How can I get specific feedback on a specific topic?

Use focus groups to gather information.
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Focus Groups

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Why do we prefer to organize our employees into teams? Teams foster creativity and learning. The ideas, perspectives, and experiences are different for each person on a team. The individuals on a team play off the ideas of each other so the thinking and work is richer, more creative, and more focused on solutions. Creativity thrives when people work as a team.

Teams can act as a focus group. If you want to know how the team feels about a certain issue, you can ask some specific questions about the topic. To get a feel for how all teams in the organization stand on some future action or planned strategy, you can facilitate a focus group.

WHAT CAN A FOCUS GROUP TELL YOU?

  • Assessment of existing programs
  • How to develop strategies for outreach
  • Insight into why certain opinions are held
  • Ideas to improve the planning and design of new programs
  • Information on how groups of people think or feelabout a topic

Focus groups take advantage of group interactions and thoughts, it is important to use the information at the group level, not the individual level. Focus groups are usually made up of a very small number of people who voluntarily participate. Their views and perceptions might not represent those of other groups with slightly different characteristics.

Focus groups allow stakeholders to provide feedback on a particular topic. The information from a focus group session is rich in detail, substance, and variety. A question is asked and focus group members provide a response. It is an open-ended conversation that requires analysis of results to accurately determine themes derived from the conversation.

FOCUS GROUP CONSIDERATIONS

  • Determine the outcome intended once the information is gathered from a focus group(s)
  • Identify appropriate stakeholders to invite, based on the intended outcome
  • Be certain the information gathered from the sessions will be used

Focus groups are often used as part of a strategic planning process or the introduction of a new product or service. Much planning is required to have a successful focus group that yields information needed. The composition of the group and the number of groups is important to achieving the intended outcome. Also, a good facilitator is needed to lead the groups and then to analyze the information gathered from all focus group participants.  

QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE A FOCUS GROUP

  • What is the question that needs a focus group response?
  • Is a focus group the best method for getting the information?
  • How will the information be used?
  • What stakeholder groups will be included and why?
  • Who should facilitate the group(s)?
  • What information does the facilitator need to be successful?
  • How will you share the results from the focus groups?

FOCUS GROUPS IN 6 STEPS

Determine what information is needed from the focus group.

  • This is what the team needs to know to increase performance, increase the opportunity for success, and provide a context for understanding specific details.
  • The qualitative results will be part of a continuum of understanding.

Decide on a facilitator.  

  • This should be an active listener, who is open to and encourages communication.
  • The facilitator will record facts and feelings accurately and ask probing questions.

Identify the stakeholders to be included in the focus group.

  • Determine a location for the focus group sessions.
  • Invite the stakeholders with the time and location included.
  • Provide the “why” for the focus groups in the invitation.
  • Send a reminder communication just prior to the meeting.

Work with the facilitator to develop questions that will get to the outcome needed.

  • Questions should be open-ended to give opportunity for discussion.
  • Three to four questions are typically asked during a focus group session.
  • Ask the same questions of each group.

Determine themes from the responses provided by each focus group.

  • The verbatim list of responses will be the basis for the themes.
  • Review the responses, with the facilitator, to gather any additional information or clarity.

Share the information with appropriate team members.

Establish a Clear Objective

Focus groups can be led by individuals inside the organization or by external facilitators. For either approach, it is critically important for the facilitator to have a clear understanding of the purpose of the focus group. Knowing the objective will help the facilitator ask probing questions during the session and provide insight after the session. Before your next focus group, connect with the facilitator about the purpose and questions to be asked during the session.

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