Wolfgang Fänderl async video meeting facilitation
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Process Facilitation in timz.flowers – the Gardeners View

Process Facilitation in Async Meetings Wolfgang Fänderl

Wolfgang Fänderl has been an educationalist and facilitator since his youth. He researched counseling, moderation and participation processes at the University of Munich for Bertelsmann Foundation and works in different methods and coaching networks internationally (e.g., Change Handbook). His view on our asynchronous meeting tool is inspired by the garden metaphor of timz.flowers. He is fascinated by how this picture helps him understand the new methodical perspectives of the platform. His article describes the potential roles and attitudes of professional facilitators in time-independent video meetings.

Most Important Statements at a Glance

  • Some complex topics, discussions and team processes need a professional facilitator, a gardener in the metaphor of timz.flowers
  • The async group activities in these gardens can have different appearances, from romantic and wild to highly cultivated, depending on the style and intentions of the owner of the garden
  • As plants grow by themselves, discussions in asynchronous meetings can be very fruitful with minimal interventions by coaches, mediators and methodical architects in the role of a gardener
  • In contrast to synchronous meetings, where the presence of the facilitator is important, asynchronous meetings need the consulting gardener (landscape architect), especially in the preparation phase
  • The gardener’s role tends to be invisible, giving as much empowerment as possible to the owner and guests of the garden
  • One role of the facilitator could also be as a mediator in conflict situations, requiring a special kind of training
  • If fruitful results are intended to attract external audiences as passersby, this must be planned in advance
  • Not every garden needs a professional gardener, but it can bring added value to complex projects
  • Professionals can be invited to participate in the “Gardeners Club House” for deeper discussions on gardening tools and practices in timz.flowers
Process Facilitation in asyn meetings by Wolfgang Fänders

A walk through the English Garden Munich (Wolfgang Fänderl 2020)

“I Have a Dream”

Let’s dream for a few seconds. Imagine a wonderful garden in which you wanna recover, be creative or meet your family, friends and colleagues. What does it look like? Greek, French or English style, economic, ecological or organic, small allotment, city park or big cultivation field? 

What is growing? Grass, flowers, trees with leaves, blossoms and crops, water lilies in a pond

Who is living and working there, and what is your position in this garden? Passerby, guest, owner, gardener, landscape architect

Look at the inspiring picture, and tell others in this garden what you need to make your dreams come true!

A Gardener’s Picture

Why do I use the garden picture? TIMZ means “time-independent meeting zone.” The notion of the flower derives from the optical appearance of the discussions as blossoms in a child’s drawing. There are seeds and petals, combining short videos, comments and links. 

The seeds in the center develop petals around them, consisting of short video commentaries, recordings, and links. The contributions in circular form refer to each other and convey a dialogue, even with a temporal distance, which can develop in different directions and still remain comprehensible.

asynchronous virtual meetings in timz.flowers

Flower view of video discussion framed by lists of gardens, flowers and petals in chronological order

Supplemented by alternative views of the posts and the possibility to color code interactions, lively design variations result. Superimposed lists of gardens, flowers, and petals help the user orientate and search for similar contributions in terms of time and content. 

In the “Tree View,” as with the branching of a tree, the sequence of content and the focal points of the clips become obvious. All in all, it is a very stimulating, intuitive, and interaction-oriented platform for creating and viewing contributions.

Alternative Tree View of a video discussion, which makes the focal points and ramifications visible

In simple brainstorming sessions, these flowers usually develop on their own. But sometimes, the initiators of a discussion or – to stay with the metaphor – the owners or hosts of the garden have a different focus and process in mind. Then it’s time to sit down with gardeners or landscape architects.

Working for decades as a pedagogue, facilitator and coach, the working principles of a gardener are very near to my own professional understanding. In my master’s thesis, I referred to the grandmother of empowerment – Maria Montessori – who coined the sentence: “Help me to do it myself!” 

It is wonderful to see life developing, growing on its own, depending on the sun and water, using air and soil, interacting with each other in a natural ecosystem. 

One of the most important roles of gardeners is simply to be good observers. They have knowledge and experience about the processes of life, different organisms and matching opportunities. Gardeners are able to support and give shelter. 

Like facilitators, they know the time of sowing and harvesting, the chances and risks of springtime, summer, autumn, winter, or the rainy and dry seasons in other parts of the world. They can react directly, but they can also act preventively. And this is one specialty of timz.flowers: to support asynchronous intercultural interactions by design.

Most of the current meeting and webinar tools cannot work without the personal presence of the facilitator. timz.flowers helps the methodical assistant to empower the process without diminishing the self-efficacy of the interacting participants. Preparing the garden is the most important period for each gardener and each timz.facilitator.

Source: garden design, Dorothea Holdau, landscape architect

The Owner’s Attitude

When owners want to enjoy their garden, the best time is when the gardeners are absent. Of course, they are grateful for the professionals’ expertise, but when walking with other hosts and their guests, spades and construction vehicles lying around would rather disturb than inspire. They want to be the first point of contact for their guests; the service personnel remain in the background, however important they may be. 

Let’s look at the example of a company owner who wants to discuss and decide on the future strategy of their international company with their colleagues and partners. The restructuring is complex and significant and they seek the help of a process facilitator with timz.flowers knowledge. The needs are clarified, methodological options are considered, the asynchronous process design is determined and motivational videos are recorded as a starting point for dialogues with the participants.

The brainstorming process with division and branch managers begins with internal Research and Exchange Flowers. This is followed by Info and Brainstorming Flowers to reflect on scenarios with employees and suppliers and record requirements and results. 

The Recreation Flowers correspond to the event break, where private topics can be exchanged and personal contacts can be made. The video impulses in the “Garden of Change” come from company owners and management personnel; comments and evaluations are released to all participants. 

In the background, process facilitators help with structuring, timing, securing, and processing results. They are asked to make important thoughts, best ideas, and serious conflicts visible. 

Last but not least, the Decision Flower helps to reach a joint decision and the Presentation Flower communicates the restructuring inside and outside the company. 

The level of support provided by gardeners can vary and include different tasks, depending on the need and available budget. In the end, good gardeners try to make themselves as redundant as possible and pass on design skills to garden owners, hosts, and guests.

async meetings garden metaphor timz.flowers

As a suggestion the implemented planning (Dorothea Holdau, landscape architect)

The Guest’s Feeling

If you are invited into a garden, it’s up to you how far you are inspired to interact, be productive or just enjoy the arrangements. Isn’t it wonderful that others prepared the garden for you? 

They checked out suitable places and even dealt with disturbances, pests and vermin. In every case, you learn how to arrange beautiful interactive gardens, maybe for your own issues and plans.

async virtual meetings garden metaphor

Auguste Renoir: “Bathers in the Seine” (1869)

Following the invitation of the owner, visiting their garden and participating in interactions depends on your intrinsic motivation to do so. Guests should always have the feeling that it’s fun and useful to help the owner with inspiring thoughts, comments and questions, common decisions and further co-creations. 

A beautiful park lives not only through the gardeners’ design but also through the identification and constructive use by those present. Unpleasant noise, littered green spaces, and torn-off blossoms would be the opposite.

Some guests might be specially invited as fertilizers of the discussion. Their special knowledge gives impulses and direction to the process. They are VIPs, just like speakers and lecturers in a conference. Sometimes they are present only for their statement; sometimes they like to interact during the whole event. Sometimes they are voluntarily inspired by the garden arrangements; sometimes they have to be paid. Sometimes they feel like fish in the water among the other guests; sometimes they need a VIP launch.   

The gardener’s job is to prepare and supervise the process, mediate between the participants, collect and save the fruitful results. Gardeners have to find supporting stepstones as well as disturbing hurdles, and they have to deal with these directly or in consultation with the owner. Dealing with conflicts between participants in time-independent meetings needs special skills, but hosts can be trained.  

The guests feel their best when the gardener is invisible, and it’s pure enjoyment to walk and talk through the garden by themselves, especially as it is a time-independent process.

The Passersby View

The fourth group of beneficiaries of a garden is the passersby – neighbours, tourists and customers who heard of the beautiful garden and want to visit it. Perhaps they saw pictures, smelled the scent of flowers, tasted its crops. They wanna be part of the process and ask for an invitation. 

Passersby and interested people of a garden exhibition. (Source: BBH Singapore auf Unsplash)

The owner has to decide which parts of the garden are free, which are chargeable and which are private. Of course, this consuming group of people needs its own focus and strategy to deal with them. They need advertising and fences, shop window displays, prepared stands for paid products, open parts for recreation and a hospitable place to sip their coffee. 

The question of marketing and outcome of a garden has to be asked at the beginning of a garden’s design, not at the end. It should be transparent for all participants, and, more than that, it should be attractive! 

Facilitation at Its Best

timz.flowers is the ultimate tool for facilitators [French: faciliter] who want to make processes easy and themselves invisible. Planning a big garden – with flourishing plants and beautiful crops to harvest – needs a gardener’s know-how, of course. They have to match the needs of the co-creative owners, participants, and passersby. 

For me, as a classic facilitator, it was a real quantum leap in the early 2000s when I got to know supportive conference formats such as Open Space and BarCamp. With a few rules and clear tools, and after good preparation, I could remain in the background as a facilitator, and the processes developed dynamically and autonomously. At that time, I could transfer this basic attitude to the project procedure “Gemeinsinn-Werkstatt” and combine methods for voluntary cooperation processes with it. 

The Covid pandemic made me more aware of the virtual possibilities that internationally cooperating companies, spread across continents and time zones, need more urgently than before. The new quantum leap is away from the classic live event, meeting, or project with direct exchange to virtual, asynchronous meeting places for teams and interest groups. Here, too, intrinsic motivation can be brought to fruition, and creative collaboration can emerge. 

The asynchronous toolset of timz.flowers invite cooperation in an individual rhythm – to react to diversity and take out what is really needed. timz.flowers enables a garden of diversity, where I can sow and harvest, work and enjoy with others . . . very close to my needs. To make it work independent of time, it needs structure and design on a meta level, which can be supported by experienced gardeners and process facilitators.

My Offer

When initiating growth processes, please only use a gardener when a professional is needed. Not every garden needs gardeners. Many things can be done by trial and error – by learning from friends or reading books. But when entering a new field of work or when it comes to complex and large gardens with different participants, the know-how and the overview and experience of professionals can help to improve processes and avoid mistakes. Sometimes, a consultation at the beginning is enough; sometimes, it is necessary to accompany the complete season.

Not every garden expert is the same, and even here, know-how and working techniques change over time. At timz.flowers, we have set up the “Gardeners Club House” to exchange ideas with experts in facilitation, coaching, moderation, administration, psychology, pedagogy, communication sciences, and design and to explore the useful possibilities of asynchronous approaches. In this way, we can provide important feedback and suggestions not only to potential garden owners and hosts but also to the operators of the timz.flowers platform. 

If you need gardeners with asynchronous expertise, write me, and if you want to be part of the expert exchange: 

“WELCOME TO THE CLUB!”

Wolfgang Fänder Process Facilitator for async virtual meetings

Author

Wolfgang Fänderl, Päd. M.A., Wolf[email protected], www.WolfgangFaenderl.Net, Munich, Germany

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