IN THIS ISSUE
Control Self-assessment: Defeating the "Killer Bees to Group Dynamics"
Learn how to conduct a productive and successful control self-assessment by avoiding and defeating five common issues — the "Killer Bees to Group Dynamics" — that can ruin even the most well planned CSA workshop.
PETER HUGHES, Ph.D., CIA, CPA, CITP
DIRECTOR OF ORANGE COUNTY, CALIF.
During control self-assessment (CSA) workshops, issues often surface that must be addressed before a group's energies and insights can be harnessed. Like a swarm of killer bees, these issues can attack and be fatal to your workshop. The five such "Killer Bees to Group Dynamics" include:
- Lack of clear purpose.
- Lack of ground rules.
- Lack of candid input.
- Lack of consensus.
- Lack of a final product.
If a workshop falls prey to killer bees, it can be difficult to end up with a session that successfully addresses its goals. A facilitated workshop can help CSA professionals address — and conquer — the most common killer bees.
A CLEAR PURPOSE
To tackle the first killer bee, the facilitator should: 1) State the workshop's purpose and goals at the beginning of each session; 2) Describe the biggest obstacles in achieving the stated objective, as well as ways to meditate or eliminate those obstacles; and 3) Discuss the secondary benefit the group can expect, such as how the workshop will reinforce teamwork and teambuilding. If a meeting has clearly stated objectives, participants are more likely to understand what they're working toward and be inspired to achieve a tangible goal.
The CSA facilitated workshop should follow ground rules for interacting and participating that are founded upon proven rules of civility. To avoid awkward and possibly contentious situations, the group should agree to observe the ground rules and support the facilitator in enforcing them. Eliminating this killer bee, lack of ground rules, will help keep interactions positive, constructive, and depersonalized. Obtaining consensus to support the facilitator at the beginning of the workshop is critical to achieving the team's objective. For any group with divergent viewpoints and staffing ranks, it is critical that the group selects and recognizes a “bee keeper” who can gently and humorously guide the discussions in the direction of constructive and impersonal observations.
Lack of candid input or participation is a killer bee that can bore holes into a workshop's foundation. Obtaining candid input is essential to assessing objectives, risks, and controls. The use of anonymous voting devices can be helpful in drawing out participants' real thoughts because the fear of being judged or receiving retribution from management is alleviated. Participants often rave about how liberating anonymous voting is and how critical it is in soliciting their honest and real assessments of a process. Throughout the session, it also is useful to remind the group that capturing the impressions, insights, and positions of each participant is crucial in being able to meet the workshop's objectives. Numerous workplace studies have shown how rarely employees voice their concerns or disagreement with management. In fact, the occurrence is so rare that specialized seminars are offered to address this issue. A likely reason employees might fear speaking up is because they lack the ability to frame their observations constructively so that management feels supported rather than attacked. The combination of the anonymous voting feature and ground rules in facilitated workshops often neutralizes this fear.
If the lack-of-consensus killer bee attacks, the workshop results may be skewed, making it difficult to generate a final product. The use of software to capture the group's comments and votes in real time can be an invaluable technique in facilitating a workshop. Vote tallies immediately shown on the projector screen reflect the group's genuine opinions and feelings. Validating the vote through discussion prior to finalizing the group's opinion and generating the final product is a powerful tool to override group thinking or an intimidation factor that may be present. More often than not, a workshop participant will be very outspoken and opinionated. This actually can be a good way to seek group consensus by drawing out other participants' viewpoints with well-timed questions from the facilitator, such as "Who can empathize with this statement?" or "Does anyone else feel this way, and if not, why?" These questions can put the group at ease, generating impersonal and constructive perspectives.
THE FINAL PRODUCT
To swat the final killer bee, CSA workshops should yield a final product, which helps the facilitator and participants feel confident that they have achieved their objective. One way to achieve this product is to capture the entire session electronically and print it out in report form at the end of the workshop. This process validates the effort of each individual, as well as the expenditure of staff time for this endeavor.
Facilitated CSA workshops can be a valuable tool that helps staff and operations work more productively and efficiently, and helps the organization achieve its business goals. The ability of the CSA process to address the typical reasons for failures on group projects makes CSA a predictable and effective managerial and audit tool. By stating a clear purpose; establishing ground rules; encouraging and gathering candid input; achieving consensus; and helping produce a final product, the facilitator can defeat the "Killer Bees to Group Dynamics" and conduct a successful assessment.
Peter Hughes, Ph.D., CIA, CPA, CITP, has served as the director of internal audit for the Oregon University System, the California Institute of Technology, the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, and Orange County in California, as well as the director of finance and accounting for CBS Inc., and the acting controller for the California Institute of Technology.