Group processing and planning tools

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The first encounter with working and teams and groups in YWAM is often planning outreach on our DTS in a kind of spiritual brainstorming environment. This can be a great way for us to plan events and one off meetings but sometimes we need to use more precise tools than this if we want to plan strategy or see where we are mission input for example. Here are a range of ideas and a brief description of them of Group processing and planning tools so you will have more tools in your leadership toolbox.
Steve demonstrates how to use a whiteboard

Brainstorming and Refining Process

  1. You get as many ideas as possible up on a white board or large sheet of paper. Don't judge or commment the ideas at this point, to keep creativity flowing ...
  2. Make a firm end to the this phase when you have had enough.
  3. Try to refine ideas. (use a different colour or lots of colours etc.)
    • Cross out the hopeless ideas
    • Group similar ideas
  4. Keep this process going and reduce until you have close to a final solution


  1. Similar to a brainstorm except you are looking at an existing situation or ministry or even your personal life.
  2. Divide your paper in 4 with the headings: STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES, THREATS
  3. Brainstorm or assess for each heading
  4. Refine the results and take them on for further planning etc.

Gap Assessment

  1. Similar to the SWOT test but you want to look for the Gaps in what you are doing or where nothing is happening yet so that you can address the deficit.

4 Into 4 Into 4

(Don't know the right name for this but I learned it from Steve.)

This is a good processing tool to boil down a large amount of experiences into a shared summary of experiences. For example answering the question: What have I learnt on this course?

  1. Group people in two's with a piece of paper
  2. Ask them to make a list of just 4 items that are the most important answers to your question.
  3. Group the pairs into a large group.
  4. Ask them to make a new list containing just 4 items of top importance from the answers they already have.
  5. Give people the freedom to dispute and argue!
  6. Group into a larger group or bring them all together
  7. Work with the group to make a new list of just 4 items of top importance.


  1. Ask a range of people the same set of questions.
    • e.g. How are we doing in terms of community life?
    • e.g. How rapid is our response to enquiries?
  2. Ask them to grade it on a scale for example (1-10)
  3. It is often more useful to compare and contrast change over a time period. Get people to place a second mark for how they would have asked the question 12 months ago.
  4. When reading the results back it is helpful to see where there is a clear sense of improvement or decline. This can be useful to measure the effectiveness of a course of action or leadership decision.

Appreciative Inquiry

This is a new tool that can help us to manage change well and help us to bring the best of the past into the future.

Appreciative Inquiry utilizes a 4-stage process focusing on:

  1. DISCOVER: The identification of organizational processes that work well.
  2. DREAM: The envisioning of processes that would work well in the future.
  3. DESIGN: Planning and prioritizing processes that would work well.
  4. DESTINY (or DELIVER): The implementation (execution) of the proposed design

(From the Wikipedia article Appreciative Inquiry)

More info: Appreciative Inquiry

Group Strategy Planning

  1. Have general principles in mind or goals or values as a seed to start the process off
  2. Work together to plan in details and to make sure you have together covered all the goals. Useful for discovering creative ways to achieve goals.

Making Vision and Mission Statements

  1. Make sure you can tell the difference between a Vision statement and a Mission statement: a vision statement is specific and time related. A mission statement is general and expresses why a group exists and the general range of activities.
  2. When working on Vision and Mission statements make sure you adhere to a strict definition - if you are vague in what you set out to create the result will not satisfy or help!
  3. Keep revising it.

Creating a Best Practice Document

  1. Work with lots of people together to get the broadest breadth of knowledge
  2. Use some of the tools above to agree what you want to agree on
  3. Use a wordprocessor, versioning it to make sure that the what, who and why of the modifications are clear, for example by using a Wiki like this one or even this Wiki! (You may use your own User page and subpages of it for your own projects...) (Or just put a summary table of modifications at the beginning of the document, and backup some versions from time to time.)
  4. Try to reduce and reduce and reduce