Navigation Center Systems
Proper Sponsoring Improves the Probability of a
by Joe Sterling and Bryan S. Coffman
The sponsor holds a
principal stake in the successful outcome of the session. The sponsor
always participates in the session as well. In some organizations the
sponsor occupies a managerial or formal leadership position among the
group of participants. In other cases, the sponsor is the team member
best able to set session objectives, contribute to the design, and help
prepare the read-ahead. Such an ad-hoc sponsor assumes sapiential leadership
and derives authority for his role from the team itself and from his vision
of the team's work. Sponsorship is often unsuccessful when merely delegated
by the principal stakeholder.
The sponsor fulfills several responsibilities:
Venue: General Criteria for Using the NavCenter Environment
Every gathering of two or more people in an organization need not occur
in a NavCenter environment. These environments are better suited for some
kinds of sessions than for others. We do, however, advocate the application
of the 7 Domains® model to any interaction in an organization. Here
are the general criteria for conducting a session in the NavCenter facility.
Each session request should be judged on its own merits:
- A commitment to work with the NavCenter Rules
of Engagement. The NavCenter system operates under a unique
philosophy--part proven, part always experimental. A mix of ten such
rules is currently being tested. The test is only made viable by applying
the rules with rigor and consistency.
- Stable relationship of three: facilitation from the front,
middle and back of the room has been identified.
- Straw dog design: the session has a design that includes
outcomes, agenda items (content) and a process for bringing the
group through Scan Focus and Act.
- Stepping up: Sponsorship and facilitation support is
- Circle Up: A pre-session circle-up, or walkthru is conducted
to establish or finalize the design (with facilitation team and
sponsors in attendance), and a post-session circle-up settles next
steps and provides feedback.
- Invitation to work: Arrangements are made to prepare
the space before the session to best support the design, and reset
the space following the session.
- Real artists ship: A system for documenting the session,
filing it in the knowledge base, and distributing the documentation
products within hours or a day of the end of the session is put
- Sapiential leadership: Within the context of the session,
there is no rank. This does not strip managers and leaders of their
responsibility or authority, but extends the responsibility for
creating good problems and solutions across all of the participants.
In healthy sessions, managers and leaders usually find that they
must champion their ideas like everyone else.
- Being there: All participants, sponsors, and facilitators
agree to provide their full attention to the session during design,
implementation and follow-up, without interruption. They also agree
to strive for a level of candor during the process.
- Five or more participants in the session. Smaller
groups may conduct design work on their own in the NavCenter environment's
smaller collaborative spaces but should still follow the rules of engagement.
- A minimum duration of three hours--four to eight hours may
be better. Many groups enjoy having a block of time in which
to design--time unfragmented in the way that most of our work days are.
This amount of time makes it easier for the group to progress through
the entire Scan Focus Act model,
discover options, engineer alternatives, make decisions by design instead
of forcing consensus or invoking a zero-sum solution like voting. As
a general rule, the broader the scan, the more time required to process
the results and bring the group back to a viable design decision. Also
as group size increases, the time required to synthesize information
- High leverage or content critical sessions receive priority.
If the outcome of the session is likely to have a significant impact
on the momentum or position of the larger venture, then a fully-supported
session in the NavCenter environment is appropriate. Of course, chaos
theory reminds us that it's sometimes difficult to determine what is
critical and what isn't! Therefore, sessions that have interesting objectives
and strong designs should be considered regardless of the nature of
- Team dynamic condition: While the use of the NavCenter
environment is encouraged, it isn't forced--that would violate the "Stepping
Up" rule of engagement for participants. Most people should have
no problem suspending judgement for the first several sessions they
attend. But it simply makes more sense to use the space for people who
like working in the space in the first place and are willing to learn
to take advantage of it.
in the Design
A depiction of the 10-Step Knowledge
Management model is provided for reference.
Sponsors and the facilitation team conduct a Walk-Thru
for several hours a few days before the session to craft a design that
includes clarifying the objectives and outcomes, identifying key components
of the body of knowledge that need to be presented or made available as
read-ahead or during the session (this is commonly referred to as the
"agenda" or content of the session), and selecting processes
that will allow the group to best fold the body of knowledge together
to achieve or exceed the outcomes. Logistics such as set-up, provision
for food and drinks, and the level of support are also handled during
Written assignments accompany many of the processes, particularly those
in which participants work individually or in small teams. Writing good
assignments--formulating good questions--compels the designers to further
their understanding of the vision and outcomes of the session, and makes
in-session facilitation easier and more effective.
The sponsor also knows the participants better than the facilitator usually
does, and aids in determining team assignments break-out groups will be
of Facilitation Support for Sessions
The "stable relationship of three" rule of engagement requires
that all sessions have support from the front of the room, the middle
of the room, and the back of the room. The following table outlines the
different roles that can be played from each position.
||Description of Roles
|Front of the Room
|Middle of the Room
|Back of the Room
It's possible, but usually undesirable, for a single individual to handle
all three roles, and such sessions are strongly discouraged from taking
place in the NavCenter environment. However, two people can handle the
session with a video camera set on a still, wide-angle shot so that most
of the activity and all of the dialog can be captured. One person plays
the role of Sponsor in the group, and the other individual serves as a
The Front of the Room
Always have a provision for facilitation from the front of the room--particularly
wall scribing. Scribing allows the participants to focus on the issues
displayed in a common format. If participants keep their own notes to
the exclusion of scribing, then each records something different, and
they may all agree about something for which they actually have no agreement.
If the group uses the walls interactively (not simply having the scribe
passively write or draw) then they'll be playing from the same sheet of
music. The group should feel free to interact with the scribe--the sponsors
in particular--not to deliver dictation, but to clarify, refer to, add
to and work with the information. Often the scribe can also serve as a
facilitator, although it's good practice to divide these two roles when
The Middle of the Room
The sponsor occupies the middle position as a participant who is also
fully aware of the design for the session. Since many sponsors are also
managers or leaders, they can play a coaching role as a participant and
can also promote or inhibit interaction.
The Back of the Room
The written documentor does not take sketchy minutes but records ideas
and discussions in a time-based infologged database so that the information
may be employed later as reminders or for the purpose of creating synthesis-style
A lap scribe documents the session using techniques such as mind maps,
flow charts, or diagrams similar to what a wall scribe would do. However,
the lap scribe is more free to create at leisure during the session since
his information is not directly accessible by the participants.
A videographer captures the session on video tape. A good videographer
with quality equipment can even handle wall copy.
The production lead is an individual
responsible for assembling, proofing, infologging, filing and distributing
whatever work products are created during the session. For small sessions,
the documentor or wall scribe is usually the production lead as well.
All members of the facilitation team should be familiar with the terms
of art that the participants in the session may use.
Knowledge Before, During and After the Session
The facilitation team--the production lead in particular--handles the
logging, storage, and distribution of the design, read-ahead and documentation
of the session. In a fully-functioning knowledge management system, feedback
is routed directly to the K-base and the sponsor. The sponsor should still
track the progress of any documentations throught the system as a check.
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