Away with ground rules

I came across a post this morning that proposed a list of ground rules for meetings of a particular network of people.  The list was a long one and I felt quite flat by the time I read to the end.  They felt very command and control, leaving little room for personal responsibility.

As a facilitator, I have left ground rules behind.  Apart from not being too fond of the term, even setting up “agreements for working together” has lost its shine for me.  I’d like to get a conversation going – what’s your experience as a participant and/or a facilitator?

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney- business and strategic planning – team conversations

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7 comments until now

  1. Posing a #facilitation question. Away with meeting ground rules What say you?

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  2. I’d also give a big thumbs down to groundrules. Way too much like being back in school, and who are we as facilitators to impose any set of rules?

    Group agreements? I still find these useful. Not necessarily a long drawn out formal process, but something to remind any gathering of people that working co-operatively, in a safe and respectful space, enhances the experience of working together, opens up the space to more participation and generally allows us to be the best we can be. And for me that’s what a group agreement is – the group making explicit the ways in which everyone can contribute to creating a safe and respectful meeting environment.

    On a practical note, for me, it also depends on time. Negotiating a consensual agreement with a large group can take a while and is too much for a 2 hour meeting, but may be fine for a 2 day meeting….

    Thanks for starting the conversation. It’s a good topic to chew on. I’ve seen some very prescriptive behaviour rules emerge from explicit group agreements which may, in some cases, close off opportunities for expression and understanding. I like the idea of an invitation to participants – one that leaves people in choice as to how they respond and contribute. Lynn

  3. I also don’t use “Ground rules” anymore as a terminology, and depending on the group and where they are in their development process (new to experienced) I might do away with it altogether, or do a light paired conversation as a reminder using an appreciative frame like “What will it take for me to walk out of this room and say ‘That was a great workshop”?” and then share some of those things in plenary. If it is a new group and if I am anticipating any issues or dynamics that might be counter to our purpose, then I have used the “Freedoms” frame in the past to have a discussion or brainstorming about group norms (What are some of our Freedoms as we work together over the next 2 days”) This seems to be more energising than trying to tell people what they shouldn’t do.

  4. I find as a facilitator that a small number of groundrules that remain visible during the meeting works well. These can be used to set the tone of the meeting e.g. is it fast paced or reflective and means I can just point to them to nudge things back on track. Also I find if the rules are visible the group will start to self police after a while. I’ve never used more than about 6 groundrules, otherwise I can see that things could become very stilted

  5. Thanks to @GillianMMehers @aschwa1 and for joining the conversation – Away with ground rules

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  6. Just read an article by Daniel Hunter of Training for Change on Groundrules in Turning The Tides latest Making Waves. It reminded me of this post and might be of interest:

    Thanks so much for sending this link. I have had a first read and will go back and spend some time with it. This article pushes my thinking on letting whatever happens emerge so it can be witnessed and acted on by the group. Cheers and thanks again. Lynn

  7. I think there’s another way to think about ground rules – as a way to explicitly give people freedoms that they often don’t believe they have.

    Here are the four freedoms (ground rules) I use at my conferences:

    1. You have the freedom to talk about the way you see things, rather than the way others want you to see.

    2. You have the freedom to ask about anything puzzling.

    3. You have the freedom to talk about whatever is coming up for you, especially your own reactions.

    4. You have the freedom to say that you don’t really feel you have one or more of the preceding three freedoms.

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