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Routes to Achievement

This is a group of alternative methods based on a single principle - the value of tracing the causes of successful outcomes.

Discussing Success

Straightforward discussions based on this principle tend to produce clichés and complacency:
'Didn't we do well?' say the group.

'How did you manage that?' asks the trainer

'Teamwork, co-operation trust ... determination, good organisation, leadership ... ' come the answers chanted by the group.

'Can you give an example?' asks the trainer, seeking some specifics.

'Yes the last five minutes against the clock.' 'It seemed impossible but we did it.' 'The team done well. Didn't we?' 'No problem.'

'Well done!' says the trainer, still wondering how to get into a useful discussion about success.

You can transform this mutual congratulation session into something a little more worthwhile.

Reviewing tools can help to penetrate generalisations about success and help people to learn from success.

It may be no surprise that some of the best reviewing tools for analysing and understanding success were originally developed for the investigation of problems.

The methods that follow should help to stimulate a better quality of discussion!
[Also see the 'Tools for Change' section on discussion-based reviewing that has since been added to this online guide.]


Whodunit? - reconstructing the scene of success

Criminal Investigation Departments around the world are a potentially rich resource of investigative methods that could be converted into reviewing tools for investigating success. (Take time out to brainstorm this if you like!)

Reconstructing the scene of the crime can involve an actor retracing the steps of the victim. This is carried out at the same place, the same time of day and the same day of the week, in the hope that witnesses might come forward when they see the reconstruction while it is being acted out or when it is shown on TV.

Reconstructing the scene of the success involves one volunteer from the group 'walking through' what they were doing during the activity under review. The facilitator asks questions (to the whole group) such as: 'Do you remember where you were and what you were doing at this point? Do you remember what you were feeling, thinking, saying? Can you help anyone else remember what they were doing or saying at this point?'

This exercise in reconstruction works best if everyone gets up and gets involved in the reconstruction. But it can be more convenient (and more easily managed) if the group remain seated while watching the person 'walking through'. (This role can be rotated.)

The likely answer to the question 'Whodunit?' is 'We all did it', but following a reconstruction, everyone should have a much better understanding of how this group achievement was produced and who did what.

LIKELY OUTCOME: A group that understands how its success was achieved is more likely to be successful in the future - whether or not they choose to follow the same recipe again.


Charting Success

'Charting Success' is based on 'Disaster Charting'. Major disasters are often followed by a promise from a politician or investigator that 'no stone will be left unturned'. One of the methods that is used for this involves creating charts that trace back the causes of each problem and sub-problem etc. Obviously there is a huge incentive for such detailed enquiry when the purpose is both disaster prevention and sorting out compensation claims. But the basic principle is adaptable and transferable to 'Charting Success'.

The end result of 'Charting Success' is a collection of flow charts (like mind maps) that lead stage by stage into the final successful outcome. It will look like a logistical plan, except that it has been created after the event and shows what actually happened (rather than what was planned).

  • For charting the causes of a success, first write down the main achievement at the top of a flipchart (A1 size).
  • Now ask the group for about 3 things that happened shortly before the main achievement and that in some way contributed to the achievement.
  • Record these 3 things in a well-spaced list below the heading. Add arrows pointing to each item from the left-hand margin.
  • These 3 items become the headings for new lists. From this stage people work in sub groups to produce new lists using A2 size paper, then A3, then A4 (= standard letter size).
  • The result (if laid out over the floor) is an ever-growing pattern of connected charts. Colour-coding can help to bring out different themes and to show connections across different causal chains.
  • The result is a word picture of how success happened. Encourage the moving or re-grouping of lists to present different or more accurate pictures of what really happened.
If you are lucky enough to possess one of those magnetic boards with moveable hexagonal shapes, you could play for hours with this idea. However, you do lose the potential advantage of working in sub groups - something that the paper-based version is designed to encourage.


Rewind - reverse replay of an achievement

For a group that has already experienced and enjoyed a more 'normal' version of action replay, present this challenge:
'You are rightly proud of your achievement. Now see if you can go one better. Imagine that you have a video that tells the story of your success and that a new television company broadcasts your video to the nation.'

'No - the challenge is not that easy! The video is played at normal speed but in reverse.'

'Decide on a 'start' and 'finish' point and see if you can manage a replay of your success in reverse.'

(You can allow brief portions of the soundtrack to be played back the right way round so that a few words and phrases are recognisable.) [More details and variations of Action Replay can be found within the 'stories' section of this guide.]


Telling a story backwards

This is a more sedate (and slightly more sensible) version of 'rewind'.
  • The group sit in a circle and one chair (or place) is designated as the story-teller's chair.
  • The first occupant of the chair starts the story where it finished. If any prompting is needed, the facilitator asks 'What happened before that?' to which the story-teller replies.
  • If anyone in the group remembers something that the story-teller has left out, they stand up. This is a signal for the story-teller to stop, stand up and sit in the challenger's chair (or place).
  • The challenger then takes up the story, telling it backwards until they are themselves challenged etc.
[See 'emag yromem' in the 'stories' section of this guide.]


Reviewing helps us to learn from experience, but what kind of experience should reviewing itself be? See Reviewing for Development.

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