Vision Support Groups

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This is a simple & effective group design that is very useful to do regularly with a small no. of people who share any identity (eg. work in the same project, take same roles in different projects, etc.)

The design of this group flows from the work of Robert Fritz, "The Path of Least Resistance" - one of the recommended books for this module.



Description

from the Productive Meetings Manual

Vision Support Group makes use of the methods Think and Listen and Go-Round.    Each person in a small group of three to six people has the attention of the other group members (using Think and Listen no-interruption rules) whilst they take a turn to answer the following four questions or adapted versions of these questions. 

Each person’s turn is equal in length and is timed.


Q1 What is going well for me as a ...............?

Q2 What is difficult for me as a .....................?

Q3 What are my long term goals and visions as a ...................?

Q4 What are my next achievable steps towards these visions and goals?


The "as a ........." space provides each group with a particular focus suggested by the common characteristics of the members of the group. 

That is, if the group are all men, Didcot residents, and interested in their local environment, for example, then the "as a ........" could combine these characteristics to come up with, for the first question, "What is going well for me as a male resident of Didcot who is interested in my local environment?" and insert the same phrase in all the others.

Or, less complex but with a different meaning, would be the formulation "as a male resident of Didcot"

Or , alternatively, "as a man interested in my local environment" Other variants are possible.

Each variant changes the potential outcomes of the Vision Support Group. 

Imagine the effect of using different variants yourself by listing three or four of your key characteristics and running through the questions, answering them from the aspect of the different combinations of characteristics. 

There are no limits to the variants possible.


A Vision Support Group is not generally intended to provide material for wider distribution although see Applications below.

 As in a Think and Listen the contents of a Vision Support Group are confidential unless the speaker chooses otherwise or the facilitator says beforehand that feedback is required.



Why it works

Vision Support Groups give people the space to think out loud on the topic of visions and long term goals (see Working With Visions). 

Most people have very little opportunity to think in such an expansive way in their normal lives and this method gives people practice at these strategic activities.

All the benefits of Putting Aside Time to Think, Equal Opportunities and Interruption Free Proceedings also accrue when using a Vision Support Group.

The capacity to work in this strategic way increases significantly with practice. 

The practical benefits which appear when people act on their Next Achievable Steps are evidence that speaking intentions out loud is an effective method for turning visions into reality.

Each of the questions is included for a number of reasons:

"What is going well for me" causes the speaker to think of positive aspects of their situation and reminds them of their capacity to do well. 

This is a valuable first step which opens proceedings in the opposite way to the more usual form of leaping straightaway to the difficulties in life. 

The habit of complaining first is deeply ingrained for most people and the Vision Support Group method always seeks to stand this tendency on its head.

"What is difficult for me" now takes place in the context of the thoughts expressed in the "What's going well" question. 

This reduces the power of difficulties to hold a person back from realising their visions. 

However, having the opportunity to share difficulties, especially in a group with strong common characteristics, is always welcome and both the speaker and the listeners gain fresh perspective as a result.


Now the preparations have been made for attending to "visions and long term goals". 

This is a rare opportunity and experienced users of the Vision Support Group methods relish the scope afforded by the question. 

Speaking out a vision or working to verbalise a long term goal helps people to prepare the ground for making changes.

When the speaker works with "What are my next achievable steps" they are seeking practical steps they can take which will move them towards realising their visions and goals. 

If these steps are enacted real progress for change is made. Even if they are not, practice in working out achievable steps is useful for when the participant is next thinking about making changes. 

Note that the emphasis is on my next achievable steps and not on identifying steps that others need to take


Challenges

People may have some difficulties engaging with their visions and long term goals. 

This is sometimes due to feelings that only special people, visionaries, are allowed to work in this way. 

Or earlier attempts at vision work may have been put down as idealistic and unrealistic. 

When people are working with the Vision Support Group they may find it useful to notice that they are reclaiming their right to imagine the world as a better place, and that their imaginings are as valid as anyones.

Allocating time for Vision Support Groups in a busy, achievement oriented culture is often a challenge. 

People may need some convincing that spending time on this is valuable. 

But they can only experience that this is so by giving the process sufficient attention to derive the considerable benefits available from this method.

Working with this method means that no-one is required to justify their visions nor are they required to know how they will bring about their vision beyond identifying the next step. 

People used to forward planning may find this incremental approach, in which the identity of step two emerges only after step one is complete, especially challenging.


Applications

Use as an element within a meeting or a larger event to ensure that each person meets at least part of their individual agendas.

The Vision Support Group method can be used by participants in a meeting to generate ideas for joint work. 

Alternatively Vision Support Groups can enhance the potential of members of a group to act in their own right on projects of their own choosing. 

People agree to give each other support for working at making changes to their own home, social and working lives but do not agree to work together on a particular project.

Groups interested in outcomes can collect the next achievable steps each participant generates and archive these. 

Later meetings can monitor progress and report on successes as they occur. 

This reporting allows a wider audience to observe the action generation that flows from a Vision Support Group.

Vision Support Groups are useful when people want to be involved in a network but are already fully committed with their own initiatives. 

This way they don't pick up any extra work to do and come to feel valued and supported in the work they are already doing. 

Being part of a Vision Support Group helps rid people of the feeling that no one cares about what they are doing.


The Vision Support Group method can be used on its own to establish Support Groups which meet regularly (e.g. once a month or once a quarter for a series of five or six meetings). 

The last meeting is used to review the value of the Support Group and to see if there is interest in another series.







Facilitator's notes

It is a great help if people are already familiar with the Think and Listen method, which could be introduced at an earlier meeting.

 This way they will know the requirements for giving good, unintrusive attention to each other. 

Otherwise explain these requirements and run through the four questions giving people the rationale (as noted above) for including each one. 

Have a copy of the four questions for each participant or write them up somewhere visible.

Set the definition for the "as a ......". 

In a practised group, subgroups of three to six may enjoy working up their own "as a....." definitions using a Go-Round.

 Allow time for this.

Use the above diagram to show how each person in the subgroup takes turns to speak, question and keep time.




My Goals

It is very important to design our long-range goals, with corresponding short-term objectives - otherwise (as Covey reminds us, in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) inevitably it will be other people & circumstances that will design them for us. 

Here there is a table that is very useful for planning your goals in a detailed way, long-term and short-term, 'big goals' to smaller ones. 

You can't edit that template, but you can maka a copy of the document for yourself, & fill it out how & hen you like, in order to clarify your visions and objectives.  It is very useful as an ongoing document that you revisit regularly as it's easy to edit.

It is a very good complement to the Vision Support Groups, to review during a meeting (for eg. at the end of the year, your birthday, to make a quarterly date with someone to revise these together, etc.)

Try NOT to complete this as a merely intellectual excercise but with someone who can listen to you without judging (eg. during a Think and Listen session), so you can discharge the uncomfortable parts that you will notice whilst doing this.

From the booklet "The Necessity of Long Range Goals"

Efforts to think in terms of group goals or goals for making restimulate many fears.  Such effort directly counter social conditioning enforced on our population toward letting "the establishment" manipulate our larger destinies.  Such fears & conditioning yield to discharge & evaluation, however.   We have interesting experiences ahead as we more & more assert our group intelligence in the direction of requiring that society 'make sense'. 

    Harvey Jackins, May 1972