Managing the Session Time

One of the primary responsibilities of the facilitator is to manage time during a session. I suspect however, that as veteran facilitators, we all have had issues managing time in a session or two, or three, or hundred! Try the steps that following for keeping your session running on time.


1. Use a detailed agenda with the duration, start and stop time estimates for each discussion item.  Below is a sample extract of a detailed agenda.

Plan Start: 9:30 AM

BASIC IMPROVEMENT MODEL-  B. How does the Process Work Today?

Plan Stop: 10:00 AM
Estimated Time: 30 mins
5 min (intro) + 10 steps@ 2 min + 5 min (close)

  • (Checkpoint) “We have just completed the introduction.  Our next step is to list how the process works today.  By doing this, we will all be starting from a common understanding before we move on to addressing the problems.”
  • (PeDeQs) “Let me give you an example.  If we were discussing the accounts payable function, one major activity might include ‘receive requests for payments from departments.’  What else might be included in the accounts payable function?”

–     Processing and distributing checks

–     Reconciling bank statements

–     Interfacing with the general ledger

–       Producing reports

  • (Starting Question) “Think about this process and the activities that occur on a regular basis.  Imagine that you are giving a new high-level employee a tour of the current process. You start at the beginning and walk through each step, each handoff within the process. First you are showing this person the things that happen early in the process.  Next you are showing this person the things that happen in the middle of the process, and finally, the things near the end of the process.  Let’s build a list of these steps…the order doesn’t matter, we just want to make sure we list all the steps.  What are the steps that occur as a part of the ….. process?”
    • Record responses on flip charts and post.  The items on the list should be numbered for later use.

2. Track the start and end times of each agenda item as the session progresses.

3. If the session is falling behind schedule, announce this to the participants and solicit their assistance in keeping their comments brief.

4. If the session continues to fall behind, set a specific time limit for each remaining discussion item.  Be sure to stick to the agreed-upon time limits.

5. Avoid the temptation to speed up. When we speed up we often cut discussions short which often ends up reducing commitment and buy-in.

6. Instead of speeding up, reduce scope: eliminate items from the agenda or make changes to engagement strategies used to allow for discussion in a more efficient way.

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