IAF Methods

Ten Words

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Helping a participant, or group, focus on what is important in an issue or discussion. Avoid a tendency in individuals or groups to talk at length without getting to the point, or wander off onto irrelevant sidetracks.
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Additional info


  • To help the participants think critically about an issue, and focus on what is important.
  • To reduce time wasted by lengthy unfocused explanations or discussions.


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  • None



Types of participants: Individual or group requiring the change in behaviour.

Time needed: 

  • From half an hour to an hour to start.
  • Use and review over at least 2 weeks.
  • Continued use, often permanent.

Ideal conditions: Established team members willing to improve performance of selves/team.

Pre-Work Required: None.

Type of Facilitator-Client Relationship: Works best with extended working relationship. If to be used by external facilitator then should cover technique with key co-workers.

Facilitator personality fit: Facilitator must be comfortable with "stopping" action in individual and team settings to use method.


Where an individual or group has been identified where explanations or discussions tend to drift, get lots in side-tracks, take much longer than should, or fail to reach solid conclusions.

Facilitator needs to discuss this with individual/team, and achieve a recognition that this behaviour is happening, and is detrimental to everyone.

Method is then introduced - when the individual or members of team have an issue to explain or discuss, they are to think about and then present the issue/situation using 10 words or less. This must capture the essence of the issue in a clear way, that is comprehensible to the listener. Of course many issues will be too complex and will require more information, so the listener may, then, if they desire, ask for more information, but the individual must not rely on this - they must get their thoughts sufficiently in place to get the essence clearly into those ten words.

That should be done initially in controlled environments, either in workshops or during regular meetings (one-to-one or team), while the participants get the hang of doing this, but after that the co-workers/boss can at any time request "Ten words", and the person must then summarise their current issue/etc in those ten words. After method is established some flexibility can be allowed - e.g. occasionally allowing an extra few words in the summary.


Follow-Up Required: Regular review over first few weeks, to ensure participants are happy with process, and that critical information isn't being lost in process. Review with all to ensure that method isn't being misused, and that where extra information should be asked for this is happening, but not so often that it becomes assumed this will happen.

Usual or Expected Outcomes: Improved thought about issues, general ficus and attention to what is important.
Once established can be used at any time to create focus on critical issues.

Potential pitfalls: Can be abused, turned into meaningless game by unwilling participants. Potentially used as excuse to "hide" information.

How success is evaluated: General improvement in focus on important issues

Examples of successes and failures: Individuals who were notorious for rambling explanations, difficulty getting to point. Method used specifically to change this behaviour in specific circumstances, also improved general performance individually and in meetings, and the individual saw as an interesting challenge.


Source: Bernard Gore

Derived from: No.

History of Development: Created initially "on the spot" to deal with an individual that had particular difficulty with rambling unfocused explanations. Then expanded to others and teams.

Recognizable components: Discussion of issue
Introduction of method
Continued use
Feedback and review


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