Extraordinary Team Blog

Stop Beating that Dead Horse!

Posted by Kristin Arnold on January 31, 2012

Have you ever had someone keep bringing up the same topic?  Like a dog with a bone, he just won’t give up?  Worse yet, the topic gains momentum, has been discussed to death, and the group just can’t let it go?  Not that I want to mix metaphors, but the group keeps beating the dead horse….

Naw, that doesn’t happen, does it?  Oh yeah.  It does.  That’s one (among many) reasons you have a facilitator in the room to ensure the group stays focused and on track.  One of the best ways to gracefully intervene to keep the dogs and horses at bay is to use the humble flipchart.

A simple, yet elegant tool, it allows you to capture the comment the first time it comes up, and then you can refer to it along the way.

A few years ago, a fellow IAF colleague of mine, Ned Ruete, came up with a list of the top ten things to do with a flipchart:

  • Write it down and hang it on the wall.
  • Work on one issue at a time.  Let the group choose and work the issue.
    Write it down and hang it on the wall.
  • Agree on how to work on that issue.  Tap the group wisdom for how to work before offering your own process.  Write it down and hang it on the wall.
  • When someone offers an idea, write it down and hang it on the wall.
    If they offer it repeatedly, point to where it is, written down and hanging on the wall.
  • If someone attacks a person for a “dumb” idea, ask them where the idea is written down and hanging on a wall.  Move to it.  Move the discussion to the idea, away fro the person who offered it.  If additions, qualifications, clarifications, or pros and cons are offered, write it down and hang it on the wall.
  • When the group is discussing, voting on, or coming to consensus around a solution, write it down and hang it on the wall.
  • When the group moves away from the agreed-to issue, go to where you wrote it down and hung it on the wall, call their attention to it, and give them the choice to change the issue, go back to the one they agreed to, show how this one affects the one they agreed to, or put a time limit on the digression.  Whatever they decide, write it down and hang it on the wall.
  • When the group moves away from the agreed-to process, go to where you wrote it down and hung it on the wall, call their attention to it, and give them the choice to change the process, go back to the one they agreed to, show how this one affects the one they agreed to, or put a time limit on the digression.  Whatever they decide, write it down and hang it on the wall.
  • When someone says, “We ought to _____,” find out who will.  Then write it down and hang it on the wall.
  • Before breaking up, find out when the group will get back together.  Write it down and hang it on the wall.
So don’t forget to write it down – there are so many ways you can acknowledge others’ ideas and move the discussion forward!