Last week I facilitated Next Turn’s DISC certification program sponsored by the Northern California Human Resource Association. DISC is a behavior style assessment tool that can heighten self-awareness and offer strategies to improve work relationships. The train-the-trainer program shows participants how to use the DISC tool in their own organizations.
The members were talented Human Resource professionals and savvy consultants from a variety of private and public organizations. In one lively discussion, someone asked, “Jill, what is the perfect size for a training program?” It was a provocative question.
In preparing for this particular program, I had noticed that every activity was easy to plan because 12 people were attending. Thus the number 12 was foremost in my mind. So I responded, “A range of 12-16” and upon further thought settled on the specific number 12.
As I plan a training program, I often plan interactive activities with small groups such as:
- Breakout group (ideal 4-5),
- Triad discussions (ideal 3),
- Partnering exercises (ideal 2).
The number 12 lends itself readily to each breakdown. No other number under 20 does so. Groups under 12 may lack energy. Groups over 20 become unwieldy and may require more than one facilitator. An odd number of people makes pairing exercises awkward. Even numbers, except for 12, don’t always work for triads or balanced breakout groups. Twelve is just right for positive interactivity and meaningful discussions.
Admittedly it is not always possible to have 12 people in a training group. Sometimes the program is developed for an existing team or department. Or a minimum headcount may be required for budgetary reasons. However, if it is possible to choose the number of participants, a good facilitator seeks to create that magic equation of right people + right content + right number = great outcome. In our experience, an even dozen does the trick.