Sociometric Exercises

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Summary

Stemming from systemic process work, sociometric exercises allow for a clear overview of where people position themselves in respect to specific questions. Furthermore, they allow people to articulate their position, thereby supporting groups to get a good feeling for where they stand on the questions. The method is ideal for the beginning of a workshop or to receive a quick group feedback about things like the approaches being used or how to address a question.

Goal/Learning Objective/Expected Output

To see one’s own and others’ position in respect to particular questions and experiences.

Way/level of dealing with subject at stake

Constellation work, voicing opinions and developing a position.

Application in moderation cycle

Opening up a topic, getting to know one another in the group.

Duration

15–45 minutes

Group Size

5–30 people

Level of difficulty

Easy

Facilitator

The facilitator acts as a curious interviewer, so they would ideally be external or at least not part of the group. Especially for large groups it needs good awareness to keep everyone focused on the single voices that are interviewed.

Materials needed

  • Facilitation cards
  • 1–2 long ropes

Process description

Sociometric exercises are a simple but very effective tool for participants and facilitator(s) to get a feeling for the group and what the group is addressing. The exercises are often used, after a round of introductions, in order to delve into the topic.

General process

The whole idea is simple. The facilitator defines an axis with a question (e.g. How long have you worked in the organisation?) and places facilitation cards in two corners of the room with, for example ‘less than a month’ and ‘over twenty years’ on them. The group sorts itself accordingly so that people stand in a row (in the example: from the one who works the longest in the organisation down to the newest one).

The facilitator then interviews individual people about why they are standing where they are standing. The rest of the group listens. It can make sense to interview everyone, but for some questions it is not so important that everyone says something. The idea of the interviewing is to enrich the positioning with further information (in the example: ‘are you in the same job as when you started; how was it for you when you started?’).

Usually, the facilitator asks a few different questions which make people position themselves along the axis. It starts with more easy questions (such as the one in the example) and evolves to more delicate ones regarding the topic of the workshop. For some questions, it makes sense to establish two axes that form a matrix for people to position themselves in. For that, ropes function well as an orientation resembling the axes (arranged as a cross with facilitation cards at their ends).

Application

There are two helpful rules for the process which should be explained – especially when it comes to positions based on opinion:

  • One’s positioning is an association given in this moment (which may change the next minute – and that would be ok).
  • People are not to be judged based on where they position themselves. This is crucial so participants remain where they feel right, without being influenced too much by the others.

To give the facilitator a feeling for the type of questions to ask in sociometric constellations, here are a few examples:

  • How long have you worked in your organisation?
  • How confident do you feel about the topic xyz (topic of the workshop)?
  • How satisfied are you with the previous process xyz (especially for self-evaluation questions)?
  • How urgently do you feel a change needs to happen?
  • With whom do you work closely; and with whom less often? (This does not happen on an axis but freely in the room so that people position themselves in relation to the other people).
  • What do you think about the workshop today?
  • How do you rate your own experience (beginner vs. expert)?
  • How much do you believe that xyz gets implemented/started…?

If the facilitator has enough time, you can also ask within the group if there are questions that people would want to use to create a constellation.

Debriefing options

Especially in teams that have worked longer together, the facilitator can ask what insights were new and what surprised them. Maybe they made observations that only the sociometric constellation could unveil or it brought in new perspectives.

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