There’s a term used in Education I’d like to introduce you to as I think it may be relevant to your work as a Project Manager – it’s “Formative Assessment”. As a teacher one thing you need to do is ensure your class if understanding and following your lesson. Similarly in business we all strive to make ourselves understood. But if you are like me there are situations where your audience doesn’t get the full depth and meaning of the subject you are trying to convey. Studies in education into Formative Assessment may help us out here.
The term means assessing as the lesson is in progress, rather than assessing after the event. The obvious way this is done by teachers is to ask questions – I know you are thinking you can’t be asking your boss questions but there is a little method in my madness. Studies of classroom situations found that on average teachers wait on average only 1-2 seconds before expecting an answer, either answering the question themselves or moving on to another pupil. The problem with this practice is that the expectations is set amongst the class or audience that a simple fact is sought, rather than any deeper level thinking.
The recommendation to teachers is to set the scene by saying something like “Take 5 mins to think about…” I think you can do a similar thing in business in your workshops. When you need to generate ideas or examine something a little deeper, have the confidence to arrange breakout sessions in pairs or small groups. No need for lengthy breakouts as 10 to 15 minutes just sets the right expectation. Any longer and you are indicating that you expect a validated idea, any shorter and you are not allowing time to move beyond the obvious.