from groups.
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About the Author
Michael Wilkinson is the CEO and Managing Director of Leadership Strategies, the largest provider of professional facilitators and facilitation training in the country. Michael is a much sought after trainer, facilitator and speaker. He is a Certified Master Facilitator and a Certified Professional Facilitator. As a past president of the Southeast Association of Facilitators, the creator of the FindaFacilitator.com database and a board member of the International Institute of Facilitation, Michael is a national leader in the facilitation industry. You can get more tips from Michael’s books, including The Executive Guide to Facilitating Strategy, The Secrets of Facilitation, The Secrets to Masterful Meetings, and CLICK: The Virtual Meetings Book.