The One Stop Shopping Tool


Ever since I started facilitating 25 years ago, I’ve come to rely on scanning tools to help me begin well with a group. We all have some of these tools I am sure. They are called environmental scan, trend analysis, wave analysis, wall of wonder, journey wall, historical scan, lessons learned exercises and story telling.  I’m sure there are other names.  But for the sake of simplicity I’m going to call this “my magic tool”.  I’d like to tell you why I use this type of tool so much and share a few stories about how profoundly helpful they can be to a group.

When I Use The Magic Tool

These are code words I hear my clients tell me that make me think this tool will be useful to them:

  • “We’ve had a lot of staff turn over and at least 50% of the people coming to this event will be relatively new to the organization.”
  • “We’ve never done a strategic plan but we have been successful for the last 10 years and we want to make some big changes.”
  • “There have a been a few issues related to staff management relationships.”
  • “We are facing significant change, severe cut backs in our funding, and we don’t know if we’re going to survive in the long term.”
  • “There are many members of our team who are blaming each other and we have a morale problem.”

How can one tool handle all these really different situations?  It actually is pretty miraculous but what I find is when people have more context for why things are the way they are now, their thinking becomes clearer and more strategic. Often the result of knowing what has happened in the past both inside and outside of their organization and/or team, they can stop blaming each other and look for the systemic causes of their pain.  Looking at the past and then using this knowledge to plan for the future is the key reason this tool works.

How I Have Used the Magic Tool

Imagine you are with the client for your initial assessment meeting.  You’ve heard some or any of the phrases from above or some strong references to the group feeling somewhat lost or ungrounded.  You might then sketch out and describe some kind of scanning tool that you know that will help them look at the last year, last 5 years, last 100 years… depending on their situation.  Then you also ask them what has been going on in their field of expertise, e.g. environmental policy making, electronic manufacturing, prison reform, etc.  Likely they will be able to tell you there have been many changes in both their organization and within their field.  As they share some of these changes, they also begin to see how an environmental or historical scanning tool will be helpful to the group in reducing anxiety, and acknowledging big changes and moving forward with more confidence.  If they are sold on using this as an exercise with the group, your next step is to choose one of the many variations of tools that you already know or that we will share below.

Quick Story on the Successful Use of the Magic Tool

I was facilitating a group that had told me they had staff/management relationship issues.  We started with the historical scan and in the middle of it someone mentioned a particular incident that they termed as the “Frasier Incident”.  When I as a facilitator asked someone to say a little bit more about that, the group went dead silent.  Eventually with a little coaching one person began to talk about the significance of this incident.  That then led to a whole series of dramatic story telling where everyone was able to listen to each other carefully.  The end result of starting this exercise (we never finished it) was that it gave enough safety for the group to talk about something that management had not handled well.  The group was remarkably more joyful after we had had this conversation.

Helpful Links

Here are some other links you may find useful pursuing or you can use your preferred way of doing historical scans.

Live 1 Day Training – Around the USA
Environmental Scanning Approaches
Explore 10 ways of using this tool

Also… you may find these links helpful or complimentary….

Creating a Wall of Wonder with the ToP Environmental Scan (PDF):

ToP Wall of Wonder:

Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

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