SHSMD 2017 Session Summary: Facilitation Bootcamp for Healthcare Strategists

SHSMD 2017 Session Summary: Facilitation Bootcamp for Healthcare Strategists

By Morgan Atkins


No surprise for a conference with a primary focus on education, SHSMD Connections 2017 kicked off with a couple of day-long intensive sessions. These focused learning programs are designed specifically to develop key skills identified in SHSMD’s Bridging Worlds: The Future Role of the Healthcare Strategist.

The Facilitation Bootcamp for Healthcare Strategists was led by Mari Pat Varga, President of Varga & Associates, Inc, author, communication strategist, coach, business thinking partner, speaker, and trainer. In this session, Mari set out to help attendees develop strong meeting facilitation skills and discover how to:

  • Run effective meetings or discussion forums where goals are met and decisions are made
  • Manage difficult or challenging participants
  • Listen effectively
  • Deploy brainstorming tools
  • Incorporate decision-making criteria
  • Achieve consensus
  • Engage your audience and encourage participation
  • Resolve conflict
  • Be assertive and “control” the environment
  • Negotiate on the fly

The main point driven home in this session was that meetings have should have a purpose that is clearly communicate beforehand. When a meeting pops up on the calendars of meeting attendees, it’s important that the invitation comes with an agenda and a well-defined objective. Otherwise, attendees will come unprepared because they weren't notified of the meeting purpose ahead of time.

Two other key session takeaways were that there must be an established meeting decision maker and meetings must end with a clear designation of ownership as to which parties will be responsible for executing upon the ideas discussed. Meetings are open opportunities for great ideas to be developed. Meeting attendees are often energized by the ideas shared and all agree that the ideas have great potential. But without a designated meeting leader and decision makersomeone who has the final say as to how to move forward it’s highly likely that ideas will fail to be carried out as there is no one responsible for follow through.

This can be a common issue when meetings are attended by a group of peers where no one has clear authority over the others in the room. In these situations, meetings can fail to achieve any real purpose as differing opinions stall discussion and productive planning.

Mari explained the importance of defining RACI: who is responsible, who is accountable, who can you consult, and who needs to be informed.

Additional takeaways for meeting leaders:

  • As new ideas are discussed, remain neutral and look for ways to translate ideas into solutions
  • Ask the quiet attendees their opinion and try to control the opinionated ones
  • Lean on your problem solvers, not your problem creators
  • Guide the meeting toward a solution

Lastly, a good meeting facilitator will establish ground rules such as the following:

  • Titles should be left at the door so that everyone in the room can have an equal say
  • No attendee can be selfish towards their department, role, or team
  • Look for solutions that lead to improvement of the greater good
  • Selfishness can’t drive strategy
  • Aim for consensus among the group so you have buy in and can actually bring the ideas to fruition
  • Encourage challenging ideas


The Takeaway

In the rapidly changing landscape of healthcare—where change is omnipresent, collaboration is essential, and open dialogue is critical—the ability to facilitate important discussions has never been more crucial. Whether you are trying to lead a group in dialogue, get people to come to consensus, forge a change, problem solve, plan, brainstorm, or simply align goals and objectives—strong facilitation skills are key to success.

This bootcamp was an indicator of how SHSMD Connections 2017 is setting out to address the current issues facing healthcare professionals through their interactive sessions and workshops. This was a great start to what promises to be a week jam-packed with thought-provoking insights and opportunities to grow.

The Facilitation Bootcamp for Healthcare Strategists was led by Mari Pat VargaIt took place on Saturday, September 23 from 8:00 AM–3:00 PM.


Article by Morgan Atkins, Health Strategist/GIS Specialist for Stratasan

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