124ALL

A multipurpose, engaging meeting structure that makes use of the multiple personal perspectives of team members and comes up with a shared view on the meeting subject. 124ALL is the “Swiss Army Knife” of Meeting structures. It can be combined with a lot of other meeting structures, for example, a vote on alternatives at the end of the meeting etc.

124 All stands for the time used per step: 1 minute alone, 2 minutes in pairs, 4 minuted in foursomes, 5 minutes with the whole group.

 Useful for…

  • getting a holistic view on a subject matter
  • generating ideas
  • Getting people to talk in a quasi-private setting
  • Getting people to take other people perspectives

Preparation

No preparation needed, but it is better to have enough space for people to engage in pairs and groups of four: An open space without tables and just chairs is best.

Advice: Use strict time boxing. Set a stopwatch and have a bell announcing the end of a round.

How it is done

  1. Ask a question to the whole group. That can be about A. a presentation of an issue or B. about a problem to resolve or C. a proposal put forward
    • e.g., What opportunities do YOU see for making progress on this challenge? How would you handle this situation? What ideas or actions do you recommend?
  2. Gather in groups of four people
  3. Silent self-reflection by individuals (1 min)
  4. Generate ideas in pairs, building on ideas from self-reflection (2 min)
  5. Share and develop ideas from your pair in foursomes: Notice similarities and differences (4 min)
  6. Share with the whole group “What is one idea that stood out in your conversation?” Each group shares one important idea with all (repeat cycle as needed). 5 min
    • E.g., if 5 Groups are there each group has a minute to share its key idea

Follow it up by…

  • diving deeper into the subject (through a discussion or brainstorming, for example)
  • voting on alternatives
  • another round of 124ALL framed with a different question

Why it works

124ALL ensures that everyone speaks up, and not used the usual extroverted or powerful share their points

  • Engage every individual in searching for answers
  • Avoid overhelping and the overcontrol-dependency vicious cycle
  • Create safe spaces for expression, diminish power differentials
  • Express “silent” conversations and expand the diversity of inputs
  • Enrich the quality of observations and insights before an expression

Variations

  • Graphically record insights as they emerge from groups, for example on a flip chart (or best via sketch notes on a white wall)
  • Use Post-it notes to write down ideas in Pair Discussions and foursome groups
  • Insert an additional step with a group of 8 people before going to the whole group. This variation increases group consensus

Advice: Plan how you will follow up the results of 124ALL. If you neglect the follow-up the exercise will often feel empty: Just talk and warm air…

Origins

Keith Candles and Henri Lachmanovic, Liberated Structures.

Useful Links

Liberated Structures description of 124 ALL

Fun fact

With all the time that we spend in meetings: Ain’t it amazing how uninventive most of the business world is structuring how people sit down together and do meetings?

The guys of Liberating structures, Keith Candles & Henri Lachmanovic, make a living of educating people about meeting structures.  A worthy mission!