WHAT IS THE METAPLAN METHOD?
The technique was developed in Germany in the 70s by two brothers, Wolfgang and Eberhard Schnelle, who were initially specialized in office furniture and tools and developed an international consultancy firm out of that. Metaplan is a trademark of Metaplan Thomas Schnelle GmbH. (see www.metaplan.com)
This technique from Wolfgang and Eberhard Schnelle can be used as a facilitation method for groups and as a communication model, in which opinions are developed, a common understanding is built and objectives, recommendations and action plans are formulated to focus on a problem and its possible solutions.
"Moderators" (a kind of facilitators) administer the groups and ensure that good communication, cooperation and high levels of understanding are achieved. Their objective is to provide the group with the right sort of communication tools at the right moment. In this way the group can get successfully and efficiently to the bottom of the matter.
By systematically breaking up larger problems into its smaller constituent parts, and by breaking larger groups into smaller ones, the involvement of all participants is maximized. The plenary group sets the task and reviews the results. Sub-groups (20-25 people) focus on the sub-tasks and collect the ideas. Mini-groups (4-6 people) actually work on the issues contained within each subtask.
On top of that, certain communication tools are used, including:
- Certain physical items (standard oval, cloud-shaped and rectangular cards of various colors).
- Felt tipped pens.
- Display boards, etc.
- A series of standard presentation get-togethers.
- Rules that produce clear and legible display.
- Rules that provide effective communication, voting, etc. in groups.
USAGE OF METAPLAN. APPLICATIONS
Typically the method is used for facilitating large information markets (50-200 people) or conferences, but can be used for facilitating small management teams as well.
Metaplan can be used in the following areas:
- Creating, collecting, gathering, structuring, storing, visualizing of ideas.
- Introducing people in seminars.
- Interconnectedness analysis.
- Cause analysis.
- Setting priorities.
- Building momentum or support for a change initiative.
STEPS IN THE METAPLAN PROCESS
A typical full Metaplan workshop may consist of the following steps:
- Program introduction. Set the scene, give the rationale, describe the objective.
- Create individual input. Write ideas on cards, which are color-coded for sub issues.
- Collect individual input. Pinup cards on pre-prepared boards
- Divide into subgroups. Participants choose a subgroup with a topic they prefer.
- The subgroups now sort, add and discuss topics into relevant topic headings.
- Share the results. Short (3 min) presentation by each subgroup enabling the plenary group to understand the total picture.
- Prioritizing. By voting and by using small colored stickers.
- Subgroups resume their work. Focusing on the prioritized issues and creating a draft action agenda.
- The sub-groups now present their results to plenary group (10 min). Followed by plenary (20 min) discussions. Create support and commitment by all.
- Conclusion and summary. Action plan.
STRENGTHS OF METAPLAN. BENEFITS
Typical for the technique is that it:
- Involves all the people who play a part in implementation issues. This influences the way that they will act in the analysis phase and in the decision-making process.
- Avoids long drawn-out, messy, inconclusive and time-wasting processes often found in participative decision-making.
- Rigorously plans and develops a tight and detailed scenario with clients.
LIMITATIONS OF METAPLAN. DISADVANTAGES
- The costs of using specialized materials and equipment and facilitators.
- Some handwritings on the cards can be difficult to read.
- Voting sessions are public for everybody to see what other people vote.
- People may be influenced by what other people have already voted (Groupthink, Spiral of Silence).
- Some people may be afraid to speak in public, although they may be competent.
- Other people may be speaking too much. This over-profiling of themselves, may annoy other people.
- A method-show and focusing too much on the structure of the Metaplan technique must be prevented.
- Experienced and capable facilitators are needed.
ASSUMPTIONS OF METAPLAN. CONDITIONS
- Group involvement and -decisions are desirable.
- An exchange of ideas and opinions is needed.
- A common solution is desirable.
- Structuring the creative process is useful.
Text taken from www.12manage.com/methods_schnelle_metaplan.html