Metaplan Method

Metaplan Method is a technique for collecting and processing ideas and opinions when a group of people is working together. It is frequently used in clinical practices, research, and business contexts. The Metaplan moderation method is a proven and effective means of reaching a shared understanding in group discussions. The word “effective” has a double meaning. First, it means “rational,” as in being economical with time. When the Metaplan method is used, results are achieved faster than with other discussion methods. Second “effective” indicates that the participants are more involved in the group deliberations. By considering all the opinions in the group, one creates the best opportunity for achieving results that also enjoy the backing of the whole group.[1] This technique from Wolfgang and Eberhard Schnelle can be used as a facilitation method for groups and as a communication model, in which opinions are developed, a common understanding is built and objectives, recommendations, and action plans are formulated to focus on a problem and its possible solutions.

The Metaplan technique is presented in three sections:

  • Visualization techniques: With visualization, all important contributions made during the discussion become visible to the group. They can be sorted and organized jointly.
  • Interaction techniques: The interaction technique leads to lively and fruitful discussions, encouraging active involvement among the participants.
  • Dramaturgical planning techniques: Certain rules governing the dramatic process assist the moderator in thinking over the course of the discussion in advance, in order to lead the group down a continuous path to the conclusion.

Metaplan Elements
source: Olga M. Ovchinnikova et al.

The method is used for facilitating large information markets (50-200 people) or conferences but can be used for facilitating small management teams as well. Metaplan can be used in the following areas:

  • Creating, collecting, gathering, structuring, storing, and visualizing of ideas.
  • Introducing people in seminars.
  • Interconnectedness analysis.
  • Cause analysis.
  • Setting priorities.
  • Building momentum or support for a change initiative.
  • Evaluation.

Background and Purpose[2]
This technique was developed in Germany in the 1970s by two brothers, Wolfgang and Eberhard Schnelle, who initially specialized in office furniture and tools. They developed an international consultancy firm out of that. Metaplan is a trademark of Metaplan Thomas Schnelle GmbH.

Moderators (facilitators) administer the groups and ensure that good communication, cooperation, and high levels of understanding are achieved. Their objective is to provide the group with the right sort of communication tools at the right moment. In this way, the group can arrive successfully and efficiently at the bottom of the matter.

By systematically breaking up larger problems into smaller constituent parts, and by breaking larger groups into smaller ones, the involvement of all participants is maximized. The plenary group sets the task and reviews the results. Sub-groups (20-25 people) focus on the sub-tasks and collect ideas. Mini-groups (4-6 people) actually work on the issues contained within each subtask.

Visualization is a powerful tool for participatory workshops. Visualization enables information to be retained and used, in contrast to ordinary meetings which are often full of repetition and where many ideas are not recorded or taken into account. Visualization has been proven to assist in thinking, discussing, and handling information by giving a physical and temporal context to the information.

Steps in the Metaplan Process
A typical full Metaplan workshop may consist of the following steps:

  • Program introduction. Set the scene, give the rationale, and describe the objective.
  • Create individual input. Write ideas on cards, which are color-coded for sub-issues.
  • Collect individual input. Pinup cards on pre-prepared boards
  • Divide into subgroups. Participants choose a subgroup with a topic they prefer.
  • The subgroups now sort, add and discuss topics into relevant topic headings.
  • Share the results. Short (3 min) presentation by each subgroup enabling the plenary group to understand the total picture.
  • Prioritizing. By voting and by using small colored stickers.
  • Subgroups resume their work. Focusing on the prioritized issues and creating a draft action agenda.
  • The sub-groups now present their results to the plenary group (10 min). Followed by plenary (20 min) discussions. Create support and commitment by all.
  • Conclusion and summary. Action plan.

Strengths and Limitations of the Metaplan Method[3]


  • Involves all the people who play a part in implementation issues. This influences the way that they will act in the analysis phase and in the decision-making process.
  • Avoids long drawn-out, messy, inconclusive and time-wasting processes often found in participative decision-making.
  • Rigorously plans and develops a tight and detailed scenario with clients.


  • The costs of using specialized materials and equipment and facilitators.
  • Some handwriting on the cards can be difficult to read.
  • Voting sessions are public for everybody to see what other people vote for.
  • People may be influenced by what other people have already voted on (Groupthink, Spiral of Silence).
  • Some people may be afraid to speak in public, although they may be competent.
  • Other people may be speaking too much. This over-profiling of themselves may annoy other people.
  • A method show and focusing too much on the structure of the Metaplan technique must be prevented.
  • Experienced and capable facilitators are needed.

See Also

Six Thinking Hats
Problem Tree Analysis
Mind Mapping
SHARP (Structured, Holistic Approach for a Research Proposal)