A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Approaching the Session

Editor’s note:  In our final post relating to the workforce development meeting held at Marek Brothers Systems in Houston this year, Jim Kollaer writes about the process he used as facilitator of the meeting.

My approach to this session was based on these premises:

  1. Do no harm – I know that it is corny, but it is important to the work that I do to make the sessions as productive as possible.
  2. Positive actionable results – The session is not an end into itself.  It was designed to leverage their current state and help them develop a direction towards the future state.
  3. It’s their company – The key reason to bring in an outside facilitator to lead these sessions is that we can ask the hard questions, drill down on the uncomfortable areas, put the owners or leaders on the spot without worrying about our jobs, poke the box and generally get it done.  
  4. Everyone in the meeting is equal – Each person is entitled to be heard and their opinions are valuable to the dialog.  My job here was to make for certain that everyone contributed.
  5. No one dominates – In any group session, there are usually a couple of bullies who try to take over the action.  Sometimes it is the top person.  They want to make for certain that they get their way and if they don’t they sometimes act like a beaver and dam up the river so that there is no progress.  My job is to keep that from happening.
  6. Displayed thinking – I learned early in my career as an architect when I was working on complex projects, that if you could document everything, get it on the walls of the meeting room so that everyone could see it, touch it and feel it, that chance of success would be greatly increased.  We used that one here.


The Marek session was focused on their Houston operations, the largest in the company.  They had a team who had already been working on 5 year goals for the Workforce Development Plan.  My job was, first to make certain that they were really goals and not tactics, then to test them and to achieve buy-in from the team and help them develop an action plan for the next step.

One of the key techniques we used was to have everyone vote on each goal after it was vetted and discussed.  That accomplishes two things.  One, it gets commitment from everyone in the room.  Second, each of those goals that did not get 100% buy-in in the session was put on a “parking lot” for reexamination.  At the end of the session, each of those that were 100% were added to the ‘go forward” action plan and those that were not 100% were sent back to committee with the comments of the group to see what we needed to do to make them viable.

Another thing we did was to video it all, get interviews for the blog, and document the action.  Then our team edited it for review and use by the Marek team and by Construction Citizen.

This was a great session working with an outstanding company of dedicated construction professionals and we were honored to help them move forward with the issues important to them.


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