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Sequential Questioning Technique for a Group Facilitator

Group Facilitator
May 30, 2023 10:15 am

The Sequential Questioning Technique is a powerful diverging tool for facilitating group discussions and gaining perspective on differing viewpoints. This process allows for the testing and challenging of assumptions at various levels, from a macro to micro perspective, and can be useful in a variety of settings.

One of the primary benefits of this technique is that it creates energy within the group and encourages participation. By posing questions and asking for agreement or disagreement, it encourages people to think critically and share their thoughts and perspectives. This can be especially useful as a warm-up for a strategic discussion, as it helps to set the tone for an open and honest conversation.

In addition to creating energy and encouraging participation, this technique is also useful for testing assumptions and gaining insight into common or differing opinions. By analyzing the outcomes of the session and defining key assumptions that could impact those outcomes, it allows for a deeper understanding of the issues at hand and can help to identify areas of agreement or disagreement. This is especially important in situations where certain assumptions need to be tested before moving into a more critical discussion, as it can help to ensure that the group is on the same page and working towards a common goal.

To use the Sequential Questioning Technique, follow these steps:

  1. Analyze the outcomes to be achieved as a result of the session and define 5-10 assumptions that could have an important impact on achieving those outcomes. Consider acquiring assumptions from all members of the group, including cultural, historical, and strategic perspectives.
  2. Order the assumptions from a macro to micro perspective. This could include organizing them from a strategic to tactical level, from an organizational to a departmental perspective, or from senior management to junior staff, depending on the needs of the group.
  3. Establish norms and some safety guidelines to ensure that participants feel safe to speak honestly. These could include statements such as “all ideas count at this point,” “we are not striving for consensus but rather seeking to gain insight into common or differing opinions,” or “everyone must participate.” Be prepared to enforce these norms to ensure that safety is maintained.
  4. Pose each assumption as a question and ask participants to agree or disagree and explain why. If anonymity is a concern, consider using a poll or breaking the group into smaller sub-groups to allow for more intimate discussion. Have sub-group facilitators report out the results and scribe new ideas on a document for refinement and synthesis during a large group debrief.
  5. Use the results of this technique to inform any following discussions. Identify any common or differing perspectives and consider incorporating these insights into the conversation.

Overall, the Sequential Questioning Technique is a valuable tool for facilitating group discussions and gaining a deeper understanding of differing viewpoints. By encouraging participation, testing assumptions, and fostering a safe and open environment, it can help to ensure that the group is working towards a common goal and making informed decisions. So, it is a very effective tool for a facilitator to have in their toolkit.

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