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Facilitation and diving: depth, duration and decompression time

I thought about this post for Inception facilitators but I soon realised that it also works for you who have a lot of meetings and need to make your life easier.

I thought about it when I participated on an energizer – what is your first job? – during an Inception.

At the age of 14 I worked as a diving instructor (I was like the mascot of the group of instructors).

And I remembered that in scuba diving, you must be aware and respect the combination of these three variables: depth, duration and decompression time.

When diving with an scuba (the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus), you have to respect the decompression table. This table shows the decompression time, depending on the depth at which the diver was and the duration submerged.

Sample decompression table – Exemplo de tabela de descompressão; fonte: http://augustohse.blogspot.com/2013/04/nr-15.html

Compare the values ​​of lines 3 and line 15 in the table:

  • on line 3 – depth of 33 meters with a duration of 30 minutes and decompression time of 7 minutes;
  • on line 15 – depth of 36 meters with a duration of 30 minutes and decompression time of 14 minutes.

The correlation (and control) of these three variables has to do with the risk of embolism caused by nitrogen in the blood, which can change from a liquid to a gaseous state, if you do not respect the proper decompression time.

Typically divers plan their dive. It goes something like this: on the first dive, I will descend to 20 meters deep where I will stay for for 50 minutes, then I will go up slowly. Rest (decompression time) for 10 minutes before going for the second dive.

What the table shows is that if the diver goes deeper, the diving duration should be shorter and the decompression time longer. Regardless of the planning before the dive, the diver controls the duration and depth to decide the decompression time.

In fact, the table shows what is indicated. But it is the diver who decides.  After all, the risk is with the diver.

But what does this have to do with facilitation?


As a facilitator, you must be aware of and respect the combination of these three variables: depth, duration and decompression time – duration is the time that the group is “submerged in an activity” and decompression time is the time that people take rest after an activity.

The point is:  Divers and Facilitators must respect the decompression time. Tweet This.

To help you, I created a decompression table for facilitators.

3Ds interval planning decompression table

  • Depth – how deep was the session*?
    • easy – participants are very relaxed and enjoying the session
    • medium – participants are a little tired from the session
    • profound – participants are very tired from the session
  • Duration – the duration time that participants were submerged in the session
  • Decompression time – the time interval before diving into the next session

* session = activity / meeting / workshop

Before writing this post I was already following the rationale presented in this table. For medium depth sessions, I did either 25 minutes of activity for 2 minutes of break, or 50 minutes for 10 minutes of break. When the conversation was very deep (demanding more from everyone), I increased the decompression time – the interval between sessions.

I hope this table helps you. Good dives!

>> This is an example of facilitation tips shared in the Lean Inception training. Join, participate, learn and discuss this and other facilitation tips with people with similar interests.

Paulo Caroli

Paulo Caroli is the author of the best-selling book “Lean Inception: How to Align People and Build the Right Product” (the first on a series of books on business agility). He's also the creator of FunRetrospectives.com , a site and book about retrospectives, futurospectives and team building activities. Caroli writes on this blog frequently. Receive the next post in your email. Sign up here.
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