Workshop method that sticks better than Post-not(es)

Workshop facilitation is often part of the more frequently recurring consulting activities.

Last week, I had the honour and pleasure to facilitate two workshops, both with a small group of people who represented their fellow doctors and scientific researchers.

And with doctors, think of crime scene investigators; by that I really mean true heroes who’ll move heaven and earth to contribute to a safer society for children.

Both workshops shared the same goals:

  • Collect all functional specifications for new digital workplace(s) that suits the employees’ needs
  • Stimulate every (f)user‘s involvement to make everyone sincerely feel heard and understood
  • Inspire participants with modern workspace technologies (potential but yet undefined solutions)

Now some of my team members prefer working with coloured post-it notes to let each participant scribble down his or her needs and wishes. That’s a classic method with probably good outcomes, just not in my alley; either half of the so called “sticky” notes drop off the wall mid-session or a big part I can’t read due to ‘creative’ handwriting. Also, pretending to be rather lazy but smart I type every single specification straight in my preformatted (Excel) sheet or notebook projected on a big screen. That saves typing stuff over, thus time.

A key element to get as neutral (as in unbiased) results as possible is to just ask and listen; no examples, no nudges, no nothing until a real awkward silence is about to happen. My preferred sequence:

  1. Free format brainstorms
  2. Theme-based (single keywords) dialogue
  3. Example-based inspiration from other clients

Usually, as was the case for both workshops last week, only the first in sequence was needed. Two hours flew by twice. Of course participants can send in more input, which is likely since they receive my backup slides with important themes and decisions.

So what made participants so actively involved and … prepared?

Jumpstart their brain with the Start-Stop-Continue method

Even days before the workshop starts, the client forwards my short ‘preconditioning’ message. This contains our intent, expected end results, and ‘homework’ to accomplish this goal by asking three simple questions based on the start-stop-continue method:

  • What do you miss in your current workspace that IT needs to start servicing?
    (i.e. handy functionality seen only elsewhere like on your home computer)
  • What issues do you encounter that need to stop in order to get things done (more) efficiently?
    (i.e. problems, complaints and whatever keeps you away from fully satisfied, productive worker)
  • What do you already use and like that we must continue in the new way of work as well?
    (i.e. please tell when you will hunt us down in case it’s taken away -wink-)

Alright, time for me to call it a night. I just processed those two workshops with the earlier workshop I facilitated with the client’s IT department. A subtotal of 97 specs already; 19 general requests, 16 technical prerequisites and 61 functional needs or wishes.

Another perk of using Excel over those damn yellow Post-it® notes


What's your thought on this topic?