The sadistic facilitator


by Paula K.Martin and Karen Tate, PMP, Contributing Editors

LET'S EXAMINE THE FACILITATION ROLE at each stage of the project process.

We begin at the kickoff meeting, the critical beginning of the team process when the group is just forming To set the proper negative tone right from the start, follow these rules:

1. Don't include an ice breaker in the kickoff meeting as this will allow group members to get to know one another better and feel more comfortable speaking up during the meeting.

2. Do as much of the talking during the meeting as possible, ignoring any questions that might be raised about the charter or the project process. The most effective way to squash a question is to respond with, “I already explained that. Anyone else have a question?” This is very effective in eliminating people's annoying habits of interrupting you to ask for clarification or having them question what you are presenting.

3. Don't create a team contract. A team contract allows the team to help manage the team process. It's better to ignore ground rules altogether so that team members aren't sure what behavior is acceptable and what behavior is unacceptable. When you determine you don't like someone's behavior, provide feedback that generalizes and ascribes motives to the person. For example, “You're always late for meetings. You must not care about the project.”

If you want to really mess up your project, here's the way to do it.

After the kickoff process, people should feel frustrated and confused about their roles. Now you're ready to move into the planning phase. Planning is more problematic because people usually want involvement. Here are some surefire ways of avoiding participation in planning:

4. Don't hold project-planning meetings. Instead, give people the impression that you're involving them in planning by asking for their input, but don't include those inputs in the project plan.

5. If you fail at Rule 4 and have to hold project team meetings, don't use any visuals, flip charts, or Post-it® Note exercises. This will ensure that only those people who are auditory learners—usually a small minority—will really understand what you are talking about. The visual and kinesthetic learners will be either bored or confused.

6. Try to limit people's participation in the meeting by using one or more of these responses to their ideas:

“You've got to be kidding!”

“That's a stupid idea!”

“And where did that bright idea come from?”

If just discrediting their ideas doesn't keep them from asking questions or raising issues, try attacking them personally: “Are you stupid or what?” will usually do the trick.

7. Unilaterally make decisions and ignore any attempts from the team to use decision-making tools that would lead to consensus. People will quickly get the message that their participation is not valued, and they'll stop trying to have a say in project decisions.

Now, it's time to move on to execution. A few more rules will get you through this phase.

8. Ask each person to justify each negative deviation from the plan. Ask “why” five times every time they offer an explanation for a deviation.

9. Take all the credit for any project success. Blame individual team members for any project problems.

10. Make sure that all communications go through you. Never allow team members to collaborate with each other unless you're involved.

A truly sadistic facilitator also should keep team members in the dark, should neither recognize nor reward individual accomplishments, and should never, never provide the resources people need to get the job done.

MANY PROJECT MANAGERS are being required to move from a directing or managing role to a facilitating role. If you are one of these managers and this role is new to you, we hope that you will know better than to follow any of these rules. What you need to do, of course, is just the opposite. Don't be a Sadistic Facilitator! ■

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Paula Martin and Karen Tate, co-founders of project management training and consulting firm MartinTate, specialize in team-based project management.They are also the authors of the Project Management Memory Jogger (available through the PMI Bookstore).A project plan template can be found on their web site: They can be reached at +513-563-3010 or +877-563-3010.Send comments on this column to [email protected].

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

October 2000 PM Network



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