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Symposium Presentations

GroupSystems® and Virtual Reality:
Integrating Process and Product Creation
Howard M. Brown
District of Columbia Public Schools

During summer 1999, DCPS students used GroupSystems® to create the content necessary to build a virtual reality presentation.  As part of the process, they used brainstorming, voting and outlining tools to mold their thinking on the topic of research -- heroism -- and to map out their strategy for identifying the components that would make up the virtual reality product each group would produce.  Then students used these tools iteratively to resolve problems encountered in identifying attributes of the hero and translating them into “rooms” which would result in an engaging VR product.

In this presentation we will demonstrate the power of teaching students and teachers methods for using GroupSystems® in repetitive ways which can become self-sustainable.  We will illustrate the way that using GroupSystems® and using VR can be “integrated”, and we will allow students to present samples of the work they completed as authentic products of instruction.                                                      Back to Top

Beyond the Meeting Room:  
Adding Methodology and Distributed Teamwork 
to Your Repertoire
Robert O. Briggs, Ph.D.

For many years we GroupSystems® facilitators have been the master craftsmen of the meeting room, creating elegant, custom one-of-a-kind group processes.  We have developed and shared group dynamics techniques with whimsical names like FastFocus, Popcorn Sort, and Bucket Walk.  These techniques, our stock in trade, create useful, predictable patterns of team interaction.  From this focus on technique has emerged a bigger and more exciting opportunity.  GroupSystems® facilitators are becoming the new industrialists of the knowledge economy by creating and selling repeatable methodologies for business tasks like IT requirements definition or risk assessment.  Facilitators who create customer meetings can only sell their time.

Facilitators who creates a methodology for a mission critical task:

  • have tangible solutions for people with a lot of money and a great deal of pain;

  • has something that can be repeated successfully by lower-skilled, lower cost labor; and

  • can earn while on vacation.

GroupSystems® is now available on the Web, and early experience from the cyber frontier showed that distributed teamwork could be harder to tame than Dodge City on a Saturday night.  Embedded in a methodology, distributed teamwork becomes peaceful as a herd after sundown.    In this session you will go hands-on with several named GroupSystems® techniques like FastFocus and Popcorn sort, and audience members will exchange their own favorite facilitation techniques.   We will then examine several success stories of facilitators who have used their GroupSystems® techniques to create methodologies that are the production lines for the knowledge economy.  We’ll talk about why distributed facilitation works better in a methodology, and we’ll point to some of tricks, tips, and pitfalls of distributed teamwork.  We’ll discuss three business models facilitators are using to cash in on their methodologies.  

This session will explore the exciting opportunities and the special challenges of distributed teamwork. You’ll hear stories of hair-raising adventure and satisfying success from the early days of virtual frontier.  We’ll discuss the lessons learned and best practices that emerged from those days, with a special focus on how to decide when to work face-to-face and when to work distributed.   We will argue that the single most important factor for long-term success with both distributed and face-to-face collaboration is repeatable methodology.  

Audience members will be encouraged to contribute their own experiences and insights to the discussion both orally and on-line with GroupSystems®.                                                               Back to Top

Creating an Information Map Using 
ThemeScape and Categorizer
Robert J. Beard

As we all know, Categorizer helps groups to easily and quickly generate a list of ideas.  In some cases the list can easily reach 100 or more ideas.  The usual problem that the group is then faced with is what to do with all that information.

ThemeScape is a suite of four software products that automatically organizes text-based material into interactive landscapes of information, helping users quickly understand what is inside a document collection, find information of interest, and discover new insights.

ThemeScape is a next-generation technology that helps bridge the gap between the increasing quantity of available information and the decreasing quantity of time to locate and absorb it. Current approaches to harnessing the content glut do little more than index key words. ThemeScape, in contrast, extracts and intuitively presents the concepts and rich relationships contained within any collection of documents. Users can quickly and easily gauge important themes, determine trends, and locate useful information. 

ThemeScape maps provide a natural interface to the information: the information is the interface. In contrast to list-based interfaces, a wealth of content is intuitively provided to each user. Symbols, elevations, distances, and other elements of the map convey a significant degree of information in a very compact, efficient, and engaging form. 

The foundation of ThemeScape technology began in 1994 when the US Intelligence Community sought new ways to handle massive amounts of data. The Battelle Memorial Institute's Pacific Northwest National Laboratories was asked to help solve the problem of information overload for the Intelligence analyst. What followed were an increasingly powerful series of prototypes and algorithms for contending with large quantities of text-based information. After almost three years of development in the laboratory, numerous technology awards, and several successful applications, the core technology was commercialized to form ThemeScape.

This power point presentation will show how a list of ideas from a Categorizer activity was supplied to ThemeScape to automatically organize the ideas into interactive landscapes of information.  We will also compare the ThemeScape results with the results of three additional hours of work the group did to develop their rendering of the information.                                                                       Back to Top

Using GroupSystems to Facilitate
Teen Think Tank on School Violence 
(with live demonstration)
Brice F. Marsh
NASA – Computer Sciences Corporation

Is it possible to engage teenagers in a serious effort to identify the root causes of school violence and to develop strategies to deal with it? If so, will computer-aided group decision support tools add value to the process? Those are the questions we addressed with a number of Teen Think Tanks on School Violence. While this was neither a formal nor a scientific treatment of the subject, the results of the initial experiment were overwhelmingly impressive. Using the GroupSystems® Electronic Meeting System (EMS), sixteen groups of teenagers grappled with the issue of school violence and generated more than 800 different ways to predict, prevent, avoid, protect, react, eliminate, or cope with youth violence. They also used EMS to categorize, prioritize, and to reach consensus about their best ideas. Then they developed teen recommendations for students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and law enforcement officers. This was all accomplished in a series of two-hour sessions; and none of the students had any prior knowledge or experience with EMS. 

This presentation includes the results of several very recent Teen Think Tank sessions, a review of the TTT Webpage, and a brief description of the EMS process and TTT methodology.

The presentation will be followed by a 30-minute hands-on demonstration of the EMS process used for the think tanks. 

EMS process and TTT methodology © Copyright 2000 - Teen Think Tanks of America, Inc.                                                                                            Back to Top

 Project Planning with GroupSystems®
CPTeam and MS Project
William H. Money, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Information Systems
School of Business and Public Management
Management Science Department
The George Washington University

The objective of the presentation is to demonstrate how a GroupSystems® session can be used to “Generate a tailored and detailed Project Plan” agreed to by a project team and project manager.

It has been observed that successful electronic meeting sessions can occur with apparently admirable results. Participants report that they are satisfied and confident that good decisions have been reached and plans have been made (or will follow shortly). However, when facilitators (and stakeholder managers) visit the client weeks or months later and review the results they find that few or none or of those superb decisions have carried to fruition and implementation.  This issue had been addressed in The Seven Sins of Deadly Meetings, by Eric Matson. He considers post meeting action failures a major detriment to accomplishing goals: "Sin #4: Nothing happens once the meeting ends.  People really don't work or know how convert decisions into action."  This presentation will show how the CPTeam process and tool are designed to vastly ease the pain of implementing meeting results.

The CPTeam process starts with a traditional GroupSystems® session focusing on task accomplishment. [Assuming prior agreement has been reached that something is or needs to be done.]  Sessions are then followed too collect task information from the client's technical experts and managerial personnel, either using project planning templates or standard facilitation techniques.  Once the task component data is collected it is sorted (by WBS or task owner). These organized data are then assigned priorities, resources (to perform tasks), timelines and other applicable planning and management information. The data collected are then exported and saved. The CPTeam data migration tool reads the file with the data exported from GroupSystems®, parses these data, and automatically generates MS Project Plans.  The effectiveness of a project team that is engaged in planning a project can be dramatically improved using CPTeam’s process and interface between GroupSystems® and MS Project (and various other project planning tools).  

This presentation will include a description of the CPTeam process, discussion of results, examples from sessions where the tool was used, and a demonstration of the CPTeam tool and methodology.
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Limited Resources & Maximum Results:
Using Collaborative Technology to Support Conferences
Lee F. Cohen
Collaborative Resource Center
Marine Corps Systems Command

The purpose of this presentation is to suggest ways that collaborative technology can support and enhance a large conference while using the resources readily available in most organizations.  My presentation is based on my recent experience organizing and supporting an off-site conference to conduct an External Business Environment Assessment.  During a two day period, 175 participants heard from and responded to a dozen presentations and speeches from the organization's owners and customers.  Collaborative technology (a laptop with pre-set questions) was used to capture discussions and opinions of people in small groups at tables of ten. 

Using our existing GroupSystems® license and organizational assets of 20 laptop PCs and other necessary equipment, I devised a method to train facilitators and technographers (recorders), setup and take down the equipment, and organize the output for an executive review.  My presentation will provide ideas, examples, and lessons learned from this recent event. Additionally, I will discuss my experience as a facilitator at an event with over 2500 people where similar technology was used.
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Using GroupSystems® with Simulation to 
Validate Concepts for Municipal Response to 
Terrorist Attacks with Biological Weapons

John Walther, Ops Research Analyst
Freeman Marvin, Principal
Decision Advantage
Susan Hayes, Sr. Member of the Tech. Staff


The Domestic Preparedness Program funds initiatives to improve the ability of U.S. communities to respond more effectively to terrorism by weapons of mass destruction.  One of these initiatives is the Biological Weapons (BW) Improved Response Program.  This program is developing a response template for cities to tailor and incorporate into their emergency response plans for use in case of an incident involving biological agents.  The response template consists of a number of components, such as command and control, epidemiological investigation, and several medical response components.

This presentation describes our process to validate these components using GroupSystems® in conjunction with operations research methods and tools.  Tabletop exercises are held with panels of emergency medical providers and other experts to simulate the flow of casualties through the emergency response activities.  The exercises are supported by GroupSystems®, and by Extend simulation and DPL decision analysis software tools.  The presentation illustrates how the validation process was used to evaluate one of the template components: the Neighborhood Emergency Help Center (NEHC).              Back to Top

Collaboration Support for Y2K 
Consequence Management Operations
at the Executive Support Center, 
Office of Secretary of Defense 

during the Millennium Rollover

Robert John Harder & Daniel E. Hocking

Information Science and Technology Directorate
Army Research Laboratory

There were many preparations within the Department of Defense for the Millennium Rollover.  One specific effort was termed Y2K Consequence Management and included the management of the effects of emergencies through the provision of military support.  During the Millennium Rollover, the Decision Support Activity (DSA), a crises reporting and analysis center, provided information to the Executive Support Center (ESC) of the Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD).  The ESC then managed the response through the OSD staff for a decision by the Secretary of Defense or his Deputy.  To assist in the possible numerous events requiring military support during the Millennium Rollover, a collaboration environment was developed for the ESC.

The presentation will cover the background of the project, the players, the process used, training, and the results.  The hands-on portion will consist of one of the actual training scenarios with scripts for participants to assume the roles of the OSD decision makers.  The scenario includes the building of the recommendation and the simultaneous “signing” of the decision document.                                                            Back to Top

Managing Roles, Goals, and Client Expectations while
Designing an Integrated AeroSpace Force

John Lesko & Chuck Smith
Analytic Services, Inc. (ANSER)

This presentation will reveal to the audience an insider’s view of a project that the United States Air Force (USAF) has been working on within an ANSER Innovation Center.  The project involves the transformation or re-engineering of today’s USAF from a separate air force and space force into an integrated aerospace force.  To accomplish this project, the client formed a tiger team from various stakeholders and used a gap analysis process to identify gaps that separated the “as is” and “to be” organizations.  The group then developed an action plan to bridge these gaps and prioritize tasks to reach their ideal future state.  Pretty typical stuff as strategic planning exercises go.  But that’s just part of the story.

The so-called rest of the story will be the main emphasis of this presentation.  Our principal focus will be on describing the roles of the group facilitator (John Lesko) and a senior consultant (Chuck Smith) as they helped the client set project goals, reach meeting objectives, and managed tiger team member expectations throughout the project.  The presentation will share lessons learned, best practices, facilitation tips, and occasional surprises gathered from a series of face-to-face meetings and group workshops.  Finally, we will wrap up with a status update on our client’s progress.  Symposium attendees need not be fighter pilots nor rocket scientists to benefit from this case study.
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Resource Allocation: Integrating GroupSystems®
Team Expert Choice and EQUITY to Effectively 
and Efficiently Make Difficult Group Decisions

Peter Beck

Decision Technology

What is resource allocation? Resource allocation is the decision process an organization or an individual uses to allocate scarce resources in order to achieve its goals.  Resources can be anything: money, time, equipment, facilities, etc.  The key is that there must be some constraint on the resource—if there were no constraints then there would be no need to allocate, just give everyone what they asked for!  Some typical resource allocation situations are:

  • Budgeting

  • Funds reprogramming

  • Cut drills

  • Grant distributions

  • Floor space allocation in a new building

  • Equipment distribution

  • Staffing

In these situations, resource allocation is the heart of what managers do in their roles as decision-makers and decision leaders.  Unfortunately, many managers do not have training in or experience with the available analytic tools to support this important process.  Thus, allocating resources is often associated with stress, hidden agendas, and perceptions of unfair treatment.   This presentation will describe the proven process, using off-the-shelf collaborative tools, and neutral facilitation that can help an organization get through this stressful activity and achieve a fair and effective allocation of resources.  The software tools support managers and teams as they implement rational proven processes that apply sound mathematics, proven decision theory, and accepted economic theory.                                                Back to Top

How to Improve Training Programs Using GroupSystems®
Alan Weatherall

Director of Professional Services
Ventana UK Ltd

This paper describes the use of GroupSystems® in the detailed monitoring and improvement of a training course.  

GroupSystems® is already in use for general feedback within educational programs, some of which applications are reviewed in this presentation.  GroupSystems® is also used as a teaching tool.

However, as described in this presentation, feedback from GroupSystems® dynamically influences the immediate content of a course, as it is being run, as well as being used in the medium term to change the course design.  Measures of success of the course are monitored by this feedback during and at the end of the course.

The consequences of using this GroupSystems® feedback process, within a structured approach to course design, have been a measurably high level of participant satisfaction and a reduction of course duration, in this particular case, of 75%.                                           Back to Top

The Ups and Downs of Sustaining GroupSystems® 
in a Large Organization
Carol Lindsay
Group Decision Support Coordinator
Fairfax County, Dept. of Information Technology

You’ve overcome the first hurdle of successfully introducing the concept of collaborative technology to support meetings. You’ve got a plan to implement it through the organization. How will you sustain the momentum into the future?

This presentation describes the path one local government has taken over 9 years of using GroupSystems® for a wide variety of projects.

The presentation will include:

·         Critical success factors for the initial implementation;

·         The ongoing support (infrastructure and staff) necessary for survival;

·         Bartering in lieu of funds;

·         The ups and downs of relying on a volunteer facilitation team;

·         The role of the meeting broker;

·         Re-using group work;

·         Customer use of GroupSystems® for session planning;

·         Some examples of template activities and agendas;

·         Feedback, statistics, and success stories

Participants will be asked to add to implementation and sustaining ideas and the session output will be shared.                                 Back to Top

Developing Use Cases in a Group
Carolyn L. Cukierman
Battelle Memorial Institute

Teams in the Battelle Arlington Civilian Operations office have invented a collaborative, electronic approach for use case analysis that is innovative, customizable, and efficient.  Various teams used meeting room software as the vehicle for collecting requirements for information systems for the United States Coast Guard and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). .  Basing their work on Ivar Jacobson’s object-oriented analysis and use case design, the Battelle team customized use cases to meet the needs of their clients.  Information system specialists working closely with facilitation teams and employing the meeting room software, GroupSystems®, developed by Ventana Corporation, captured input from functional experts for systems requirements.  In carefully designed workshops, functional experts who knew little about object-oriented analysis or use cases adapted quickly to the logic, design, and efficiency of Battelle’s automated approach to use cases. 

The basic work done in use case workshops formed the foundation for the fast turnaround of requirements into the system design and speeded up the process for implementation which is currently underway.  The process is well documented, easy to use, and repeatable.  Adaptations to the methodology have already been undertaken and have shown that it can be easily modified to specific needs.  This presentation will introduce you to use cases and the application of GroupSystems® workshops to their development.                                       Back to Top

Data Gathering in Focus Groups: 
Going Beyond Simple Data Capture

Mark MacDonald
Central Intelligence Agency

The use of collaborative technologies in traditional focus groups has dramatically enhanced both the amount and quality of data gathered in these sessions.  In addition, the participants—instead of groaning about having to take time away from their jobs for yet another focus group—actually enjoy and look forward to a technology-enhanced focus group session.

This presentation will explore why the introduction of technology (notebook PCs and interactive response keypads) has had such a dramatic impact on the collection of data from groups.        Back to Top

The Many Faces of GroupSystems®: An Analysis and Description of the Collaborative Uses of GroupSystems® and Other EMS Tools in a Global Consulting Environment 
Dr. Craig J. Petrun
Dr. Tom Janson, and
Brian Diamond
PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP

In order to improve the outcomes of both internally and externally facilitated meetings, PricewaterhouseCoopers has used GroupSystems®, along with several other EMS tools (i.e., Consensus Builder, Team Expert Choice, Centra99, LotusNotes) since 1993.  PricewaterhouseCoopers has integrated collaborative technology into their formal and informal methodologies in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the outcome of these methods/ engagements.   This paper will review how we have used collaborative tools such as GroupSystems®.  It will also provide an analysis of the types of projects/methods; other collaborative tools that have been used in conjunction with GroupSystems®; and related statistics (size of meetings, local/remote usage, etc.).   This analysis should provide other large and/or growing organizations several alternatives for expanding the use of collaborative tools in their organizations.

This presentation will also select several of the more innovative and successful uses of collaborative tools within our organization and provide a more in depth analysis of the methodologies and lessons learned from each engagement.  The focus of these more in depth analyses will be to document the specific collaborative tools that were used and discuss the lessons that were learned during the development of the methodology.  Specifically, this presentation will discuss how GroupSystems® and other EMS tools can be used to facilitate the collaborative process, which is required to successfully implement both internally and externally facilitated meetings. Finally, we will also discuss how these tools can be used to capture and use the corporate knowledge of key individuals/groups in a large organization.
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Coaching Groups and Individuals with 
Collaborative Meeting Technology 
Fran Lowe
Collaborative Decisions, Inc.

"The true journey of discovery does not consist in searching for new territories but in having new eyes."   Marcel Proust

More and more, coaching services are being used by executives and managers to increase their ability to meet their goals, to overcome complex obstacles in their organizations, to improve their own power of observation and to obtain more meaningful lives. Often while working with our clients in planning or conducting meetings, we become aware of problems that get them or their groups stuck.  While our unique facilitation skills can help, sometimes we wish we could do more.  Perhaps coaching is the answer. The main question we will explore in this session is how can electronic meeting tools be used to coach organizations, groups, and individuals?

Please join our electronically supported discussion for an introduction to the art of coaching and how it can benefit from collaborative technology.  The session will include a brief presentation on coaching, followed by a hands-on interactive discussion and at least one coaching activity using electronic tools.  Coaching concepts are adapted from the Newfield Network’s Coaching for Professional and Personal Mastery program. Following the Symposium, participants will receive a copy of the electronic meeting transcripts, either by mail or e-mail.  Back to Top

Conducting Knowledge Management Audits 
Using GroupWare Tools
 Naomi Leventhal & Robert Brown
Booz-Allen & Hamilton

One of the predictors of success of Knowledge Management (KM) initiatives is the degree to which the broad user community is directly involved in the creation and implementation of a KM strategy.  Groupware tools can provide a valuable mechanism for supporting this involvement.  Through the use of a groupware toolset such as GroupSystemsâ, users can participate in the identification of KM goals and objectives, the design of a strategy for data collection and analysis, and the development of an implementation plan.  The organization can benefit in several ways when it involves the user community directly in a KM initiative.  When an opportunity is provided for broad participation within the user community, the result is an improvement in the quality of the strategy developed, an increase in the speed of the data collection process, and an enhanced level of commitment to KM goals and objectives.  In addition, the use of groupware tools provides a “real time” example of the value of electronic information management mechanisms.  By asking participants to work collaboratively via an electronic toolset, we can demonstrate the importance of shared information and the value of electronic tools for managing that information.

The focus of this presentation will be on the use of a groupware toolset to support the development of an audit of the knowledge management assets of an organization.  This activity is often accomplished through the use of standard survey instruments, individual interviews, and research on the current IT architecture.  We will demonstrate how the use of groupware tools can expedite and enhance the process of collecting and evaluating the organization’s KM resources.  The groupware capabilities utilized here will be familiar to those already conversant with the technology; groupware tools such as brainstorming, idea categorization, and voting have often been used to support the analysis of an organization’s resource base.  What may be new to session participants will be the use of these techniques to support the analysis of a vital, yet sometimes difficult to describe, organizational resource, knowledge.
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Strategic Planning, Techniques & Lessons Learned
Stephen P. Carter
Science Applications International Corporation

What is a strategic plan?  How do you go about building one?  This is a review of how the National Security Space Architect (NSSA), a joint DoD agency, developed its strategic plan.  The presentation walks through the iterations of  mission and vision statements, goals and objectives for the NSSA from the origin of the agency to the present (1999).  Included are definitions of the major strategic planning components and techniques for creating them.  The summary provides lessons learned from the process.                                       Back to Top

The Care and Feeding of Shared Understanding
Jeff Conklin & John Miller
GDSS, Inc.

In this presentation we want to both tell a story and teach a tool.  The story is a new distinction about problems:  “wicked problems”.  A wicked problem is more than hard or complex.  With a wicked problem you don’t even understand the problem until you have created a solution.  Wicked problems have a lot of diverse stakeholders, and generally operate in an environment in which timelines, budgets, and team members are changing at a hectic pace.  Wicked problems are ultimately unsolvable.  Yet, today, most of the problems and projects being tackled in cutting edge organizations are wicked.  The only way to address a wicked problem is through methods that create and maintain as much shared understanding as possible.  Shared understanding means that people involved in a project (or a function) have a shared sense of meaning about key terms; a shared understanding of outcomes and the criteria for success; a shared map of the stakeholders and the key assumptions of the effort; and a shared understanding of the issues and information related to the project.

The tool is a simple and direct approach for creating shared understanding, no matter how complex the problem is.  Based on research in the early 1970’s, the Issue Based Information System (IBIS) offers a kind of grammar that exposes the hidden logic within problem solving and decision making conversations.  We will teach the basics of IBIS and show how it can be used as a basis for facilitation in a manner that consistently creates the highest possible level of shared understanding among a group of stakeholders.  We will also demonstrate the QuestMap™ software system, which can be used with a computer display projector to practice IBIS with large or small groups.  QuestMap™ not only facilitates the current meeting but also provides a coherent “organizational memory” of the learning, decisions and rationale created by the group so that future meetings can build powerfully on earlier thinking and learning.                          Back to Top

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Last modified: May 03, 2000