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Parking lot, a facilitator tool to keep a focused conversation

The Parking lot helps to track any items, ideas and issues that are raised during an activity, but may not be useful to discuss at that specific time in the workshop. It is an essential toolkit for the facilitator as it provides a polite way to say “yes, I heard you. But it is not important at this moment.”

 

The facilitator should introduce the concept of parking either at the beginning of the workshop, or whenever the first conversation goes off track. Write “Parking lot” on a flip chart and place it on a wall on the room. If not already on a post-it, the item under discussion should be written on a post-it and placed on the Parking lot. Make sure to briefly explain the concept of the Parking lot, and get back to the current activity. It is important to send a strong message to the participants about the Parking Lot: “The conversation is getting off track, and it is not in the current activity scope”.

 

But, it is equally important to listen to and respect people thoughts and feelings. Therefore, the Parking Lot must be used with a pure intention, and revisited later: “This is parked for now; but we will get back to it later”.

Indeed, at the end of each workshop block, you should take ten minutes to review the items in the Parking Lot. Then one of these two actions are taken for each item:

1. The item is removed from the Parking Lot (the topic was already covered or no longer needs to be addressed), or

2. the item remains in the Parking Lot for the next review.

The last Parking Lot review should happen towards the end of the workshop. At that last review it is very important to clarify any remaining items and share with everyone what will happen to it.

Use the Parking Lot with a pure intention:

This is parked for now; but we will get back to it later”. – Tweet This.

This content is from the Lean Inception book.

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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