Facilitating Questioning, Criticism, and Dissent for Performance Improvement

And Performance Improvement can simply be Mis-Communciations with Less Variation

Back to that in a moment.

I read a LinkedIn post by Mark Britz the other day – here – and had to respond. And then I adapted my response further…

Mark’s post/comments – below – had me revisiting the Communications Behaviors that I learned from Neil Rackham (of SPIN Selling fame) in 1981, a few years before the book SPIN Selling came out.

PI Ain’t Easy and No One Said It Would Be

PI – being Performance Improvement.

Determining the Ideal Performance and the Gaps is hard enough – but then deciding which Solutions in a Pareto sense make sense and will address the Performance Targets well enough is “way” harder, IMX.

Here’s a bigger picture – the Big Picture of EPPI in fact…

Side 1 of 2

Side 2 of 2

Now – I know – it’s ALL ABOUT THE DATA – and its Accuracy, Completeness, and Appropriateness.

And that can be gathered and validated using more traditional means – such as Interviews, Observations, and Document Reviews.

Or by a Facilitated Group Process – which is generally a preference.

But in truth – it’s usually accomplished via a blend.

But – when using the FGP… in any communications one-on-one or small-to-large groups – use these…

Communications Behaviors

I’ve written about the following 4 Communications Behaviors (and a couple of additional ones beyond these 4) previously, over the years (decades) as they were extremely impactful to my communications style:

  • Giving Information
  • Seeking Information
  • Testing Understanding
  • Summarizing

You can probably imagine immediately how these might fit into training for Sales and Negotiations. There were other Communications Behaviors in the SPIN Selling model and a slightly different set in their Negotiations Training, circa 1981.

Giving Information
The “giving information” communications behavior is straightforward and important. When facilitating EPPI Processes, giving information is the place to begin. Generally, you may need to first give some information before you “find things out,” but you should soon be shifting gears into the next type.

Seeking Information
The “seeking information” communications behavior also is simple. It’s typically in question form, either
open-ended or closed-ended, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.
Knowing how you balance these first two types of communications behaviors is important in assessing your success and failure as a communicator, but nothing beats the next communication behaviors.

Testing Understanding/Summarizing
The “testing understanding/summarizing” is actually a combination of two behaviors, but I often combine
them to simplify their use. However, they are different.

Testing understanding is making statements or asking questions for the purpose of testing what you think
you’ve just heard or what you think you know. Most of us know this as a form of “active listening.”
One of the best ways to test understanding is to paraphrase what was said. Putting it into another set of
words, rather than simply parroting it back just as you heard it, allows the sender to better check your
receipt of their message. If you parrot it back, all we know is that you remember the words. The further your paraphrasing takes the original words away from the words you use, the easier it is to test for understanding.

It is also best to be somewhat declarative of what you’re doing when you test understanding. I often
announce, “I am testing here” and then make a statement or ask a question. Then listen for the response,
and always read the clues and cues of nonverbal facial and body language. You can also say, “Let me see if I’ve got this. You’re saying that x, y, and then z. Is that right?” Work on your own set of phrases to test
understanding. Play with it!

The second part of this behavior is summarizing. Again, it’s best to provide your own clues and cues to your group. Say, “Let me try to summarize this,” and then do it. If your words stray from the original (but not too far), then it’s easier for the group to react

Summarizing is very much like testing understanding, just done in a different mode. You are looking for
feedback from the group that you are either right on, just off, or way off. Again, don’t let your ego get in the way! I tell groups, “As a facilitator, I can’t be afraid to be wrong because it’ll slow us down. In fact, I’m often wrong. So get used to it! Your job here today is also to correct me and keep me on the straight and narrow path!”

Testing understanding and summarizing are critical to ensure that we understand the meanings behind the words that others are using. As a colleague of mine once remarked: “It not just semantics, it’s always

Testing understanding and summarizing helps us receivers comprehend the intent of the message sender.
Testing understanding can be a very powerful tool for a facilitator. (Of course, Socrates used this technique way back when, so be careful! Watch out for hemlock.)

*** See the PDF on FGP below for more ***

3 Past Posts on these Communications Behaviors

And my previous article from 2000 titled:

“There’s No Such Thing As Communications…
…only Mis-Communications”

That article is available via this 2011 Blog Post – here – as a 4-page PDF.

Mark Britz

Part of my inspiration for my next book “Structured Social Learning” was the work of Mark and his co-author James Tyler – and their recent book “Social By Design.”

My Video from June 2021 with Mark about his (and James Tyler’s) Book: Social By Design

Check the book out on Amazon – here.

And see Mark’s profile on LinkedIn – here.


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