Not Your Father's Planning Meeting

Imagine four groups of seasoned county employees all gathered around tables immersed in conversation. The volume of voices in the room escalates. Everyone is energized. Strategies are being developed. Gaps revealed. Maps drawn, marked, updated. The race is on to beat the clock.

This month, twenty members of South Carolina Region III gathered to discuss and identify the impacts of a hazardous materials accident on the communities in which they serve and live. In just thirty-five minutes, an abbreviated version of the usual one-hour Marco Program, groups maximized their time with meaningful, robust conversations. They were on their feet, moving around the tables, answering questions and gathering responses. The results were then taken and analyzed by Critical Ops staff to provide feedback groups could use to better their response and help assist in reaching their goals.

Sustained training and preparedness efforts are often set aside for more urgent matters or interrupted by daily demands. All too often, refresher courses and compliance trainings are one-sided presentations. Participants sit facing the host, maybe thumbing through a printout, maybe holding their phone in their lap and scrolling through email—or, let’s be honest, our social media feeds. In our combined decades of experience and discoveries working with thousands of individuals, we’ve found the best learning happens when participants are engaged and when everyone at the table has a voice.

Organizations are unique, with evolving dynamics that make each one special. The environment is the foundation to every successful session. Make it yours. Do you need upbeat music to keep the energy high? Do you need a calisthenics break to get the blood moving? Is the room configured to better optimize learning? Get the most out of a short time by determining this need in advance.

We value the incredible and varied experiences of everyone we intersect with, and we designed the Marco Program to open doors. Unlike a focus-group style meeting, we created breakout sessions of four to five in a group, allowing everyone to see each other eye to eye. Open-ended questions leave space for different voices to emerge, lending to diversity of thought and insight. They also challenge assumptions and shed light on areas that may have been neglected and need attention. Setting a goal and reviewing it at the end provides opportunities for individuals to create actionable steps supported by lessons learned throughout the program.

The average American now has a shorter attention span than a goldfish, about six to ten seconds. On top of that, the demands of work and home often become a distraction. To combat that, our short time segments keep the discussion moving. If anyone gets stuck, our facilitators generate dialogue by expounding on findings from the group. On average, most organizations plan to continue the conversation after the conclusion of the session. We have even seen groups keep the session fun and exciting by adding simulated alarms or other attention grabbing methods to keep participants on their toes.

80% of what is learned is forgotten. Enhanced, social learning gets results and fosters change. Follow-up on discoveries made during discussions is a critical piece. Making resources available, like the Teach Life a Lesson document provided after results are analyzed, allows for ambient learning and reinforces skills and knowledge. An organization that conducted the flu version of the Marco Program concluded they did not have adequate cleaning supplies to keep the area sanitized. Within one week of the program, participants requested this change, and were supported by supervisors, who quickly addressed the issue!

We want to be your partner. Need a sneak peek on how it works? We conduct both virtual and in-person demonstrations. Give us a call today to get started. We can’t wait to connect with you.


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