Doing rounds involves moving around the room, giving each person a chance to speak in order. Rounds are one of the best ways to bring people together and create a group. And to give each person an equal opportunity to speak. They balance the room and establish or re-establish equivalence.

Gilles Charest, of Sociogest and  The School for Leaders in Quebec, teaches that if you want to make a group decision, you have to have a group. Since each person is different in each meeting, the group needs to be re-formed. He does 2-3 rounds on a proposal before there is an attempt at consent.

There are many kinds of rounds, each with a different aim.  Quick reaction rounds, sharing rounds, airing of concerns rounds, consent rounds, opening rounds, closing rounds, etc. The facilitator may suggest the aim for the round, subject to objections by the other members of the circle.

How to Do Rounds

1. State the aim of the round.

2. Give each person the opportunity to speak in a predictable order so no one is keeping a queue or thinking about whether to ask to speak. The facilitator participates as a member of the circle.

3. Start in a different place in the circle and go in opposite directions in each round so one person, or persons, is not always speaking first or last.

4. The facilitator ensures that the round moves along with a nod to indicate the next speaker if necessary, particularly if people are not sitting in a circle. This is less necessary in experienced groups.

5. The focus is on listening. Participants question or try to clarify statements only at the end of the round.

6. Each person speaks from their own heart and mind, not in reaction to others or to argue with others.

5. People may pass. The facilitator may come back to them at the end of the round to see if they have something to say.

Problems with Rounds

1. Facilitator Interrupts the Round

Facilitators who are used to being responsible for producing a decision may be too active in trying to explain what a person is trying to say or immediately correcting misinformation. This breaks the focus on listening and places it on the facilitator. A facilitator may take a more active part when soliciting objections to a proposal and writing them down but this is usually not done in a round, although each person may be given an opportunity to state an objection. The focus in collecting objections often becomes the white board on which the objections are recorded.

The facilitator shouldn’t interrupt, try to clarify someone’s statements, or otherwise control the room unless clearly necessary. If someone is interrupting or pontificating, the facilitator may quietly remind them of the aim of the round. Clarifications can be done at the end of the round.

2. Addressing Another Person’s Comments

Each person should address the aim of the round and their own responses to aim, not to the responses of other people. Some groups describe  this as addressing “sacred space” referring to the spirit of being in a chapel along with one’s conscience. While the religious connotations are not appropriate in all organizations or in all forms of rounds, this concept conveys the intention of clarifying and addressing one’s own response.

3, Time Limits on Rounds

While time limits may seem necessary, they are antithetical to listening and sharing. It is contradictory to say that you truly want to hear what someone is thinking and feeling but only as much as they can say it 30 seconds. The focus becomes the time limit rather than listening and sharing. Everyone becomes a time keeper, consciously or unconsciously. With experience people will intuitively know how long they can speak, and how long others can listen. A simple statement that this is a “quick round” or “we have 15 minutes left on this proposal” is usually sufficient. Setting at time limit can also imply that the facilitator is in charge of the round, not the individual members.

4. Believing the Circle Is Too Large to Do Rounds

Creating and re-creating equivalence is even more necessary in a large circle than in a small circle. If the aims of individual members are too varied and thus regularly produce too many reactions to be sorted out in the time available, it may be desirable for the circle to form new circles. In some instances, like rounds to gather objections, the round may be done by inviting only those interested in speaking to speak using popcorn or a quick round with many passing.

 5. Allowing People to Pass for the Wrong Reasons

The strength of the circle is that it benefits from the insights, needs, and experiences of all the members. That is why consent is fundamental to creating a strong organization. Each person’s participation is necessary. If people are passing because they are disaffected, withholding important information, or not taking responsibility for improving the proposal when possible, the facilitator and other members of the circle should be aware and at the end of the round try to determine why.

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