Using Contextual Models as a Facilitator

Posted by Kristin Arnold on May 1, 2023

conceptual models

When facilitating a complex issue, I often find myself either drawing, introducing, or explaining a conceptual model to help sharpen the team’s thinking.

Let’s say the team is talking about their target customer.  The conversation may start with a bit of brainstorming and then the ideas categorize themselves.  The categories are then talked about in such a way as I hear terms such as “sweet spot,” or the “bullseye,” that’s when I’ll draw a rough version of a bullseye target and confirm (or deny) the categories.

Perhaps, during a conversation, they have settled on an “answer” and it seems that they need to think through the ramifications of their decision more thoroughly.  You can introduce a conceptual model to have a more robust discussion.  I like to use Kurt Lewin’s Force-Field Analysis where I draw this “T-chart” and the group determines the driving and restraining forces.

Finally, you might be observing a team dynamic and share a model to explain what you are observing.  For example, it is not uncommon for teams to embark on a new initiative with high hopes. Once they get into it, they realize it’s not as easy as they thought!  This would be a good time to share Bruce Tuckman’s model on the stages of team development:



I also show this corresponding productivity curve to assure them that what they are going through is normal and natural.  But they have to get through a few hurdles to achieve team success.

There are a bazillion models out there…many of them emanate from the trusty consultant’s two-by-two matrix. My favorite matrix is this quick decision matrix that enables team members to discuss two variables of an item:

So next time you are facilitating a robust discussion, try drawing, introducing, or using a model to help shape the discussion.


Recent Articles:

The Role of the Meeting Facilitator

Use a Contextual Model to Communicate Clearly

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KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.

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