Monday, February 16, 2009

Get your OARRs in the water

20 years ago I attended a course on “graphic facilitation”. What stuck for me was the idea of “OARRs”… as in, the things that need to get back in the water when group performance flags. I’d give credit to the instructors of the course, but I have no idea 20 years later who they are… so please forgive me. Pressing on…

All relationships and all groups have issues. We can hide, ignore, or deny it. Or, we can address them. An issue is anything that drains energy from the relationship or the group. The OARRs acronym provides a simple tool for where to look FIRST to plug the drain and get back on track.

Outcomes: Are we clear on the desired outcomes in this relationship? For this group? Where are we headed? What’s important here? Why are we together? How does this current behavior move us toward our desires?

Agenda: Is there clarity on what we are doing and when? Is the calendar a moving target or an agreed upon plan? How are we doing? Are there competing or unstated agendas?

Rules: Have we clarified guidelines and expected behaviors with one another? For example, have we defined what “on time” looks like? Have we defined “confidentiality”? Are we clear on how we expect to treat one another?

Roles: Is this a one-person-does-all group or relationship? What other roles are defined? What agreements are in place? How are we each taking 100% responsibility for our part in the relationship? Our role in the group?

I could come up with a dozen more questions. The Big Idea here is that too often when groups start to disintegrate we want to find a villain or a scapegoat or someone to blame. Getting our OARRs back in the water gives us a tool to look at the systems and structure that might be contributing to our downfall.



NOTE: Within 8 hours of posting this, I learned that Dave Sibbett of Grove Consultants International in San Francisco ( was the originator of the OARRs idea. So, thanks Dave!