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3 Training Techniques That Turn Large Teams Into Decision Makers

Michael de la Maza

Published

We’ve all been part of a group training session where you walk away feeling like your time was wasted. More often than not, you may have found yourself in a room with a lot of people who felt the same way.

It’s close to impossible to have a productive group discussion when there are 100 people in the room. When a training group is too big, employees don’t have a chance to participate, and few are able to have their questions raised or concerns voiced. That leads to a work culture where people don’t feel empowered to make decisions, a crucial skill that defines good teamwork.

If your company has a large number of employees, it’s imperative you learn to adopt specialized training techniques that allow everyone the opportunity to contribute. 

The end result is employees that become valued, confident decision-makers.

Change your approach when training a large team.

At Heart Healthy Scrum, we assist people with developing effective ways to train large groups. Bigger teams can be so diverse, it’s difficult to find an approach that works for everyone.

Over the years, I’ve also found large training groups equals more distraction and dissatisfaction. When employees aren’t engaged in meaningful activities, it often means less productivity, reduced motivation, and individuals that don’t feel like they’re part of the bigger, decision-making body. 

As a result, companies end up wasting time and money—especially when they use outdated, boring teaching methods.

The next time you have a group training, ditch the traditional lecture or PowerPoint pitfall. Instead, find a teaching method that focuses on the participants by allowing employees to learn together.

Here are three of my favorite training techniques to try with large groups. They’re fun, interactive ways to teach your team new skills while empowering them to be more efficient policy-makers. 

1. 1-2-4 All

One of my favorite techniques is 1-2-4 All. With this structure, you “engage everyone simultaneously in generating questions, ideas, and suggestions.”

While there are several variants, the basic technique is four rounds:

  • Silent work by each participant. Timeboxed to one minute.
  • Work in pairs, building on the ideas from the silent work. Timeboxed to two minutes.
  • Work in foursomes, building on ideas from the pair work. Timeboxed to four minutes.
  • Each foursome shares one idea with the entire group Timeboxed to five minutes.

The goal is to create an open conversation that unfolds naturally, while actively involving every person in an equal manner to reach a decision. 

2. Silent Work

Rather than have everyone communicating openly, another technique requires absolutely no talking. Instead, it’s a “silent” team-building exercise. 

You can start by asking your group, “What is our biggest issue?” Next, give everyone a few minutes to think about a problem. Ask them to write down their thoughts on sticky notes, keeping the specific task in mind. For example, ask them to write down why that issue is important. 

Next, have each employee place the sticky notes on the wall. From there, everyone works together to sort the notes according to what they feel is most relevant, important, or useful. 

During the exercise, there’s no discussion. This lets team members see where they agree or disagree with others. In addition, the “problem” isn’t one person’s idea—everyone actively participates.

This is a fast and effective way to get employees working together to identify challenges while making decisions as a group. 

3. Have a co-facilitator 

Every large group training session can benefit from facilitators—people that guide or direct individual teams during discussions or exercises. 

These are the people who prompt participants with questions or conversation starters. They also monitor the group activity to ensure everyone has a chance to talk or share their ideas. Of course, having more facilitators also allows for more groups with fewer people, which gives each attendee more individualized attention and time to participate. 

Co-facilitators work extremely well when there’s specific domain knowledge being discussed. If the primary trainer has no experience in that particular field, it’s really useful to have an employee as a co-trainer because someone will use some term that they’ve never heard of.

If you have a large company, or have recently scaled-up to a larger employee base, it’s time to rethink your group training. When you make the jump from 5 people to more than 50 people without evaluating your group training model you risk ending up with disgruntled workers. 

In my experience, employees don’t dislike team exercises. What they don’t enjoy is not being able to make the decisions that allow for positive change and growth.

Co-founder, DemingWay.com. We help people learn agile more effectively and at a lower cost. Previously VP of Corporate Strategy at Softricity (acquired by Microsoft in 2006) and co-founder of Inquira (acquired by Oracle in 2011).

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