How to Facilitate Successful FMEA Projects
“Team leadership is the secret that makes common people achieve uncommon results.” – Ifeanyi Onuoha
One of the key factors for successful application of FMEAs is skillful facilitation of FMEA teams. The skills needed for excellent facilitation are different from the skills needed to be a good FMEA team member.
Who can be a successful FMEA facilitator? Do you have to be an extrovert? Do you need inherent leadership abilities to lead a team? Can you learn to be an excellent FMEA facilitator? All of these questions, and many other topics, will be explored in the “FMEA Facilitation” series. This is the first article in the new series.
What is a facilitator?
A facilitator is “one who contributes structure and process to interactions so groups are able to function effectively and make high quality decisions. A helper and enabler whose goal is to support others as they achieve exceptional performance.” (Bens, Ingrid, Facilitating With Ease!)
What is an FMEA facilitator?
An FMEA facilitator is a person trained in both FMEA fundamentals and effective facilitation techniques.
The role of the facilitator is to:
1) drive the team through the FMEA process,
2) focus on the important areas that most impact customer expectations, experience and/or safety, and
3) support team members to do their best thinking.
The facilitator is not a passive position, but a pro-active role, encompassing general leadership skills. It is important to know that facilitation and leadership skills can be learned.
We’ve all sat through poorly run meetings. They drag on and on, with little positive results. The difference between effective and ineffective meetings depends on the skills of the meeting leader and the norms of behavior of the attendees.
In chapter 10 of Effective FMEAs, I cover the characteristics of well-run meetings, as well as meeting “Norms” for participants. Here is an excerpt that highlights some of the characteristics of well-run meetings include:
- Start and end meetings on time
- Publish and stick to agendas
- Develop and get agreement on meeting “norms”
- Always maintain focus on meeting objectives
- Summarize results and follow-up actions at end of meeting
- Prepare required documents, visuals, network access, software, etc.
- Ensure decision-making options are clear
- Encourage healthy member behaviors
- Provide periodic process checks
- Implement a process to create true closure
Question to readers: What has been your experience with well-run meetings?
What about meeting participants? Here is an excerpt that highlights some meeting participant “norms”:
- Arrive to meetings promptly as scheduled
- Respect others’ opinions
- Debate differences of opinion calmly
- Take responsibility for assigned actions
- Listen carefully to all ideas
- Avoid doing emails, using cell phones or other personal devices during meeting time
- Maintain focus on the agenda
- Use “Parking Lot” if a topic is off agenda
- Provide constructive feedback
- Maintain equal opportunity for participation by all team members
- Engage in no “war stories” or side conversations
- Question to readers: Which “norms” of behavior are most important from your point of view?
Primary FMEA facilitation skills
There are specific facilitation skills for any aspiring facilitator to learn. The following are some of the primary facilitation skills he or she should master in order to effectively facilitate FMEA team meetings to the desired results.
Encouraging Participation – Gain a balanced involvement and participation from each and every team member, including introverts and extroverts
Controlling Discussion – Know how to encourage discussion, how to limit discussion, and how to handle someone who dominates the discussion
Asking Probing Questions – Direct questions to an individual or group to stimulate thinking, used to open up discussion and to bring it to a deeper level
Asking Thought-Starter Questions – Ask for the elements of FMEA in different ways in order to help the team think deeply
Active Listening – Understanding thoroughly what another person is saying and why
Making Decisions – Understand all sides of an issue and find a solution or determine a course of action that is supported by all team members
Conflict Management – Learn the value of disagreements and how to manage them
Brainstorming – Get a flow of ideas on the table before making decisions; most useful when a decision or solution is not easily forthcoming
Creativity – Creates an environment that encourages and supports individual and team creativity
Facilitator Interventions – Intervene in the flow of a meeting, when needed to accomplish objectives
Managing Time – Move the team through the FMEA process, without wasting time)
FMEA facilitation roles and responsibilities
There is no universal agreement on the specific duties of an FMEA facilitator. The roles and responsibilities of the person who is chosen to lead the FMEA team are very company specific. The following are thought-starters that can be considered.
- Determine the scope and timing of the project.
- Establish and train FMEA team.
- Ensure all pre-work is done before first meeting. [See Inside FMEA series on FMEA Preparation]
- Perform FMEA analysis up through recommended actions.
- Review FMEA recommended actions with management, for all high-risk issues.
- Execute recommended actions.
- Provide linkage with other processes, such as Test Plans, Process Control Plans, etc.
- Verify FMEA Quality Objectives are met.
- Review and approve critical supplier FMEAs.
- Verify risk has been reduced to an acceptable level.
The next article in the FMEA Facilitation series is called Encouraging Participation and will discuss how to gain a balanced involvement and participation from each and every team member, including introverts and extroverts.