A simple design for a good workshop

Moderators, team leads, scrum masters – no matter what you are, if you moderate a workshop, please don’t do it like this:

Typical design for bad workshops

I have attended to a couple of workshops that started with goals but in the end the results were not achieved goals but utter chaos and a lot of new todos.

Workshops should facilitate a team to work on something. They are not meant to create random new homework. Keep in mind that while certain managers define a good workshop as „a lot of todos are created and assigned to people to do them by a certain day (who does what by when)“, many team members would like to see a workshop where decisions are made problems are solved and work gets better instead of bigger.

A simple way to keep them working towards a goal and focus their energy is this:

By making methods and desired key results transparent from the beginning, you avoid confusion and focus energy

Just hang the templates on the wall for everybody to see right from the beginning. And hang a blank template for the desired outcome next to it: „Guys, this is what we will fill out at the end of the workshop. This will be your result“. Then discuss if the results template really is what they need. And if the methods you brought, really work.

This is no rocket science. But thousands of people per day, sitting in meetings and workshops would be very happy if their moderator followed that simple design.

The right to remain silent

You have right to remain silent! Everything you say can and will be used to stretch the workshop endlessly…

As a facilitator or leader you should get the best out of everybody and invite everyone to participate. Ok. But experience teaches us to invest where it pays off most. Sometimes that is a few dedicated and smart people instead of ‚everyone‘.

Many workshop methods are designed to open the mouth of everybody in the room until e v e r y t h i n g has been said – by e v e r y b o d y.

The ‚let’s all ask each other syndrome‘ results in:

  • too many people invited to the workshop
  • precious sticky notes wasted
  • endless feedback rounds noone likes
  • a discussion that didn’t get under the surface

There is this story that a large number of people produces better estimation results than the best individuals. That is why, some say, we should utilize #swarmintelligence and enable #participation.

But can the problem that your workshop has to address really be approached by ideas, opinions and guessing?

In my workshops I encourage people to decide: ‚Hey, if you don’t have anything to say right now, it’s ok. You don’t have to contribute if you have no clue how. Thanks for saving everybody’s time!‘

Any moderator or leader should know when the moment has come and silence is the best way someone from the team can contribute at the moment.