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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0051| April 30, 2002
7,700 Subscribers


Distinguish "Task Forces" From 
Regular Meetings
 Know the differences between task forces and regular meetings to make the best use of your group's time and energy.

The Point

Do any of these statements sounds familiar? "These *##&*#$ staff meetings are a waste of time. We never get anything accomplished...I look forward to our regular staff meetings when I feel the need to catch up on my rest...Argggh I hate these meetings. They bore me to tears!"

These all too common sentiments about routine meetings certainly reflect the fact that something is awry. In my experience, poor or nonexistent facilitation is the cause for ineffective meetings. But at other times, meetings fail because their participants are using the wrong meeting form for the work they're seeking to accomplish.

A researcher named William Daniels did a significant amount of work distinguishing the differences between "regular" meetings and "task force meetings." He found that regular meetings (staff meetings, board meetings, management meetings, etc.) reflect the legitimate power structure and authority base of the organization. He found that the purposes, agendas, structures, membership, requirements, dynamics, processes, and memory systems of this type of meeting are considerably different than those of the task force meeting. Hence each type of meeting requires distinctly separate group of operating principles and procedures. 


So how does knowing this valuable distinction between task force and regular meetings impact your facilitation? Here are some implications you might want to consider:

- Seek to separate "task group" oriented problem solving work from the regular meeting agenda. This can be done by handling regular meeting stuff first, then have the task group members stay to conduct their meeting, or schedule entirely separate meetings.

- Introduce the distinctions we speak about here to the members of the organization so that they understand the value in employing separate meetings and processes. This distinction offers the opportunity for cleaner, more efficient (read shorter!), regular meetings.

- Steer away from solving complex problems or planning in general meetings. Instead, split off a smaller group of "necessary" participants to handle this work.

- Limit any planning or problem-solving in regular meetings to "initial" brainstorming of ideas or solutions. Assign a task force to handle the details and to come up with recommendations for solutions.

- When creating special task forces, identify those regular meeting participants who should review task force recommendations. This will preclude certain members from potentially blocking resolutions brought to the regular meetings by the task force.

- Task groups should be made up only of those people who have the expertise required to accomplish the purposes of the group. Seek to keep these groups as lean as possible to optimize their creativity and efficiency. 

Daniels developed six different categories of approaches required by regular meetings and task force meetings that are summarized below.
  Task Forces Regular Meetings
Function Superior intelligence. Authorization; Affirmation of organizational values, structures, roles.
Agenda Problem analysis.
Decision analysis
Operations reviews.
Recommendations reviews.
Structure and Membership Necessary experts
5-9 members (or multiple groups of 5-9 members).
All appropriate members of designated group.
All or none at any given level of org.
No numerical limits.
Dynamics Equity; uninhibited access to every intelligence.
Uses the "inclusion activity" to establish equity.
Role differentiation.
Status affirmation.
Use of recognition activities to clarify authorities, roles.
Process 1. Build common data base
2. Interpret data.
3. Resolution.
1. Presentation.
2. Review.
3. Decision.
4. Commissioning.
Memory Flip chart. Publishing. Official records.


This week, think about how the distinction between task force and regular meeting might be employed by your organization.  I'd love to hear you're perspectives and experiences. Please email your comments to us.

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About the Author: 
Steve Davis is a Business and Life Coach facilitating others to reach  their full potential in their business and personal lives. Please email your stories, comments, suggestions, and ideas. Or call me at 800-216-3854. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading! 

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Advanced Facilitation & Consulting Skills Practicum
Using Self As Instrument
With Linda Lehtonen 

June 10-14, in Puslinch, 
Ontario, Canada (non-residential)

October 7-11, 2002, Bowen Island, 
near Vancouver, Canada 

Who Should Attend
· Leaders, facilitators and professionals who want to deepen their leadership, facilitation, teambuilding, consulting skills or human relations skills
· Anyone seeking a quantum growth in self awareness and awareness of self in relation to others.

Workshop Objectives
1. Increase your understanding of individual, team and organizational functioning by understanding systems theory
2. Understand more about your own team behavior
3. Learn how to facilitate teams to high performance
4. Learn to assess problems and help teams to resolve interpersonal conflicts
5. Develop strategies and design interventions for team building
6. Learn to use self as the instrument of change
7. Utilize a framework of interventions consistent with your own style and organizational culture
8. Understand how you get in your own way in facilitating groups

Principles Which Guide This Program
Trust your hunches - learn to use your feelings as a group barometer
Trust the process - learn to detach from outcome and let go of your need to control
Be authentic in your role - learn how to develop your character and forget about your reputation
Meet people where they are - learn to be in a place of compassion, integrity and love instead of fear.
Be present and grounded- learn to be fully in the moment and mindful of all that is going on 

These principles guide the facilitation process. Each principle is explored fully in the 5-day workshop. Participants will be both members of consulting teams and facilitators/consultants to another team. This will enable you to experience working your own team issues. Your team will contract work with another team, diagnose their needs, design and implement an intervention. The workshop is primarily experiential with theoretical inputs. This is an intense residential program which involves some evening work.

What People Say
"…better presentations [according to my reviewers] by staying in the moment that Linda demonstrates so very well ......also did a special presentation about the 'heart connection' these are the two constants and most enduring facets I have taken from the seminar. They serve me more every day in the way I present myself... I can just be and lessen my judgment and opinion mindset..." -John Sweetnam, President, CDS Group of Companies 

"My experience attending Linda's Advanced Facilitation Skills course vastly exceeded my expectations. What I learned about my own effect on group interaction and about my personal reaction to some group dynamics has continually improved my skill and confidence as a facilitator. I've recommended this course to many of my colleagues and all have returned from the experience with a sense of renewal and excitement."-- Linda Padfield, Director of Organizational Development, Inco 

"Within 1 hour of beginning our 5-day retreat, Linda created an environment that invited direct talk about deeply felt issues. Her own willingness to be transparent to others invites like disclosure. Her compassion, skillful discernment, and sense of humor, provide loving challenge and new insights for everyone in the room! -- Karen Shuttleworth, Educator/Facilitator, St. Joseph's Health Centre 

About Linda Lehtonen
Linda is a master facilitator who has worked all over the globe. She is able to facilitate groups from a place of extreme conflict, confusion and chaos, and "stuckness" to a place of productivity, harmony and community. She has developed her ability to intuitively tune in to individuals and groups and cut to the heart of what might be blocking people from moving forward and living more calmly and healthfully. She works with people from a place of authenticity, profound respect and compassion. 

Linda believes in giving people practical tools to help them live more fully and serve others in their organizations. Three major guiding principles she works from are to trust her hunches, to trust the process, and to be authentic. Her work has had a profound impact on thousands of people in helping them transform themselves, 
the workplace and their lives.

About Katherine Maas 
Katherine Maas will be joining Linda for the Bowen Island program. She is a personal coach and learning consultant with over 20 years experience developing leaders and facilitators. Throughout her varied career, her focus has always been on improving human and organizational effectiveness by improving human systems, communication, and relationships. She facilitates from a passionate belief that personal and interpersonal mastery are essential prerequisites for successful and balanced groups and organizations. 

A continuous learner, Katherine holds an MA and has completed extensive human relations training. She reads voraciously and excels at cross-disciplinary thinking. 

Locations, Costs, and Registration

Puslinch, Ontario, Canada (near Guelph, 1 hour from Toronto) 
Dates: June 10 -14, 2002

Where: Crieff Hills Community Centre, a natural, peaceful, retreat-like setting in the country, approximately one hour's drive from Toronto, 2 km south of Hwy. 401 at Hwy. 6. 

Cost: CDN$ 2407.50 (all taxes included)
A good deal for US residents: Canadian dollar is worth approximately $0.62 US.
Includes continental breakfast and lunch. Fly into Toronto, then drive to Puslinch. Accommodation is available at reasonable cost in Puslinch and other nearby communities.

Information and Registration: Contact Linda Lehtonen at  519-578-5516, or email

Bowen Island, British Columbia, Canada (near Vancouver)
Dates: October 6-11, 2002

Where: Bowen Lodge by the Sea, Bowen Island, BC. A peaceful, natural setting only 20 minutes by ferry from Vancouver. A car is not required on Bowen Island, though you may choose to bring one. You can take a bus or cab to Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal to catch the Bowen Island Ferry. Ferry service is approximately hourly from about 6 am until about 9:30 pm. For exact schedule information, see or phone BC Ferries at (250) 386-3431.

Cost: CDN$ 3084.20 single occupancy (all taxes included) 
CDN$ 2896.70 double occupancy (all taxes included)
A good deal for US residents: Canadian dollar is worth approximately $0.62 US. Price includes 5 nights accommodation and all meals, beginning with dinner at 6 pm October 6 through lunch October 11. The program finishes at noon on October 11. 

Information and Registration: Contact Katherine Maas at 604-985-2245, or email

Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal.  Look for your next issue on May 7, 2002.   

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