Lessons Learned

This Compression Planning® model has been implemented successfully to date in over 80 sessions with 77 business, industry and community partners.  Results from these sessions have led to engaging work-based learning and student development with over 30 P-TECH early college high schools in the Dallas area, Dallas College, several universities and industries in each career cluster. This module shares some lessons learned.



Lessons Learned

Welcome to Module 5, our final module of our Toolkit for Strategic Planning.  This module will lay out the many lessons learned throughout the process of planning, engagement and building partnerships.


Previous CP Session Debrief QuotesPrevious CP Session Debrief Quotes

Each Compression Planning® Session ends with a debrief segment.  The facilitator provides an opportunity for participants to give feedback on their experiences in the session.  This feedback allows the Planner to make necessary adjustments if needed.  Examples of debriefing feedback or Lessons Learned statements include:

“Fostered an atmosphere of group thinking, great first-class process, tangible take-a-ways, good design – love the concept”

Reminder that having structure to tackle issues is valuable/helpful”

“Bring more employers from our company next time”

For a complete list of debriefing quotes, please go to the index page.

Know Your AudienceKnow Your Audience

Unexpected session situations are the norm. Rarely, a session goes exactly to plan. Sessions often start late, having missing participants, require clarification of details, catering goes missing, even safety drills happen. It is okay. Be flexible and focus on the Purposes of the Session. Adjustments such as dividing the participants into groups to work through several purposes at once can recover lost time or separate conflicting personalities. If a change in purpose is obvious or more time is required to explore a Header, consider revising or removing a Purpose of the Session. A Purpose of the Session can always become a Non-Purpose of the Session to be addressed later if it is inhibiting the flow of the current session. No matter what, remain calm. Participants will mirror your response.

There is no single description. The simplest answer might be an involved one. A more complex answer might be one that understands the potential mutual benefits the program represents to the community and their business and leverages their strengths in collaboration with existing Dallas ISD and Dallas College P-TECH efforts to foster those opportunities.

While the ideal number of participants in a session is 10-12, we have gathered outstanding results from sessions with a single participant to groups of more than 40. The goal is the same regardless of the number of participants. Make everyone feel welcomed, included, and safe.

Being a single participant can be unsettling because the voice is solely yours. Being part of a large group can be equally unsettling because of the number of voices yours is competing with. Add in a senior-level supervisor or person with significant influence and feeling unsettled can turn to complete shutdown.

One way to engage everyone from a single individual to a large group, with or without influencers, is to engage everyone. Say hello to everyone. Say thank you to everyone. Ask everyone questions. Whatever you do, do it to everyone. Create equity. Being openly fair and impartial will create enough trust for the subordinate to speak up or the single participant to feel valued enough to make an impact on their own.

Connecting the benefits and possibilities of the strategic partnership is essential to the partnership. Be ready to expose and connect the dots. Point out connections and opportunities when they present themselves. These are not always obvious to all parties and often come out through conversation. Reminding participants that they have the opportunity to engage with teachers and parents in addition to students, for example, expands engagement opportunities.

“No sessions on Friday afternoon” should be a rule. No sessions on observed holidays is a rule but also be aware of common and local observances. Festivals and events, even at local levels, can impact participant availability, or impede traffic and location access. The day after these events may also not be the best time for a fast-paced, highly analytical and creative, problem-solving exercise.

Be considerate of these things in the session as well. Food is a great connector until you are the one without lunch because no option fits your dietary needs. Accommodations for things like accessibility and catering should be addressed during the session planning. Technology has been useful in addressing some access issues but can inhibit the user’s experience.

As a facilitator, try to be aware and remain mindful of any biases you may have that could impact your impartiality. Remember that your job is to facilitate a process, not share an opinion or forward an agenda. Discussions should always be professional in subject and tone.

Great CommunicationGreat Communication

The design interview and editing process requires high-level, multiple meetings, various medium communications. Face-to-face meetings work great for design interviews, but conference calls and even emails can also be used. Editing by email is most common, but a meeting is often helpful for larger sessions.

Session details such as time and location must be shared accurately and in a timely manner. Participant confirmation is also necessary and can be coordinated via emails or an event management system. It is better to send out session information via multiple outlets than to risk inaccessible or missed information.

Remember to also communicate session staffing and setup information to the team. Common calendars, set up meetings, and checklists will help ensure everyone is on the same page and the session is staged properly.

Introductions and housekeeping come first. Make sure everyone has the chance to introduce themselves. Also make sure everyone knows where the restrooms are, as well as any other areas or services being provided such as lunch or private workspaces.

Staff communication during the session will directly impact the quality of the session. Verbal and physical direction and confirmation between printers and pinners should be comfortable and open. Whispers, pointing, notes on cards or a simple head shake can help each other continue to perform at a high level.

Keep them informed and get their feedback. The session has several parts. Tell them what is coming. Remind them of what they have accomplished. Outline the picture so they can color it in with as much detail as possible. Spend time on the session debrief and be sure to explain that the debrief is about the process and how the team can improve the experience.

The written report is the session deliverable. It is generally distributed via email to the client but has been shared via cloud drives and hard copies to a variety of individuals and groups. The medium and audience should be dictated by the client and determined before the session.

Along with the report, include a thank you and review of the session. Specifically, remind the industry partner that the report is a working document that will be used in collaboration with the school to bring their ideas to reality.

Follow up with the client after the report as well. You can inquire about any questions or feedback they may have received about the report. It is also an opportunity to discuss the need for additional sessions to address non-purposes or create action or communication plans.

Focus on OutcomesFocus on Outcomes


Focus on Outcomes

The outcomes for successfully engaging partnerships in a P-TECH program are enormous.  The greatest measure of success is the implementation of the partnerships between industry partners, Dallas College, and the Independent School Districts.