I’m just leveling off at 34,000 feet after running a workshop with a great team from a major consumer products firm. It is very satisfying to hear during the debrief of a Right Project session that the senior leader in the room is positively surprised by the ability to draw out significant new areas of inquiry from team members who they see in the hallway every day.
What makes days like this possible is the understanding that your ecosystem is trying to talk to you.
Customers, distribution partners, suppliers and vendors are all speaking to your firm daily. Your service providers, competitors and those in adjacent areas are sending signals as well. They are all whispering to individuals in your firm about significant changes coming over the horizon that are not currently on your radar.
The key to gaining access to the information your firm is immersed in, is to take some time to look at your firm through some new lenses. Akin to the “secret decoder ring” that used to be coveted in the days when cereal box toys were all the rage, a well-designed workshop will help you tease out these areas and construct those new narratives that will pull your team forward.
For a great discovery workshop, make sure you include these three key elements:
- Everyone must do their own homework. To get sessions like this off to a great start, I work with the internal sponsor to put together pre-work that draws out the insights of the group before they get to the conference room. I have found that the best pre-work is a short list of questions that determines what changed or shifted in a way that is relevant to each of their backgrounds. By getting enough of these clues in a conference room, real insight emerges. For example, for the go to market team, a good question is, “in what areas did a competitor recently have success?” By having this in writing before the session, it helps us avoid one verbal participant pulling the attention of the group sideways to their viewpoint or narrative.
- The group process must be well designed to get the best from the team. When you get to the room, the process needs to be built in a way that starts on a firm foundation, moves to allow creativity and spontaneity and then converges. There must be challenge and new models to push the group, and guardrails to keep them within a framework they can implement. Good preparation includes designing the list of participants to assure all voices are present, good opening material to shift everyone from the tyranny of the urgent to the medium-term important and exercises that utilize the talent and know how of the room. A good facilitator will spend three hours designing for every one hour of running time with the team.
- You need to have a facilitator who will take you into the blind spots. This is perhaps the most subtle but important point. The JoHari model says we all have blind spots as individuals, and it is even more true as organizations. A best practice for a strategist/facilitator is to interview at least 10% of the meeting participants before the meeting to get a good sense of not just what is shared, but what is not shared that should be present. The powerful combination of activating the unique insights located in each other’s blind spots is where the juicy breakthroughs lie. A hallmark of a good meeting is the synthesis of new viewpoints and insights that were unseen, but once identified, cannot remain unseen.
It is true that the strength of any new endeavor is only as strong as the underlying insight. Insights, however, are only a first step in helping a firm find a great path forward. To be useful, insights need to be tested, refined, and if they make the cut, activated into initiatives.
My work takes me all over the world to apply the Right Project, Right Team, Right Plan Framework to help firms make strong plans for growth. If you’d like to discuss doing a session with me on your particular project or program, please reach out to me at 847-651-1014 or send me an email.
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