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December 06, 2010

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Nice post, Mike. Very valuable information that I can relate to my current situation. There's however one more critical problem we are facing, could you share your thoughts on that:
The knowledgeable customers are reporting to/managed by a coordinator who "controls" the meetings. It is not possible for us to avoid having that person in our meetings or for that matter to have a business decision. And clearly the main users have needs that are NOT entertained by this decision maker. There's no active participation by the users when this controlling person is in the discussions. Your insights will be very helpful.

Hi Bendre,

Thanks for you comment. “Controlling” personalities are a problem in any kind of meeting and in agile review sessions they can drown out or suppress valuable contributions from others. Limiting their input requires good facilitation techniques. If they think they are just contributing then try thanking them for their contributions and asking “Does anyone other than, Fred, have something to add?”. If people will not shut up or give others a chance to speak, try saying there name (an egocentric interrupter) and then diverting conversation to others. If facilitating a session from the front of a room try walking right up to the person talking – most people will find this off putting, but some dominant people I have met are oblivious. If subtle techniques and diversions do not work it is fine to come right out and say that while we value their input we are also looking for the input from others and so we need to divide time appropriately. Please wait while we hear from the others. Talk to them during a break and explain the concern frankly, meet with them before the meeting and explain the importance of group discussion and how you have noticed that some members are reluctant to make their case and so why we need to give them more time. Organize the format so you go around the room canvassing input rather than a free for all discussion that can be dominated. There are lots of things to try before explaining the situation to their peers or boss, but that might be an option too. Just as long as you tackle the issue head on with the individual first.

None of this stuff is easy, it is why they say “the soft stuff is the hard stuff”, be genuine, polite, but persistent. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Best regards
Mike

Mike: we were successful in handling the difficult situation. Appreciate your inputs: http://bendre.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/customer-engagement-the-hard-stuff/
I have added your blog on my blogroll, let me know if that's ok.
Thanks,
Sameer

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