November 19,2019 Facilitating Innovation

Balanced Participation

Balanced Participation

Hence, Conversation Hogs

Every facilitator has experienced the conversation emperor. The one individual that is first and last to speak. The participant that overtakes a meeting with their opinions. Early in my career, I experienced my first conversation hog. A senior executive that ensured that the team would hear his perspective always. Therefore, during meetings he took over the conversation, he talked loud and often to win debates. Additionally, he shut people off, stole insights from them, and denied balanced participation.

Because of Multiple Perspectives

Discussed numerous times in this work, easy problems only need one person to solve them. Hence, complex problems need multiple perspectives. Workshops or brainstorming sessions ideally pair experts together to solve hard problems. Insights from many minds are then able to solve the unsolvable.

Achieving full usage of everyone becomes the goal for these sessions. The emphasis for everyone to participate in the event becomes the key performance indicator. As a leader, this means that one person cannot dominate the conversation. The team cannot split into cliques with side conversations and leverage their alliances to dominate decision making. It also means the leader has to pull insights from the shy and quiet participants that have trouble speaking up.

 Mind Wandering

When one person dominates a discussion, they stunt growth. Other participants’ engagement shuts down and mind wandering begins. This then leads to the team splintering into different directions. Lastly, unbalanced participation increases the risk of objective discussions turning into subjective debates.

Balanced participation leads the team to see blind spots in their thinking. If a diverse team has been built, use it. Don’t place people on a team as a token or to check a box without the intent to get the full insight of the person. Well, rounded solutions and ideas come from the participation of everyone from a well-rounded team.

Minimizing Cross-Functional Approaches

The new model of corporate work applies a cross-functional approach. People working across departmental lines in a matrixed reporting model increases complexity. Team members bring their preferences and struggle to see the perspectives of people that think differently. Getting new team members to break out of their work silos, researchers suggest three actions to help the team become integrated. Beginning with employing cultural brokers to overcome barriers and build a shared culture. Next to set the priority for the team to ask the right questions. Lastly, as the leader to reinforce the goal to emphasize with one another so that they can see through different lenses and perspectives.

 Practical Application

  • Establish ground rules, values, or a team operating agreement early. Emphasize the importance of everyone participating and help structure guidelines to ensure it.
  • When soliciting ideas from the team, have everyone write their idea first and then offer it to the team. This will give people a chance to think prior to processing other peoples’ thoughts.
  • Have a professional facilitator run these meetings for the team so that everyone can focus on the content and not the process. Also, feel free to employ a timer so that all points must be made in a two-minute timeframe to keep from rambling on.


Founded in 1939 in Boise, Idaho, Joe Albertson helped bring to life the modern-day grocery store. An immediate success with consumers, Albertson expanded city to city achieving its hundredth store by 1964. The company furthered its expansion into California, Texas, and the southern United States purchasing the Skaggs brand and Jewel-Osco stores.

Rapid Expansion

However, the rapid expansion led to systemic problems of integrating new grocery stores into the Albertson’s logistical system. Additionally, Albertson’s had taken on significant debt to fund the acquisitions. This eventually led to Albertsons being purchased by Cerberus Capital and no longer being a publicly-traded company in 2006. The transition forced the company to close over a hundred stores as Albertson strove to become a more viable competitor to the rising threats of Walmart and Costco.

Store and logistical efficiencies were gained leading the new Albertsons to grow. This growth was fueled again by acquisitions with the most notable being the purchase of Safeway. Eventually, Albertson’s would grow to over 2,200 grocery stores branded under twenty different names.

Therefore, Lessons Learned

Learning their lessons from previous acquisitions, Albertsons applied an empowering methodology to their acquisitions. They counterintuitively opted to not leverage economies of scale, apply strict controls, and demand extensive integration efforts. Instead, Albertson’s chose to apply a model of balanced participation where the newly acquired companies would maintain their business processes and control. This enabled Albertsons to remove layers of bureaucracy, employ a small corporate staff, and leverage their expertise to help the newly acquired chains as facilitators.


Albertsons. (2019, November 18). Our History. Retrieved from Albertsons Companies:

Casciaro, T. E. (2019). Cross Silo Leadership. Harvard Business Review, 130-139.

Watson, M. (2018). Another Common Strategies and Practices Among Facilitators of Innovative Thinking in Organizations. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest.

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