In a facilitated session, there are a number of agenda items to cover sequentially. Most participants don’t think sequentially, however. For example, if we were improving the hiring process, one of the early agenda items would be, “How does the hiring process work today?” During work on this agenda item, it is not unusual for participants to identify problems and potential solutions. Rather than tell a participant, “Hold that thought until we get to it later in the day,” you can record the comment before bringing the group back to the current agenda item—but you need a place to record it. Facilitators typically call these places parking boards.
Parking boards help you keep the group focused by having a place to “park” topics that don’t need to be addressed at the moment participants first bring them up. By “parking” the topic, you are telling the participant that the input was valuable and will be addressed later.
Types of Parking Boards
There are three standard parking boards that I include in most sessions that I facilitate.
- Issues List – Items addressed later in the session or outside the session that are not relevant to the current agenda item
- Decisions List – Decisions made by the participants during the session
- Actions List – Actions performed sometime after the completion of the session
While I recommend using these three standard parking boards, you might also include additional parking boards depending upon the nature of the session. As examples, for issue resolution, you might have additional parking boards called, “Potential Alternatives”. For strategic planning, you might have a parking board called “Potential Strategies”. For a process improvement session you might have a parking board called “Potential Improvements.”
Near the beginning of the session, and sometime after describing the agenda, you will want to introduce the parking boards and explain how they are used. For example:
“We have three parking boards for this meeting. If you have a topic that really should be discussed later or outside the room, let’s go ahead and put it on the issues list. For any decisions we make during the session, let’s place these on the decisions list. And let’s use the action list for specific actions that we identify that should be taken following the session.”
Finally, before ending the session, you will need to review the content of each parking board to confirm decisions made, identify actions to be taken, and ensure every issue has been resolved or moved to the action list.
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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.