Peer group consulting

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Summary

Peer group consultation is a tool to support members of a team or an organisation to cope professionally with challenges in their daily work. In the circle of colleagues, ‘problems’ from their own practice will be presented. The different perspectives, hypotheses and ideas from the other group members will help people to get a better idea of the given situation and then develop new ideas for possible action.

A major feature of this method is the gradual progression, where there is no direct jump to solutions but a proper process that eventually leads there, allowing for more thorough understanding and thus better solutions.

This method requires a relationship of trust among the people involved and confidentiality about everything that happens.

Goal/Learning Objective/Expected Output

Bring more clarity into a difficult situation, find a variety of ways to deal with a particular problem.

Way/level of dealing with subject at stake

Collective analysis, reflection, consulting.

Application in moderation cycle

Convergence, applying newly acquired knowledge or competencies.

Duration

45–90 minutes

Group Size

5–8 people (larger groups can easily be split)

Level of difficulty

Easy

Facilitator

Internal or external, needs to keep a close eye on the structure, time and that people do not suggest solutions too early. The time-pressure is both helpful (to achieve relevant feedback in a short time) and challenging (to really focus on the issue).

Of course, the schedule can be adapted to the given situation and maybe also to the number of participants in the room. However, the schedule should be explained and be clear to all participants.

Materials needed

  • A timer or stopwatch for the facilitator
  • Flipchart (optional)

Process description

Preparation: Depending on the size of your group, you could create sub-groups for the different cases to be talked about. Before splitting into sub-groups those people who want to present cases summarise their case in two sentences so that people can choose themselves which topic attracts them the most. A good size for one sub-group is 4–7 people plus the case giver. Select one person in each sub-group to be in charge of the time-keeping and keeping an eye on the rules.

Introduction (5 min)

The ‘coachee’ (or case-giver) gives a more in-depth presentation of their case, explaining some of the key facts and the narrative of their problem. If the case is a bit more complicated, use the help of a flipchart. At the end of the presentation, the coachee asks a question of the group. This could be something like ‘What options do I have to deal with my situation?’ or ‘Is the way I am planning to deal with my situation the best choice?’

Questions from the group (5 min)

Now the group can ask questions for clarification and further details that they deem necessary to fully understand the case. Make sure not to allow questions that are suggesting solutions (solutions in disguise), such as ‘did you consider to do this and that?’, in order not to jump to solutions at this point. The coachee waits for all questions to come and can take some notes.

Clarifications (3 min)

Now the coachee gives additional information in response to what was asked by the group. In situations of time-pressure it is the case-giver’s decision which questions to prioritise.

Discussion and building hypotheses (10 min)

The group is trying to understand the situation, discussing what they understood from the coachee’s presentation and what they observe when they look at the situation. They provide feedback and share their reactions to what they heard. The coachee sits still and listens while the group discusses their case. The group members talk to each other as if the coachee was not even around. Still, there are no solutions allowed, which needs to be managed by the one in charge of rules.

Backstopping (3 min)

Now it is time for the coachee to give feedback: which of the hypotheses and ideas given by the group resonated with them. This gives the group a direction to follow when they start thinking about solutions in the next step.

Development of ideas and solutions (7 min)

The group jointly looks for ways, possibilities and ideas for how the coachee’s initial question can be properly answered. This can involve a variety of proposals, which the coachee can choose from as they wish. Again, the coachee remains in the role of a quiet observer and takes notes if applicable.

Final reflection (3 min)

Every peer-consultation ends with the case-giver having the final words. They can indicate which of the solutions they want to follow and what would be their next steps.

It is really up to the coachee to choose what they want to say in this reflection.

Debriefing options

Ask for individual reflection: which of the insights and solutions for the particular case could also be useful for others’ own situations?

Ask the group: how could the method be useful for our respective work?

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