What is Flisrand Consulting? What is Flisrand Consulting?

Flisrand Consulting connects people, places and ideas through smart process.

Smart process begins by working with you to clarify the project goal, define the steps to achieve it, and make it happen.  We connect your goals to our expertise in engagement and collaborative coordination. One of our key strategies is network weaving, the practice of intentionally building effective relationships around a common issue area.

The result may be a well-facilitated meeting, workshop, event, or initiative.  The process may lead to a written product like a white paper, handbook, or summary of best practices.  It may simply be a review of your company’s plan to increase cycling and transit commuting by your employees, or marketing materials that earn your company credit for the sustainability work you do.


Facilitation Uncategorized

Pitting Outcome against Process is Pointless Pitting Outcome against Process is Pointless


POP Purpose, Outcome, Process

POP for meetings, h/t to Beth Kantor, original source http://miriambarnard.com/8-secrets-better-productive-meetings-person-online/


People talk about Outcome and Process as though they are in opposition to one another.

Today, I (again) argue neither works without the other.

First, take a moment to reflect on how you approach your every day. Like eating breakfast.

We all have low-process default solutions — habits — for outcomes that are part of every day. I eat the same breakfast every day, and I include the ingredients on every shopping list. Habits are a form of very light, often unintetional process. Breakfast requires process — thinking and planning — only when there’s something unusual, like feeding company, or I didn’t make it to the grocery store.

Some parts of life always justify intentional process. Resolving a family conflict. Seaching for a job. Finding a new place to live.

The same thing is true in our work. Process may be a default habit, or something explicit and intentional. I’ll use examples from my days coordinating Minnesota Green Communities to illustrate how outcome always comes first, and process exists to serve outcomes.


Matching Outcomes with Process

A primary initiative goal was to ensure all the homes that received affordable housing subsidy met a doable, robust level of environmental sustainability.

aeon_ripleygardens_g3-800x540As collaborative affordable housing partners, there was ample good will and general agreement that green affordable housing was a good idea. Relying on existing relationships and trust, it was fairly simple to get all the key partners on board. We held joint meetings, discussed a few details (costs!), and soon funders adopted the Green Communities Criteria as a requirement for new construction buildings. This was our “habit” process.

Extending the Criteria to substantial rehabilitation projects was more complicated. Because these project are less predictable, the policy discussion needed more process. With a greater number of meetings and much more discussion we got there. Using our habitual process was again successful. Now, all the housing funded through public and philanthropic partners in Minnesota met the Green Communities Criteria.

Then, Minnesota’s affordable housing context changed.

Preserving existing affordable housing became a major funding priority, one driven by contracts expiring and financial arrangements rather than major capital needs. That meant a quickly-growing number of projects with limited construction budgets. How we’d adopted our policies meant no environmental sustainability requirements applied to these projects. If we wanted all the subsidized affordable housing to be “green,” we needed a new approach.

We (Minnesota Green Communities) did the obvious thing: we repeated our expeditious, low-process approach of the past. Based on existing personal relationships and long-standing partnerships, we advocated for extending the Green Communities Criteria to these projects.

This time, it went nowhere.

Our partners — for good reason — were resistent. It was too expensive, it was too much to ask of developers, it introduced too much uncertainty into the funding process, it required a complex waiver process, a workable policy was too messy.

IThe Minnesota Green Communities team got it. When the main driver of funding is financial structuring, implementing the full Green Communities Criteria is somewhere between a hard sell and nonsensical. We were at a stalemate on how to address environmental sustainability in a BIG portion of subsidized affordable housing in Minnesota.


More Complex Outcomes Require More Process

We took a step back with our partners. Our purpose was to require reasonable, minimum expectations for energy and water efficiency and health when providing subsidy for affordable housing. To define those expectations, though, we needed a more intentional process. The first step was to understand our partners’ specific concerns and where we had agreement.

We found some simple areas of agreement — water efficiency was a slam dunk. The cancer-causing risks of radon made mitigation obvious. Energy, however, was a different story. Because each project is very different, creating a workable, cost-reasonable policy felt impossible.

That listening process was key to identifying what we needed to solve for. We now had our outcome: an energy efficiency policy that was cost-effective for moderate rehab apartment building projects and protected resident health.

The Minnesota Green Communities team proposed a task force process to solve the messiest parts of the problem. Highlighting the purpose, we pitched co-convening an eight-month, four-meeting task force to a trusted energy efficiency expert (and past partner) who had worked on multifamily rehab projects and to Minnesota Housing. I offered to handle coordination of the co-convener team and the logistics to make saying, “Yes,” easy. We set clear expectations for what participation would require. Once they said yes, we collaboratively developed an inclusive stakeholder group, and set to work.

You don’t need the details of the whole process. It was shaped around the purpose and outcome, with iterative cycles of defining agreement and areas lacking clarity, and then digging into the questions that remained. There were a couple of small work groups, and some technical cost-effectiveness modeling — all aimed at getting to the outcome.

What matters is that we did get to our outclme, this (highly technical) policy recommendation from the group. And, the policy was adopted by the funders for moderate rehab projects.


About Process

That was some serious process!

This much process makes sense only when the purpose and the outcome demand it. It makes sense when the question, the challenge is technically or politically or socially complex. It makes sense when there is risk of significant unintended consequences. It makes sense when something can succeed only through widespread ownership of the outcome.

I think process gets a bad name when we skip the process because we don’t recognize its value. In our personal lives that might be exercise or sleep or investing time in relationships.

In work we often skip people-parts of process, especially when we have a sense of urgency. We’ve all been in meetings, or with friends or family, where we’re running a little late and dive right into the business of the meeting, or making dinner, or the plan. And at some point, things are off — someone isn’t focused, or is distracted, or upset. In forgetting to check in, something more important than the business of the moment got passed over, and that’s interfering with the business of the moment.

That initial process of checking in — really checking in — matters to the purpose of getting through the agenda, having a pleasant dinner, or enjoying the plan. Skipping it in honor of productivity and effectiveness, because we think there’s urgency, turns out to undermine the outcome we actually care about.


It’s not outcomes versus process. It’s about the right process to achieve our outcomes.



Network Weaving

Networks: The Associations of the Future? Networks: The Associations of the Future?

This post is a departure from my usual content. With NEWHAB, we hired Management HQ to provide support to our network. They wanted to highlight how a network approach could be beneficial to their members and invited me to write an article for their newsletter. This is the article, cross-posted from their site.


In 2014, charged with developing an emerging network, I reached out to Management HQ.

Networks vs. Organizations

Networks focus on a shared, complex goal. It could be increasing awareness of and the market for a specific industry. In this case, the network worked to expand healthy, efficient housing for all by leveraging the relationships between individuals, sectors, and policies. “NEWHAB” – the Network for Energy, Water and Health in Affordable Buildings.

read more »


I’m Working for a Healthy City I’m Working for a Healthy City


I focus my skills and time on making my city a healthy city, playing a supporting role to the countless others also doing that work.

So what does that mean?

I offered a preview of my future work in my previous sabbatical post. As I hinted there, my work will be local, it will explicitly foster “equity,” it will focus on practial and specific goals, and I will use a network approach.

But what do I mean when I say “healthy city?” And given all that needs doing, what principles will I use to choose where to pitch in?

A healthy city works for every person in it, particularly those with less access to resources. Image credit: Ethan Cherin

A healthy city works for every person in it, particularly those with less access to resources.
Image credit: Ethan Cherin

Defining a Healthy City

I have something specific in mind when I say “healthy city.” It is not the Minneapolis and St. Paul that exists today, although we have some bright spots we can grow.

A healthy city works for every person in it, particularly people with less access to resources.

To work for everyone, it must respect each person’s self-defined identity and support each person’s self-determination.

That means each person, whatever their identity, feels respected in the design of spaces, in interactions, and in having access to the benefits of living in the city. It also means each person feels respected as they work toward personal and community goals and in voicing their own needs.

No individual’s self-defined identity or self-determination can disrespect that of others. The city can’t work for me or for us if it doesn’t work for everyone.

Only in this healthy city can each person contribute to the city to their fullest, in their own unique way.

We don’t have this city today. Systemic oppression of Native and Black people is a fact, documented through our “worst in nation” racial disparities ranking. It’s a fact for all people of color, doubly so for women and queer people of color. While my work spans all sorts of power and inclusion, I see race as a fundamental issue that has to be integrated into everything.

Three Principles for Achieving a Healthy City

These principles guide how I invest my time and focus my work. I’m sharing a bright spot that illustrates each one, something we can learn from and borrow from. read more »

Network Design

Jump in! Inviting Work Group Design Jump in! Inviting Work Group Design


(Image of two women about to swim in frozen lake.)

Come on in!                               Image Credit Nikolay Dikiy – Купаца!, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15265087


This is part of an occasional series on network design

A network leader challenge is remembering the network isn’t most people’s first priority, and it shouldn’t be. That’s why designing work groups well is critical to meeting both members’ and the network’s needs.

Over the years, goal-setting and iterative design have helped me develop work groups that make it easy for people to jump in, where participants shape and own the work, and where each group is a jumping off point for a more interesting and useful next round.


Set goals for your groups, and design to them. Then, use iterative design to improve what you’ve designed. Don’t wait to act, but act in small low-risk ways. Design quick cycles of action, building in time to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and how to improve it (or set it aside if it’s the wrong approach). Reflecting lets us embrace failure as a learning opportunity. This shift changes feelings of guilt and the tendency to blame into a tool to achieve the ultimate goal. It helps us be brave enough to take risks, to move ahead without certainty.


Most recently, I designed small, short-cycle work groups using an iterative process. read more »

Network Weaving

The Basics of a Network Approach The Basics of a Network Approach

This post shares 

  1. my own definition of a network approach,
  2. the organizational and cultural shifts that make it successful and more accessible today than it was a generation ago, and
  3. bonus benefits of using a network approach.

I want to thank the many people who have informed my thinking and offered different ways to convey this. First, Beth Tener (whose images I’ve borrowed from this great webinar), and this excellent presentation from the Children and Nature Network, many of my colleagues in the Twin Cities, and June Holley.


Defining a network approach

A network approach intentionally builds effective relationships around a shared vision to accomplish goals or build a movement. It’s a way of working, a set tools that help people work together as peers, to go further faster. It’s decentralized, and people work together as peers. Relationships,  understanding one another’s interests, and shared goals motivate action and accountability.

Respectful relationships are a must. Conflict is a reality in all realationships, and respect plus open communiation can leverage healthy conflict for good in networks.

Transparency rules. People must have access to information about activities, participants, and learning. 


Today’s societal shifts make it easier

Media, meetings, and work can be distributed or centrally controlled, AND it can be directed by one or many people. Adapted from Liberating Structures

Media, meetings, and work can be distributed or centrally controlled, AND it can be directed by one or many people. Adapted from Liberating Structures

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Network Weaving

My Magical Network Map My Magical Network Map

book of spells

By Shubi(Shubi) – Self-made just for fun, Public Domain

This is cross-posted on Christine Capra’s blog.

I’m nerd enough to love data, and I understand how much information isn’t available to me when I look around a room. I WANT TO KNOW! Knowing is magic.

In my first practicum about network weaving, coordinated by June Holley and Kristin Johnstad, I learned about network mapping from Ken Vance Borland. I was sold on their value.

  • Maps help people to visualize this abstract concept which is the network.
  • If you do regular updates, people can see how they strengthen over time — turning that squishy relationship-building from time that might feel wasted to a visible, valuable outcome.
  • Maps make invisible information visible. You can see people’s interests. You can see whether people with shared interests know one another. You can uncover expertise.

Applying Network Mapping

When I started working with NEWHAB, I was lucky my budget could cover network mapping. read more »

Network Design

Action = Permission + Ideas Action = Permission + Ideas

returning a volleyball

Return the Ball to the Network Members

This is part of an occasional series on network design

One network leader challenge is remembering the network isn’t most people’s first priority, and it shouldn’t be. Another is navigating that the network has needs, too. Resources are limited, and finding ways to meet members’ requests without overburdening those resources is another part of network design. There are easy ways to bump the requests back to members and invite them to take part in organizing the network game.


Look for and offer win-win solutions, and embrace limits.  People want to participate, they want to contribute and do their part. But they don’t always notice what they can do. Give people permission to act. Harness people’s energy, and then point them in a productive direction.

Look for solutions beyond the obvious choices. This often requires naming uncomfortable issues and being clear about what options are viable. Limits often help people innovate and find third-way solutions.


A colleague mentioned her just-starting network members are eager to get going, but she’s still trying to figure out the people to support the network. Several members will be gathering at conference, and they asked about doing something there. And, she won’t be there to organize. read more »


New Ideas Emerging New Ideas Emerging

seedlings sprout

Image credit: Jon Sullivan

On a recent Saturday, I offered a four-hour invitation to Come and Think About Hard Things in a facilitated discussion. Read to the end to find out what action I’m taking in response to their support and encouragement.

I was honored that 20 members of my professional (and personal) community came out to support me. I like to think my commitment to relationships and people in the past means my community is there for me – complex reciprocity at it’s best. And, it’s humbling.

the group

Four hours, on a Saturday in May

(Thanks to Lisa for facilitating, and to Michael for helping design the agenda and frame up my presentation.)

After a little getting to know one another, I offered my current thinking about the work I’d like to do [with others].

  1. First, I shared my idea of a healthy community, which is a place that achieves two specific goals. It must respect each person’s self-defined identity, in the design of spaces, in interactions with others, and offering reasonable access to the benefits of the city. It must also respect the self-determination of each person as they work towards personal and community goals, and as they voice their own needs.
  2. Second, I offered three guiding principles about how to get there, illustrating them each with local examples. We must remedy historical imbalances of power, naming them, rebalancing them, and redressing the compound interest that has already accumulated. Then, we must align our actions with our values, patiently and consistently acting with integrity. Finally, we must knit our community together, across racial, physical, and other gaps.
  3. Third, I shared why I think a network weaving approach offers the radical challenge to our current way of doing business that we’ll need to make the shift I hope for. Besides accelerating the great work that is already happening, it’s an approach that explicitly acknowledges that the patterns of relationships are replicated at all levels. It isn’t possible to build a balanced, healthy system on top of an unbalanced, unhealthy relationships.

I closed by asking people to explore this framework with me, both on the Saturday we were together and throughout the summer. (I am reworking my presentation to address some of the comments, and I will share that here.) read more »

Network Weaving

The Power of the Invitation The Power of the Invitation


inaugural invitation

Imagine how it feels to get this.

Invitations are powerful.

Invitations signify who is invited, and powerfully indicate who is not. Invitations communicate who is valued, who is part of the in-crowd, and who is not. (Do you still remember that third grade birthday party you didn’t get invited to and how it stung? Or the friend who didn’t invite you to their wedding?)

As a network weaver, invitations are one of my key tools. It is almost a super-power. I spend a significant amount of time making personalized, specific invitations. It seems like such a small thing, but it’s critical because…

read more »


Seeking Clearness, Embracing Uncertainty Seeking Clearness, Embracing Uncertainty

coin purse of origami cranes

Each crane is like one question, insight, or reflection of my exploration.

My big sabbatical goal is to get clarity in where and how I focus my work.

As part of my process, I’m asking my colleagues and friends for help. Asking people to help is easy for me — unless I’m asking people to help ME. While it’s uncomfortable, the generosity and support of people supporting me in this effort is humbling. Thank you.

I shared that I am hosting two convenings, the first a clearness committee that was held last week. In my invitation, I said,

I’m seeking clearness in where and how I will focus my work. The purpose of this meeting isn’t to arrive at any final answers for the focus of my future work, but just to help me clarify the questions that are most important for me to answer during my sabbatical. During the meeting, I’m hoping you’ll ask me good questions that help me frame what I want to learn as a part of my sabbatical. 

I’ve spent a week synthesizing last week’s clearness committee into my thinking. I’m making notes where I’m finding the clarity I seek, and naming the discomfort and uncertainty that I continue to uncover as I reflect on and re-review the committee notes. This is another iterative process.   read more »