If you’ve ever been in charge of leading a group or facilitating a workshop, you probably know that framing is one of the most important skills of the convener. Framing is what we do when we set up an activity, give instructions, or lead participants through a series of questions to arrive at a conclusion.
A friend of mine once said that every word that one utters before a group should matter. In other words, there should be no verbal waste. Besides avoiding the typical umms, ahhs, you knows, and other speech fillers, good framing involves choosing words carefully and precisely so that they allow the people in the room to focus on the content of the discussion, not the extraneous language that can cause process confusion. Those who frame an activity or discussion well also evoke a sense of clarity around purpose, process, and outcomes.
Purpose provides people with the reason why they are being asked to do something, and what will be different because of it. If people understand purpose, they are more likely to adjust their behavior along the way to help achieve purpose.
Process covers the steps, methods, or ways we ask people to meet the purpose. This is the part of giving instructions that we most often consider, but that we must most carefully word to avoid confusion.
And finally, outcomes help others understand what to expect when they have undertaken an activity or engaged in the process. Sometimes facilitators choose to focus on outcomes during the debrief or large group discussions at the end of an activity.
Purpose, process, outcomes. These are keys to framing conversations and activities effectively.
Arthur Lerner says
Apt blog entry. Great pointers for some, good reminders for others.
I would make one addition/exception as regards the third point about outcomes. I have found that when facilitating an event that has several (hopefully thoughtfully sequenced) modules, it is sometimes useful not to state an outcome. Sometimes participant activities are stepping stones toward building a more coherent or interated understanding that fits in with the session’s overall outcomes. In such cases, I often conclude a segment by asking them to share the (interim) outcomes (especially if they are process related), make a comment if they’ve missed a key one, and then use that “debrief” as segue framing to the next activity.