Family Reunion… Facilitated Session… Having the Right People Doing the Right Things

Gladys S.W.  Lam
Gladys S.W. Lam Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Publisher, Business Rules Journal and Executive Director, Building Business Capability (BBC) Read Author Bio       || Read All Articles by Gladys S.W. Lam

Who are the right people?

There are no wrong people… just people in the wrong roles.  To continue with my family reunion saga last summer, there were 29 family members involved.  The oldest was my mother who was almost 70 years old, and the youngest was my nephew who was almost 70 days old.  On reunion day, the dynamic was wonderful.  The older generation reflected on old times; they fussed over and spoiled the young.  The middle generation caught up with each other on the latest career moves, wedding bloopers, in-law problems, and kid challenges.  The youngest generation fully enjoyed all the attention.  It was a festive day.  Everyone had a great time.  We needed the mix of the people and the different roles to make the event dynamic.  It was the interaction between the different roles and characters that made the day exciting.

The pre-reunion and the post-reunion activities were different.  As you may recall, each group/family had different agendas.  We had many different activities planned.  When all the ladies decided to go shopping, my uncle was left in charge of the children.  That lasted 10 minutes.  My uncle is the most impatient person and a neat freak.  Within a very short time, the kids were fighting, crying, and wanting their mommies.  My uncle was screaming!  My aunt then graciously offered to stay behind and take care of the kids.  My aunt is the most fun and patient grandmother I know.  At 60, she will wrestle with the boys, play tea party with the girls, and crawl around with the babies.  For the rest of the afternoon, the kids were laughing and having a great time.  The right person in the right role… harmony.  The wrong person in the wrong role… chaos.

This experience also illustrates two things:

  1. A leader/facilitator is important to maintain order, and
  2. The right facilitator is required to obtain the right results.

The Role of a Facilitator

A Facilitator is a key role in a facilitated session.  A facilitator motivates discussion to achieve an objective.  A good facilitator leads a group of people to a joint solution.  A bad facilitator can create chaos. 

When it comes down to it, there are only two key functions for a facilitator:

  1. Identify objectives for each session, and
  2. Move the discussion along until the objectives are achieved.

Sounds simple, right?  Not!

A good facilitator is especially important in sessions that capture your organization's business rules.  This is because business rules are your organization's means to govern the behaviors of workers, build relationships with important customers, and ensure efficiency in operation.

What makes a good Facilitator?

Have you ever seen a mother facilitate disputes between her children?  No matter how hard the mother tries, you are bound to hear from the children, "You give her more because you love her more."  In a family union, you will hear this over and over again.  You don't just hear it from the youngest generation either.  You should have heard what my sister and I said when we both wanted a piece of an antique from one of our aunts.

In order to effectively capture business rules, the facilitator must remain unbiased.  This is because an organization's business rules can be contentious between different departments.  A facilitator must be able to identify the rule, identify the source of contention, and obtain consensus for the original or revised rule.

To do this effectively, a facilitator must:

  • Remain neutral;
  • Be diplomatic;
  • Be able to follow multiple conversations; and
  • Be able to resolve conflicts by identifying differences and similarities between different points of view.

In order to successfully conduct a business rule capturing session, a facilitator must:

  • Employ a systematic method to gather business rules;
  • Lay out an agenda that can allow for rule capture in a structured manner; and
  • Identify the right participants and encourage their continuous presence in the session.

Others Roles in a Facilitated Session?

There are, of course, other participants in a business rule capture session.  The following are two key roles:

Business Analyst

A Business Analyst is a key role for the entire project, not just for the facilitated session.  A Business Analyst is required to stay with the project.  A Business Analyst's responsibility is to capture, develop, and analyze the business solution.  Refer to Kristen Seer's articles on for an in-depth discussion on roles and responsibilities of a Business Analyst, what makes a good Business Analyst, and training for Business Analysts.

Subject Area Experts

There are two critical success factors to a facilitated session approach in capturing business rules:

  • Preparation, and
  • Having the right people with the right vision, the right knowledge, and the right perspective in the session.

Stay tuned for future columns.

Just Remember...

Plainly speaking, here are some of the main things you need to remember:

  • Three key roles in a Business Rule Capture Facilitated Session:  Facilitator, Business Analyst(s), and Subject Area Experts.
  • The right people in these key roles are critical to the quality of the Business Model and the Business Rules.
  • A facilitator has to be able to identify the rule, identify the source of contention, and obtain consensus for the original or revised rule.

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Standard citation for this article:

citations icon
Gladys S.W. Lam, "Family Reunion… Facilitated Session… Having the Right People Doing the Right Things" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 5, No. 6, (Jun. 2004)

About our Contributor:

Gladys  S.W. Lam
Gladys S.W. Lam Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Publisher, Business Rules Journal and Executive Director, Building Business Capability (BBC)

Gladys S.W. Lam is a world-renowned authority on applied business rule techniques. She is Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rule Solutions, LLC (, the most recognized company world-wide for business rules and decision analysis. BRS provides methodology, publications, consulting services, and training. Ms. Lam is Co-Creator of IPSpeak, the BRS methodology including RuleSpeak®, DecisionSpeak and TableSpeak. She is Co-Founder of, a vertical community for professionals and home of Business Rules Journal. She co-authored Building Business Solutions, an IIBA® sponsored handbook on business analysis with business rules.

Ms. Lam is widely known for her lively, pragmatic style. She speaks internationally at conferences, public seminars and other professional events. She is also Executive Director of Building Business Capability (BBC) Conference, which includes the Business Rules & Decisions Forum and the Business Analysis Forum.

Ms. Lam is a world-renowned expert on business project management, having managed numerous projects that focus on the large-scale capture, analysis and management of business rules. She advises senior management of large companies on organizational issues and on business solutions to business problems. She has extensive experience in related areas, including BPM, structured business strategy, and managing and implementing information systems.

Ms. Lam is most recognized for her ability to identify the source of business issues, and for her effectiveness in developing pragmatic approaches to resolve them. She has gained a world-class reputation for fostering positive professional relationships with principals and support staff in projects. Ms. Lam graduated from the University of British Columbia with a B.S. in Computer Science.

Read All Articles by Gladys S.W. Lam

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