The documentation from a facilitated session serves as the official record of the results of the meeting. We believe that it is the responsibility of the facilitator to gain agreement from the participants that the information documented during the session represents the official record of the session. In this way, the participants tend to pay closer attention to ensuring that all key information gets recorded during the session. After the session, the facilitator has the notes transcribed, edited and distributed to all participants.
What should be included in the documentation for a facilitated session? Outside of the logistical and operational items such as who attended, agenda, ground rules, where and when the session was held, etc., we believe that it is important to document four items in particular.
1. Decisions made during the session
We recommend having a parking board for documenting decisions that are made during the session. Anytime the group reaches a decision, the facilitator should note to the group that a decision has been made and record the decision on the decisions list.
2. Actions assigned during the session
Likewise, anytime the group identifies an action that needs to be taken after the session, the facilitator should record the action on the actions list. Near the end of the session the facilitator should review the action list and ask the group to identify the person who should be responsible for making sure each action occurs. The person who takes responsibility for the action sets the date by when the action will be completed.
3. Outstanding issues as a result of the session
In addition to decisions and actions, the facilitator must also be alert to identify times when participants are discussing issues that are outside the scope of the meeting or the current discussion. The facilitator should point out to the group that the issue is something that may be important to discuss but is off focus from the current topic. The facilitator should get agreement from the participant(s) to record the issue on the issues list and then redirect the conversation back to the topic at hand. Prior to the end of the session, the facilitator should review the issues list to ensure that all issues are either resolved or moved to the action list. Technically, therefore, there will be no outstanding issues to document in the session notes.
4. Relevant analysis and comments made during the session
As the participants progress through the agenda, the facilitator will record comments that are made and analysis that is done in the session that pertain to the topic under discussion. Relevant analysis and comments that contribute to decisions should be included in the session documentation. Note that with facilitated sessions, the goal is for the group to have ownership of the decisions, issues, actions and analysis. Therefore, it is important NOT to identify in the documentation who made a specific comment unless it is critical to the discussion.
The final documentation will also include notes added by the facilitator to add clarity or build context for the reader. Consider putting notes added by the facilitator in italics to differentiate these notes from information provided by the participants.
What follows is a sample of the documentation from a short facilitated session.
The Hiring Process Improvement Team
The Hiring Process Improvement Team held its first meeting on xx/xx/xx, from 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM. The session was held in Conference Room A. Attending the session were the following:
- Robert K.
- Jamie B.
- Tony H.
- Joe R.
- Anna H.
- Karen L.
- Sandra R.
Jeff C. served as the facilitator and documenter for the session. The following are the meeting notes from the session. Items appearing in italics indicate information added by the facilitator for clarity or to provide context.
The overall team objective is to improve our method for identifying, interviewing and selecting candidates.
- Getting Started – What are the most important topics to discuss?
- How does the hiring process work today?
- What are the problems with the current process?
- What are potential improvements?
- Prioritize the improvements
- Develop an implementation plan
- Review and close
During this meeting, the Process Improvement Team discussed agenda items A, B and C.
A. What are the most important topics to discuss?
The participants were asked to identify the key items they wanted to ensure were discussed during the session. These items are listed below. Throughout the process we will be coming back to this list to ensure that all topics are covered.
- The overall duration of the process
- The quality of the candidates hired
- The turnover rate
- Increasing the level of involvement from the hiring departments
- Saving money where possible
- Finding ways to access resumes of good candidates not hired in a prior search
B. How does the hiring process work today?
After discussing the most important topics, the participants outlined the steps in the current hiring process.
- Department identifies need for personnel
- HR assists department in writing position description and requirements
- HR assists department in posting position and placing ad
- HR reviews resumes to select candidates to interview
- HR interviews candidates and selects finalists
- Department interviews finalists and selects person to hire
- HR prepares and sends offer letter
- Candidate negotiates/accepts offer letter and start date
C. What are the problems with the current process?
The participants reviewed each of the steps in the current hiring process and identified the problems that occur.
- Position descriptions take too long to write
- Department wants greater involvement in selecting finalists
- Money wasted placing ads for positions filled internally
- Don’t save resumes of good people whom we previously interviewed
- Overall process takes too long
The team will meet again on yy/yy/yy from 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM to continue its work.
The following is an ongoing list of decisions made by the team, with the date that the decision was made.
- The hiring process begins when a hiring department identifies a need and ends when HR receives a signed acceptance letter from a candidate, pending acceptance by the sponsor. (xx/xx/xx)
The following is an ongoing list of actions to be taken outside of the session, along with the date due and the person responsible. When an action is completed, it appears in the next meeting notes as “done” and is then removed from subsequent meeting notes.
- Get agreement from the sponsor for the start and end of the hiring process. (Robert K., yy/yy/yy)
- Document and distribute the session notes. (Jeff R., zz/zz/zz)
To learn more about facilitation skills, consider 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.
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.