ORID Can Light Your Way Through the Next Phase of COVID-19

COVID-19 ORID Banner

The Focused Conversation is the mega method underlying all of the Technology of Participation (ToP) methodologies. It helps the facilitator be very clear on what product or understanding you want the group to have as a result of your conversation. This is called the rational aim (RA). And somewhat unique to most methods, it is also very intentional about what the group needs to have as an experience when they go through a conversation. It is called the experiential aim (EA).

The word conversation is perhaps confusing because you’ll see this method consists of open-ended questions. But the overall result is a beautiful, respectful conversation.

Below are four conversations that are versatile in terms of who you have them with. They include the four levels of thinking of the Focused Conversation Method: Objective (O), Reflective (R), Interpretive (I) and Decisional (D). These are conversations that my colleagues around the world have suggested need to happen or are happening in their lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I specifically want to thank Mireille Beumer from the Netherlands, Robin Parsons from Canada, Rainbow Chow from Hong Kong, Farah Shahed from India and Joshua Voon from Taiwan for their brilliant suggestions of topics pertinent in their worlds.

I have deliberately included a lot of questions in these conversations because they are complex topics. You judge which questions apply to your conversation. You might only use 2-5 questions in each of the O-R-I-D sections, i.e. a total of 8-20 questions. I’ve also taken the liberty of showing you a few different ways to insert other processes into the middle of an ORID conversation, e.g. using small groups, drawings, self-reflection writing, several round robins (i.e., ask everyone to answer if they choose), consensus building, etc. As much as possible, I’ve tried to keep the framework intact and the process relatively simple.

If you’d like to get a copy of these conversations by PDF, we have uploaded it in our Facilitator Generosity Library that you can access here. You’ll find it located under the “Self-Development” category entitled “The ToP Focused Conversation Method”, along with dozens more resources.

By the way, the mosaic candleholders are ones I’ve made during COVID-19 to offer as gifts to my friends, neighbours and colleagues to light their way through this period.

What questions do we need to address before we all go back to work in our physical workspace?

RA: Gain clarity in the actions and attitude shifts that need to take place before we return to our physical workspaces.

EA: Feel excited and relieved that we’ve gained agreement on how to optimize the transition back to work.

Assumption: This conversation is for a single work team within a larger workforce or between the senior leadership team of an organization as they contemplate the move back to work.

Opening: Today we are going to take 60-90 minutes to think deeply about when and how we might begin the transition to have people return to this physical workspace. Let’s start with some factual questions and eventually we’ll get to a plan about how to transition back the workforce/ team

What percentage of our team or workforce is currently not working on site?

Go around: What have we heard employees who are working onsite say about their current situation? What about those working from home about their current situation?

What data do we need to consider about our production levels / markets as we think about the transition?

What guidelines are we currently following for the safety of our employees and clients?

What are the dimensions of our physical space?

What has surprised us about the way we have worked thus far since the COVID-19 shutdown began for us?

What has been most frustrating for any of our teams or workforce members?

What are the values we want to hold as we invite people back into the physical workspace?

What do we need to be sure to tell about our colleagues and clients about reopening?

What would be the impact of allowing any employees who want to continue to work from home to do so?

What will be the impact on those who have had to remain at work in our factory/shop floor to have more employees entering the building/workspace?

How might we ensure the safety of vulnerable populations within our workforce?

How shall we organize our office space given that we need to have 6 ft (1.5m) between us?

What are the first things we have to do to communicate our intentions?

Who do we need to inform first?

What information do we need to gather before we take any concrete steps?

What is one final question we need to address before we begin this process of opening up?

What is the earliest we think we can begin to have people return to work?

If we were to give this project of reopening a name, what would it be?

Who will lead which parts of this project?

When shall we meet again to review progress?

Closing: Please take a minute to share a word of appreciation for this team and the work that we have done to make things go well so far.

How can we use the digital space to guide important decision making going forward in the next phase of COVID-19?

RA: Identify specific IT platforms and communication guidelines to ensure everyone affected by a decision is involved and effectively engaged.

EA: Confident that we have a way of engaging all our stakeholders in this digital environment.

Assumptions: Most people in organizations will continue to work remotely for many months to come. This could be a conversation for a small workplace team or even families about how to make decisions from different geographical locations. The word digital means virtual or remote.

Opening: We’d like to have the ability to involve all the right people in some important decisions that we need to make over the next few months. Some people have more technological challenges in participating in our conversations and meetings around these decisions. By the end of our meeting, we’d like to be confident that we will be able to involve everyone in meaningful ways in digital workspaces.

Let’s each say a sentence or two about what digital meetings and/or conversations you’ve had in the last few weeks. Give 1-2 examples, especially where a decision had to be made.

What are examples of  “obvious to everyone” important decisions we have to make in the next few weeks?

As you think back on previous decision making conversations, who was not involved that should have been involved?

What have you heard from people who are technologically under-resourced or challenged about how they are managing in the digital world?

What have you heard from people who have adapted very quickly and easily to technology platforms?

What technological platforms have you experienced yourself over the last few months?

What are some other platforms you’ve heard other organizations use?

What has been most challenging about operating in the digital space?

What’s been most enjoyable about operating in the digital space?

If you were to draw a picture right now of what it feels like to be making important decisions in the virtual environment vs. the in person environment, what images would you draw? Take a few minutes to sketch what comes to mind. Make sure your sketch is not aiming to be artistic. Who would be willing to share their sketch and what you’ve noticed going on emotionally for you and others?

What specifically have some people/groups done to make the decision making effective in the digital environments?

What are some things we have not done that could make it more effective?

What do we normally do in face-to-face meetings that helps us be effective in our decision making? How could we translate those effective strategies into the digital environment?

How can we also make the decision making a more enjoyable fun process in our digital environment (since we tend to be serious in our digital meetings)?

What is a first important decision we need to make in the near future that we could try to do better than in the past?

How shall we plan this decision-making meeting more carefully than we have in the past?

If we consider this to be a pilot project, who would be willing to lead this knowing this is an imperfect prototype?

What support do you need to make this go well for you?

What digital platforms shall we use for this pilot version of enhanced decision-making?

Who do we need to invite to this meeting to ensure all perspectives are considered?

What do we need to do to make everybody digitally ready for it so they can engage to the best of their abilities?

When shall we meet again to test our prototype before the meeting?

Closing: Let’s go around the room to share one word that expresses your experience of this meeting and/or your hopes for this pilot project.  Feel free to pass.

How might we sustain any positive changes that we have experienced during COVID-19 in our work and personal lives?

RA: To build on any positive behaviors, attitudes, knowledge gained in the first stages of COVID-19 and apply those to the next stage.

EA: Be amazed and pleasantly surprised by the hopefulness and ingenuity of our organization/family/community during these challenging times.

Assumption: There has been agility, resilience, thoughtfulness, generosity, and kindness witnessed in our world and sometimes we lose sight of this when we are under stress.  This conversation is meant to be for a small or large group as a way of ensuring we capitalize on “the silver linings”, i.e. all the positives that arise out of a negative situation, of COVID-19.

Opening: Welcome everyone to this very important conversation. We’d like to take 30-60 minutes to really notice some of the good things that are happening as a result of the COVID-19 response. We want to encourage ourselves to hold on to these good things and turn them into the new normal wherever they make sense to do so.  We are going to invite each of you to think in the large and small groups about how we can sustain and increase any positive changes. We are deliberately taking an appreciative approach to this conversation. We will not be asking you about unskillful behaviors or actions related to COVID-19.

(First round robin question) What’s one good thing you have noticed going on in our family/work team/community/organization since the full impact of COVID-19 began to be felt? (no right or wrong answers, and feel free to pass, or we can come back to you at the end of this first round)

(Second round robin question) Let’s do another round of specifically good behaviors you have seen in people, different than the ones we’ve named so far.

Let’s do one last round of positive policies or decisions you have observed by any organization, family or community in response to COVID-19.

(This is deliberately the last O level question because it may start to move people into R level thinking). What are we noticing now that is positive that you may have never noticed before?

In pairs, move into virtual breakout rooms and each share two stories of positive stories that you have  heard/ seen experienced to respond to COVID-19.  It could be an act of generosity, kindness, a personality/ habit change in yourself, a personal goal you’ve set, a work ethic, etc. Be sure to share one thing when you come back to the large group. (Note: Below – we share a video on how to do Zoom breakout rooms in the Resources section; it can also be done with Microsoft Teams)

Once back in large group, let’s hear a total 3-4  examples of positive experiences or stories that you shared in your small groups.

As you’ve heard these stories, what else comes to mind in terms of a positive experience that astonished you in terms of its magnitude of change or generosity.

What else has been inspiring about these positive shifts?

What  are the positive lessons we have learned from COVID-19 in our work or our community?

Take 3 minutes on your own and write down 5 behaviors or decisions/guidelines you’d like to be sure to continue in yourself or the organization/community. Star your top 2.

Meet in small groups of 4 if there are enough people in the room.  In the small groups, each share your top 2 positive changes that you want to see sustained in the next phase of COVID-19. As a group, decide on three key ones you want to share and submit in the Google doc link, or using sticky notes inside Miro, Mural, etc. (See resource es section below)

Back in the large group, let’s review all of the ideas and read them out loud. Which of these ideas are related to each other?

If we were to merge some of the ideas and describe them as a general strategy or policy, how would you phrase them? Let’s choose a “ing” verb to start the phrase, e.g., Identifying, envisioning, welcoming, encouraging, etc.

As we review our draft final list of strategies or positive attitudes we wish to sustain, what would you be most proud to take forward to the rest of our organization/community/team/family?

Who will most benefit if we enact any of these changes?

Just to be sure, who might not benefit from these changes? And what does this suggest we add, if anything?

How might these positive changes move some of us out of “coping” behaviours  into thriving behaviours?

How will our personal and professional health change if we are successful?

What is a creative and/or artistic way we could community these positive behaviors that we wish to sustain?

Who would be willing to make a first draft of these statements in an artistic way? Who can support this person?

How shall we review and finalize this draft?

How can we ensure and encourage these new behaviors moving forward?

Closing: In summary, please think about which of these behaviors stand out to you as new and transformative for the way we want to go forward. Feel free to share very briefly. Thank you very much for taking the time to reflect on all the good that has come out of this difficult situation.

What are all of our perspectives on the safest way to open up our economy and/or our business?

RA: We understand there are many ways to proceed that can result in a balanced perspective between safety and economic prosperity.

EAs: Encouraged to open up to others way of thinking and surprised by the new breadth and depth that has been uncovered around this topic; Motivated and committed to be more curious and ask more questions of those with perspectives very different from our own.

Assumptions: Depending on your generation, class, race, religion, gender identity and other constituency groups you belong to, each of us will have a very different, and often strong opinion about when and how to open up to our previous ways of operating. This set of questions is intended to help you begin to have these conversations with groups and family members that you regularly spend time with. Its intention is to also bring more harmony and less dissonance in the ways we move forward to open up the economy. We are assuming that this is a difficult, potential conflictual discussion that people are avoiding.

Opening: I’m curious about what you’ve been thinking lately about opening up public spaces and businesses for this phase of the COVID-19 situation. Would you be willing to have a conversation with me so that we can better understand each other and perhaps find a way forward that honours and acknowledges all the perspectives in the room?

Everyone answer this if you wish. What is the current state of opening where you live? Let’s each say one place or business that is newly opened in your country, city, county?

What are some places that remain closed that you used to visit frequently?

What are some places that have remained opened that you normally go to every week or more?

For the places that have been closed, what have you done instead to replace this want or need?

What information have you heard from various health authorities/scientists/disease specialists about how we should proceed as we move more out into the world?

What information have you heard from economists, policy makers and key leaders about how we should proceed as we move more out into the world?

As you think about the strategies you or others have used to deal with a loss of a favorite activity or outing, what surprised you about the way you or others have managed this new normal?

What’s frustrated you the most about the COVID-19 situation prior to any non-essential businesses opening?

How have you noticed people behaving as places and businesses open up in this next phase?

What’s been delightful about how people have responded as some of the places that have opened up?

What’s been most worrisome from a safety point of view?

If you were in the vulnerable population, i.e. elderly or health compromised, what would you want to have in place to ensure your safety as the economy opens up?

If you were healthy and not vulnerable, what would you want to be sure happens for your own economic and personal well-being?

What do these two lists of needs have in common?

If you were a leader of this community or organization, what would you say is essential to do to keep opening the economy in a safe way from a health point of view?

What is one new thing that you’ve learned or one new perspective as a result of this conversation?

What will you do differently as you think about having a conversation like this with someone you are scared to have the conversation with?

What’s a phrase to sum up what this conversation has been for you? What is  a slogan to remind people of how to be towards one another knowing that each of us has different needs?

What is one action or commitment you are willing to make with the group right now to honor the perspectives of everyone in your part of the world as the economy opens up? Please write that phrase down and post it in the chat box or virtual sticky note provided.

Have each person read their commitment if they are willing.

Closing: Thank you very much for staying respectful and open during this conversation.  It’s a difficult one we need to have at many levels in our society.  I look forward to continuing the dialogue with you in the near future.

Other questions for which we thought about designing ORIDs. Try one now using this template examples above.

  • What is our narrative around the entire COVID-19 experience now that restrictions are easing up?
  • How might we keep working from home for months to come?
  • What are the key things different groups from our society need to happen to keep practicing safety in this pre-vaccine COVID-19 era?


Zoom  Links for Managing Small Groups in Break Out Room

Getting-Started-with-Breakout-Rooms: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/206476313

Managing-Breakout-Rooms: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/206476313-Managing-breakout-rooms

Host and Co-Host roles – Note: only the host can set break out rooms! https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362603-Host-and-co-host-controls-in-a-meeting

YouTube Video for Creating Break Out Rooms in Microsoft Teams

Online ToP Courses

ICA Associates Canada – open to anyone anywhere:

ICA Taiwan – ask about their online versions of the course – just starting…http://www.ica-international.org/top-facilitation/

ICA – USA (inquire about dates or run a course in-house): https://www.top-training.net/w/courses/16-virtual-facilitation-online

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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