How Graphics Facilitate Strategic Work

Posted by on Feb 16, 2016 in blog, Graphic Facilitation, graphic recorder, Graphic Recording, scribing, visual facilitation

There are two general terms for translating a meeting discussion into visuals in real-time:

Graphic recording – the meeting is captured by a graphic recorder, who is dedicated to listening, synthesizing, and organizing the content into visuals and text.

Graphic facilitation – the meeting is facilitated by one person who simultaneously uses graphics to help guide the discussion and organize action items. Often pre-designed charts are used – these large scale templates help focus the group.

I operate as a hybrid of the two – graphic recording the discussion, and closely involved in planning the graphic templates that will help guide the discussion. For example, most of my work is strategic planning with boards and executive teams. This includes working through complex discussions around mission, vision, values – intangible items that at first seem simple, yet are so crucial to the direction of an organization and difficult to pin down. Which is why a hybrid of graphic recording & graphic facilitation is the most valuable to strategic planning work.

This hybrid approach means I’m working closely with the meeting facilitator in the weeks leading up to a strategic session. We plan the best way graphics can support the meeting depending on the objectives, the stakeholders in the room, and the difficult discussions that might come up. There are numerous templates that can be used to help guide the group and ensure the focus remains on the “big picture.”

graphic facilitation layouts

Planning layouts for a strategic session — these rough sketches are refined with input from the meeting organizer and/or facilitator.

Visual Template for Graphic RecordingA simple template used to help a group focus on concrete actions during the coming year. The above template is free for download and use in your next meeting!

Of course, graphic templates are designed for what will work best for the group. The same approach won’t work for a multi-million dollar pharmaceutical company as it does for a small non-profit organization (see my recent blog post on designing metaphors for strategic planning).

The meeting benefits greatly from this hybrid approach. The facilitator is supported by carefully selected graphic templates, and he/she can focus completely on guiding the group through their work. Meanwhile, the graphic recorder is dedicated to deep listening & synthesis of the discussion, but has a much more involved role because of the pre-planning with the facilitator and customized graphic templates.

As one of my clients recently remarked, “it’s the difference between tacking on graphic recording last-minute and getting a “pretty picture” at the end of the meeting, versus having the graphic recorder deeply involved in the objectives, with a keen understanding of the issues. I was floored by the difference this made in our strategic planning!”

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