A common tool in the lean world is the kaizen event. This is where a cross functional team meets for 3-5 days all day to improve a process.
The days are long, not only for the participants but also for the facilitator(s). Participants hate sitting around a conference room for multiple days straight. It is difficult to concentrate and people become bored quickly. It is hard for facilitators to keep the energy up during this time also.
This is where breakout groups come in handy. Using breakout groups gets everyone engaged and can get the team up and moving around. If there are participants who don’t like to speak to a bigger audience, the smaller groups give them a chance to give input without feeling uncomfortable. Also, it can give the facilitator time to gather their thoughts and re-energize during the session.
Breakout groups can be used in different ways. For an event focused around a business or transactional process that is hard to see, a rotating chart can be a good option. Have everyone write their improvement ideas on a post-it note. One idea per post-it note. Give the team a few minutes to write them down. Then have each person come to the front, read their idea and stick the post-it on paper hanging on the wall. Group the post-its by similar ideas from individuals. After you have all the ideas, split the large group into smaller teams and give each team an equal number of ideas to discuss. Use a flip chart. Have one idea per flip chart page. List the idea at the top and then write the benefits on the left side and the challenges to the idea on the right side of the chart. When all the teams are done, have them rotate to read what the other group wrote and write any additional thoughts they have on the idea.
This is just one way to get people up and more engaged.
If the improvement event is in a manufacturing area, a typical breakout group is going out and actually moving the work area around to the improved design. Simple, effective and the process is ready to run right after the event is over.
It is important to balance working as a group and breaking out into smaller groups. When done well, it energizes the group and the facilitator and allows everyone a chance to give input no matter what their communication style is.