A large, publicly-funded civil engineering project, which had lasted four years and involved partner organisations from five different countries, was drawing to a close. The challenge was to quickly and efficiently look back at the results of the project, and draw out relevant lessons.

In order to extract maximum benefit from the experience, a one-day evaluation meeting was arranged, involving around three dozen participants. They came from various organisations, ranged from administrators to professors, and had a variety of home languages.

Clean intervention

Several facilitators were involved in the event, only some of whom were trained in Clean. This provided lead facilitator Annemiek van Helsdingen with an ideal opportunity to compare Clean- and less-Clean facilitation styles.

She explained: “We had split the meeting into smaller groups and facilitators were logging key points on flip charts in each group. What I noticed was that my Clean colleague, Lizet van den Berg, was working so much more quickly – about 50% faster.

“She would remember the person’s actual words and write those on the flip chart. Sometimes she would ask a Clean question to clarify something. When group members added remarks, she would check if the remark also needed to be added on the flip-chart (again in exact words). This quickly filters out important and less important contributions.

“In another group they were having a very muddled discussion. The person at the flip chart would try and translate things into his own words and in many cases, the main message of what had been said was then lost. A discussion would go on but things didn’t get any clearer – and so much time was wasted.

“Being Clean makes life so much easier. It’s the most effective way to ask about what you want to know.

“You have much higher-quality meetings. They are often quicker, and there’s no way people can escape responsibility – everyone has their share. And when things get tough or challenging, you have a far better chance of sorting it out quickly without any emotional outbursts.”

Outcome

Compared with the group which experienced ‘ordinary’ facilitation, the group which had been facilitated Cleanly felt they had been listened to more carefully, and that their views had been faithfully recorded. A larger number of people were able to make a considered contribution in the allotted time.