Lessons Learned About Virtual Facilitation

by | May 13, 2021 | Lean Tools, People Development | 0 comments

Developing On-Site Teams with Virtual Facilitation


Many of my clients run operations, which means they were still at work every day. Working from home wasn’t an option for their teams who make the product or do the service. But for safety reasons, months went by and I wasn’t able to travel and visit onsite.

The resulting situation was on-site teams of leaders wearing masks, spread out in big training rooms – with me virtually on screen to facilitate a virtual training session. 

I was nervous. Would I be able to connect on the same level? Would the emotion and vulnerability I share come through? Would I miss the energy in the room? Would virtual learning work for these teams?  What online collaboration tools would I use? 

It took a bit of practice. I had to slow down and pause more. I leaned on the participants’ leaders to be there to help read the room, and relied on their facilitation skills to facilitate breakouts.

But it works! 

Now we’re able to use more Just-In-Time training approaches by delivering small chunks and then applying in cycles – because we don’t have to wait for me to travel and be there on-site.

Creativity to Transition to Virtual Training Activities

I LOVE in-person training activities. The games and team collaboration and real time activities that allow people to experience and learn on a greater level.

I was afraid that some of my favorite learning activities couldn’t be replicated in a virtual meeting.

With a little creativity and collaboration, though, new ways of teaching opened up. I was even able to transition my favorite Magic Maze game to one based on hand signals.

Lean Tools and Training Activities

Prepare Virtual Tools to Make Virtual Collaboration Easier

 I do teach classes and facilitate meetings and Lean improvement sessions virtually. And I must say, virtual collaboration tools like Mural and Miro have become game changers.

 Initially I just did some basic sticky note brainstorming and affinitizing through these tools. But as the need for these online collaboration tools increased, I spent more time preparing the virtual tools in advance.

 In some of my virtual workshops and events, I moved away from PowerPoint slides. Instead, I use images and designs in Mural to tell the story. I build out the backgrounds and instructions in advance so that breakout groups can engage and work effectively. I use rectangle shapes and the lock function to hide the areas until we’re ready to use them so that people stay focused.

Lean Collaboration Tools

Jamie V. Parker facilitating a virtual Lean process improvement session

affinitizing and brainstorming tools for Lean


Old-School is Still Best Sometimes

As much as I love to build out a fancy virtual collaboration tool, sometimes it’s best to go old-school.

When participants in a collaboration tool, they usually aren’t looking at the faces of other participants. And when screens are shared, the “Brady Bunch” grid is smaller for most viewers. Sometimes that works.

 But sometimes I want people focused on seeing the faces of their collaborators. Sometimes I want them focused on tuning in to the conversation and hearing what’s really said.

 In those cases, I may go old-school with a flip chart. I sometimes teach from a flipchart – even virtually.

 Time Management Tools

Video Conferencing – Adapting to Client Systems

Here’s the straight up truth. I prefer Zoom meetings. I like the functionality. I like the controls. I even like the filter it puts on my face to make it look smoother.

 But when I work with clients, it’s not about me. It’s about creating value and serving clients. That means adapting to the tools and technology that work best for them.

 We still might introduce them to a collaboration tool if they’re tech savvy enough to adopt it. But if we need to use Microsoft Teams or WebEx instead of Zoom, then that works.

 I do the same thing with one-on-one mentoring meetings. My preference is Zoom. But sometimes we use Teams. Sometimes we just use Facetime. I adapt to the client.

Zoom Fatigue is Real

Zoom Fatigue – or Video Conferencing Fatigue – is real. When you’re on video, there’s an extra level of “on” that you have to give.

 To help offset Zoom Fatigue, I schedule some meetings as phone only. For 10 years, I managed remote teams without video calling.

We just had phones. Audio conference calls. So I know that moving some of our meetings to audio only instead of video can still be effective.



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Meet Jamie

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I’m a recovering Command-and-Control Manager who’s now on a mission to make the world of work more human. With a soft spot in my heart for Ops Managers, this Lean blog gives you the straight talk combining Lean, Leadership, and the real challenges of operations management.





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