Parking lot

Keeping the discussion focussed

The ‘Parking lot’ is a classic business tool used to keep meetings and workshops focused and on track. During discussions, questions will often arise that are important (or not) but not fully relevant to the focus at the moment. These questions or issues are “parked” on a flipchart, to be addressed and answered later. This practice helps ensure both that important questions do not get lost and that the group can stay focused on the most relevant things.

In this sense, the Parking lot is not an exercise in itself, but will run ‘parallel’ to other discussions or exercises during the session and supports focus throughout the day.

Parking lot

Purpose

Time frame

Group size

5-50

Facilitation level

Comfort level participants

Materials needed

Flipchart

Credits

Copy based on Hyper Island copy.

Five Structural Elements for Parking lot

The Parking lot is a simple intervention but asks three important things of the facilitator: to explain clearly at the start that the Parking lot is used, be strict in the Parking lot usage especially in the early parts of the session to lay the foundation for the rest of the day and -finally- to address the Parking lot questions at the end of the session.

Five structural elements

How to read the instructions

To bring some structure to tools and excercises, I borrowed the “five structural elements” from Liberating Structures. It is an easy and structured way to describe the different dimensions of an exercise.

More on the elementsHire me as facilitator
Invitation

At the start of a meeting or workshop explain to the group that we are going to use a “parking lot” to help us to work more effectively.

Write a large “P” at the top of the flipchart paper and tape it to a prominent wall. Explain that whenever a point is raised or questions are asked that don’t directly relate to the subject or session, you will write it on a post-it note, and stick that onto the flipchart paper.

Invite group members to add to the parking lot at any time.

How Space Is Arranged and Materials Needed

Make sure to hang the flipchart paper in a prominent spot where everybody can see and has access.

Sequence of Steps and Time Allocation
  1. Preparing for the meeting, write a large “P” at the top of the flipchart paper and tape it to a prominent wall.
  2. At the start of a meeting or workshop explain to the group that we are going to use a “parking lot” to help us to work more effectively. Explain that whenever a point is raised or questions are asked that don’t directly relate to the subject or session, you will write it on a post-it note, and stick that onto the flipchart paper. Invite group members to add to the parking lot at any time.
  3. Especially at the start of the session, make sure to cut lenghty discussions shorts and refer them to the Parking lot. This will speed up the usage and will make facilitation the rest of the day easier.
  4. Feel free to remind people during the session they can add to the Parking lot.
  5. As the meeting/workshop comes to a close, ensure that there is time to address the points and questions on the parking lot, with the whole group. If there are any questions left unanswered make sure that you or a group member follows them up.
How Groups Are Configured

No special configuration needed.

How Participation Is Distributed

Everyone can participate and has equal value.

Additional tips and pointers
  • As the meeting/workshop comes to a close, ensure that there is time to address the points and questions on the parking lot, with the whole group. If there are any questions left unanswered make sure that you or a group member follows them up.

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Polle de Maagt

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