Due Diligence at the Front End of a Process

Great process designs include a focus on prevention. By spending time up front to explore and understand a situation, you can create a workshop design that helps prevent the need for rescue interventions later on. This is what due diligence in process consulting is all about.

Two key elements in the due diligence required to design a workshop or longer process involve knowing:

  • what is off the table, i.e., core assumptions
  • what is on the table, i.e., key considerations
as people work together to achieve their objectives.

Core assumptions – off the table
Core assumptions are the agreed-upon decisions that provide a common starting point for reflection, discussion and decision-making. They define the project scope, outline the perspective within which a process unfolds, and help to ensure that everyone involved is on the same page – focused on a common purpose and objectives. 

Key considerations – on the table
Every process has important circumstances, data, reflections, and concerns that need to be taken into account because of their potential impact on the success of an initiative.  These key considerations need to be kept at the forefront of deliberations, explored with possible consequences in mind, and revisited by participants as required.

Although core assumptions and key considerations are distinct entities, deciding whether an item should be included in one area or the other can be confusing.  The following chart outlines some suggestions to help distinguish between these two essential aspects of a process.

Core Assumptions

Key Considerations

The initial decisions on which a process is based. Example: Funding is fixed over the next 12 months.

Important issues that must be considered throughout a process. Example: Funding for the next 12 months is in jeopardy.

Once confirmed by individuals with positional authority such as the client or process planning committee members, these are not open for discussion except in unusual circumstances.

Once confirmed by individuals with positional authority such as the client or process planning committee members, these considerations become important items for further discussion and decision making throughout a workshop.

These are decisions that have been made and are ‘off the table’ throughout the process.

These issues have been identified as ‘on the table’ throughout the process.

When these items surface in discussions, it should be remembered that that they were discussed and decided on as part of determining the scope of the initiative, and thus, not open for deliberation.

When these items surface in discussions, they are to be reflected on as key considerations that could have a considerable impact (positive or negative) on process outputs and outcomes.

For more information on due diligence in process management, contact us.


Article-related resources:

For a list of specific points to consider when outlining core assumptions and key considerations and sample questions for developing these essential aspects of a process, go to Chapters 10 and 11 in

Process Design: Making it Work — A Practical Guide to What to Do When and How for Facilitators, Consultants, Managers, and Coaches by Dorothy Strachan. Jossey-Bass/Wiley Publishers (2008)

To order your copy, click here


Now Available — our new book!

Managing Facilitated Processes: A Guide for Facilitators, Managers, Consultants, Event Planners, Trainers and Educators. Jossey-Bass/Wiley Publishers (2009)

By Dorothy Strachan and Marian Pitters

If your work involves managing facilitated processes, this book is for you.
Productive meetings are about careful attention to detail. These details need to be handled through an integrated, customized and systematic approach—all in the book.

Check out the Big Five —participants, speakers, logistics, documents and feedback—and use the guidelines, checklists, sample letters and other templates in the book and on the web that will help you manage a facilitated event efficiently. Just copy and customize at your convenience.

Here is what other leaders in process design and facilitation have to say about “Managing Facilitated Processes”:

“This book honors the importance of the details and care that every gathering deserves. It should be a standard reference for people who come together to produce results.”
Peter Block, author “Community: The Structure of Belonging” and Partner, Designed Learning
Ohio, USA

“This comprehensive guide is an outstanding resource and learning tool for event planners, administrators, and consultants!”
Barbara Metcalfe
Executive Assistant, Government of Canada
Ottawa, Canada

Managing Facilitated Processes is a basic reference book for consultants. It provides a comprehensive collection of tools, approaches, and processes that will enable any consultant to navigate a productive pathway through unique and challenging situations.”
Richard Tiberius, Director and Professor
Educational Development Office,
Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, USA

“Anyone who is charged with planning and executing meetings, workshops, conferences or other events will find this book extremely valuable. The authors’ combined experience of nearly 60 years in process design and facilitation is generously shared in this clearly written guide that includes many helpful templates for agreements, letters and checklists.”
Sharon Almerigi CPF,
International Association of Facilitators, Regional Representative for Latin America & the Caribbean

To order your copy now, click here



Check out the IAF 2009 Conference in Vancouver, BC!
There are 70 workshop sessions centered around this year’s theme of “Explore Diversity” all packed into one week: April 20-25 2009.

Dorothy will be presenting three workshops:

  • Making Process Designs “Work” – April 21
  • Process Design in Health: Diversity Lives Here! – April 22
  • Thinking Through Complex Problems: 1 Process Framework and 60 Questions that Really Work  – April 23

Marian Pitters, co-author with Dorothy of “Managing Facilitated Processes” will be presenting two workshops:

  • Managing 17 Facilitated Processes: What Works Before, During and After – April 21
  • Tools to Build Accountability for Outcomes – April 23

Dorothy’s books — “Making Questions Work”, “Process Design: Making it Work” (co-authored with Paul Tomlinson) and “Managing Facilitated Processes” (co-authored with Marian Pitters) will all be available at the bookstore throughout the conference.
For more information or to register, visit the IAF North America website!


IAF 09 Professional Development Workshop Tour

The IAF Canada Tour in November 2008 was co-hosted by facilitators Dorothy Strachan and Sandor Schuman. This hands-on, interactive two-day workshop provided both practical knowledge and skills, and engaged participants in continued professional development as group facilitators. The IAF Canada Region sponsored these workshops in Ottawa, Halifax and Kitchener-Waterloo. Dorothy’s workshop focused on how to make the best use of questions in facilitated sessions while Sandor’s addressed how to work with groups in difficult situations.

Based on the success of this first ever IAF workshop tour, IAF Canada Region will be offering the tour again in the fall of 2009. The intention is to do a return visit to Halifax as well as offering sessions in central and western Canada. Stay posted for more information about dates, locations, facilitators and topics.


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