help them to help themselves

Published: 14th March, 2014

Whether it’s business strategy, lessons learned or SWOT analysis there’s a way to achieve high-levels of engagement and leave the room with the opportunity for the group to continue to help themselves. Here are some tips from our recent experience of our own brand of ‘low dependency’ consultancy.


Firstly a couple of explanations on terms I’ll use below:

– By ‘low dependency‘ I mean providing value into a group or an individual where they can take both the outcome from your chat and also some new skills which they can apply themselves. You might be struck how that could reduce your ability to generate revenue from the relationship – and I would agree but I’m never worry about that! I’d rather be asked to do the same again somewhere else and keep things moving;

-When I say ‘thinking framework‘ what I mean is any kind of simple structure that represents the true essence of what is being discussed.


Ok so here goes – a mini-session plan approach to achieve it:

– impart enough of a thinking framework up-front- buy a bit of time by promising to bring the group back to the outcome at the end. Suggest that sharing this way of thinking and framework will get everyone onto the same page and provide a backdrop for a focused chit-chat around the topic;

– ‘sense-make’ of some early information- help demonstrate the use of the approach by using some early examples of information that has come to bear. This can be prompted by a general prompt but then use the thinking framework to show how it would interpret the new-news;

– ‘window sill facilitation‘- launch for the back of the room once you see early-adopters picking-up the thread and making it their own! Others will follow suit once they see some key players using it for themselves;

– put the content in an accessible framework– so that means in the centre of the table, the wall, a board at the front and/or some low-profile collaborative tech that means access can be relied upon following the session. I always go for BIG – so 4 flipcharts at least taped together on the back. We’re so used to A4 and flipchart sized formats the brain slips back into business as usual mode! Be prepared to leave it with the group rather than take it away- maybe with some opportunity to tidy-up, engagement is sometimes a messy business!

– the next intervention- be prepared to play catch-up when you return. If the group have truly helped-themselves then they and the group thinking will have moved-on. Be prepared to play catch-up to get yourself back upto speed and help with the next step.


Thanks to¬†Louis Harvey who reminded me how significant this value is your approach to client engagement. We’re doing more and more learning about the values of our practitioners and this was one of our themes we shared when I spoke with Louis,