Twenty-one years – what happened?

Wow! It’s now been 21 years since I started my consultancy business. I’m feeling very privileged and grateful to still be around and continuing to work with fabulous people just like you…

Here’s a snapshot of my thoughts across the last 21 years and what we might see from here.

What was…

It’s January 2000 and my base is the ‘spare’ bedroom of our first home in suburban Perth.

The prime features of the house include a green concrete backyard and fake brown brick cladding. There’s no air con in my office, I have to scramble over the futon to get to the fax or bookcase and I need to unplug the phone line and put it into my laptop to get email and internet access. (Probably a time-saving scenario in hindsight!).

Admittedly, we do have an air-conditioner in our bedroom. For our first Christmas in the house we move the bed out and put tables and chairs in so our guests have somewhere cool to celebrate in the 38o heat!

In 2000, most of my facilitation and stakeholder engagement work is paper-based. Mountains of ‘butcher’s paper’, blue-tack, textas and post-it notes are used in workshops and arduously typed up afterwards. I have to be reasonably self-sufficient with travel as mobile coverage is limited to large regional towns. (Back when a phone was just that – a phone!).

Insights from 21 years in business

What is…

In January 2021 a change of house and office has improved our lifestyle substantially. About 80% of my work involves digital tech and I’m disturbingly dependent on good internet connection.

The main change I see in my clients is that they have less time available. Strategic planning workshops that would sometimes go for up to two days are now allocated four hours. Facilitation training that went for three days is now done in a day.

I have no issues with this, it just means I need to be more adaptable and use an approach that incorporates pre and post-workshop engagement of participants to ensure we get a result that has traction.

The other key change for clients is uncertainty.

Several restructures, amalgamations and relocations have caused angst and distraction for many. I’m reminded of an insightful quote from the unconventional marketing guru, Dan Kennedy, “People can muster courage and persistence and endure much suffering if they know or believe they know when it will end.” (I feel this when I’m running!). On a serious note, this says to me that if we’re involved in change processes, identifying the certainties and areas of control will be one of keys to helping people get through.

On the upside, uncertainty has seen increased awareness of the value of resilience above stoicism. It’s also helped a lot of organisations (including mine) to operate more efficiently than they’d ever thought possible.

What will be…

From a facilitation and stakeholder engagement perspective, our big challenge over the next few years will be to maintain engagement, connection and relevance in a highly distracted, digitally-focused world.

I see value in returning ‘offline’- meaning that we look for COVID-possible ways of connecting through face to face events and integrating hands-on activities to re-engage all participants in our work. Otherwise we may run the risk of our workshops and events being driven by the digitally agile participants, potentially sidelining people still finding their way in the tech world. (This is a major ‘note to self.’)

I also think that Donald’s ‘my way or no way’ politics have highlighted the massive importance of providing time in our work to encourage participants to at least listen to and consider each-others views and just sit with this. Not trying to change them or justify their own. In the background we as facilitators need to keep working to highlight areas of agreement, no matter how small they are.

From here I’ll be going forward using a ‘Solutions Focus’ approach. Getting people to be clear on the change they want to see and be part of. Helping them to identify what’s got them to their current point. Encouraging them to develop small steps to move forward, drawing upon existing talents and resources along the way.

Here’s the next 21!!!

Cheers

Andrew

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Andrew Huffer

Andrew Huffer has over 25 years experience in working with organisations, businesses, managers and communities and at a state, national and international level. He designs and delivers specialist engagement processes, with a focus on facilitating open decision making processes and skill development of clients. He has delivered presentations and workshops at a number of state, national and international conferences.

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Comments

  1. John Denton says

    Really good blog / article Andrew. I like your facilitation style and your writing style. In a recent survey of preferences for face to face workshops or online, you know the one, 66% voted for face to face sessions. So, there has been some shift towards online but the majority still like to press the flesh – so to speak!

    • Andrew Huffer says

      Thanks John – some interesting insights re 66% in favour of face to face sessions. Indicates it’s still a very effective approach to ensuring everyone is involved and heard in workshop processes. It’s something for us to keep working on in the online space as facilitators.

  2. Vinay Nair says

    Great point Andrew. I agree that facilitation is no longer about turn your video on… its about how do I stop checking emails when Andrew is talking and why is it relevant for me to be engaged rather than just being a bum on a seat. I also find that in the digital space filling out evaluation sheets has been more troublesome and how do we know that the feedback is genuine. A lot of more vulnerability from my side as a facilitator will help participants dive deep into wanting to gain clarity

    • Andrew Huffer says

      Thanks Vinay – yep, much of our role is in connecting participants with the topic and with each other to look for opportunities to resolve challenges and find an agreed way forward.

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