Customer stories

How to facilitate an organizational development workshop for 700 participants

By Kim-Mikael Arima on Oct 21, 2016 2:30:46 PM

Take a public organization and its traditional annual Development Day. Pack 700 people in one auditorium and task them with work-related development goals to agree on for the next year. The obvious challenge for the consultant facilitating the show is to keep the audience engaged throughout the workshop. Digital facilitation platform Howspace helped make the Development Day an interactive and inspiring experience for all participants.

The facilitator’s challenge

When a big crowd sits in one room, gathered around an important topic, the good thing is that everyone gets to hear the same ideas at the same time, with no broken phones effect. But the challenge is, information typically flows one way only: The facilitator maybe marches two or three other speakers on stage, or there’s a panel discussion and a few questions from the audience. Yet at the same time 690 people sit still and listen. 

Challenge is, information only flows one way: the facilitator and a few other people talk, while 690 people sit still and listen

In an organizational development workshop where everything that’s discussed concerns the participants – the very employees of the organization - having them sit in in a listen-only mode just doesn’t make sense. So the facilitator thinks: How do I engage all participants, and not only mentally but so that their tangible ideas and input will be brought up and recognized? How do we achieve a two-way flow of information among a crowd of 700 people?

Howspace as an engagement tool

Our example organization is one that has offices in tens of cities. Hence the 700 people sit at different locations, doing largely the same work. Recently they had organized themselves into about a hundred or so teams that aimed at working more tightly together regardless of the individual members’ location. The organization now wanted to develop its processes and the teams’ ways of working. For its traditional, annually organized Development Day, everyone had travelled to the same place. They obviously wanted to make the most of the face time together, and they had hired a consultant to facilitate the workshop day. 

In the development workshop, Howspace served as an engagement platform that essentially helped the consultant involve every participant in the auditorium. Howspace added a great deal of transparency and collaborative thinking to the workshop day. 

At first, the consultant had different teams of the organization to collectively evaluate their team’s stage of maturity. The available choices ranged from 1 to 6, all described in a Howspace workspace that the participants had access to on their smartphones. Each team discussed among themselves and recorded their maturity evaluation through Howspace on the spot. The resulting distribution of maturities was immediately visible to not only management but to all 700 participants in the workshop.

The graphical results of the teams' self-assessment were immediately visible to all 700 participants in the auditorium

Next, the consultant had the teams discuss their knowledge and skills, and the gaps in them that most needed addressing. Again, the teams discussed and subsequently communicated their development ideas with their smartphones through Howspace. Within a moment, Howspace’s word cloud tool had the results summarized and visible to everyone on a big screen in front of them. A stir went through the audience in the auditorium as they could immediately see the development needs that stood out from their team discussions just a moment earlier.

Structure, transparency and inspiration to organizational development work  

Everyone knows that taking established organizations through major changes takes time and a lot of legwork. Consultants are often involved in the process to serve as experts, facilitators and extra resources. Yet they, too feel the pain of leading the project towards its goals in an organized fashion, while keeping all stakeholders involved and informed. Collective inspiration is a bonus that all organizations hope for.

For the CEO, his employees' visible enthusiasm was endorsement enough for the true value of Howspace

In our Development Day case, Howspace passed the test with flying colors. At the end of the workshop day, the organization’s top executive stood up, thanked everyone for a productive day – and promised to his entire organization on the spot that Howspace would be adopted as a collaboration tool for them to continue to work with in the future. For him, his employees’ visible engagement was endorsement enough for the true value of Howspace. 

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