April 19, 2016

How to Design a Successful Workshop

Workshops are a great way to get your team aligned and moving quickly. I design workshops to meet my client where they are and get them to their destination. I never want to be part of a workshop that doesn’t help teams achieve results.

At the same time, a workshop needs to be something repeatable, reliable, and teachable for our business. The approach I’ve developed for our team is modular. We use different exercises to achieve the client's needs and slot them in.

We start by asking three simple questions and then answer them through interviews, observation, and our own research. The three questions are as follows:

Where do we want to go?

  • What are we trying to achieve in the workshop?
  • What needs to be accomplished so we can move this idea, project, initiative, or strategy forward?

Where are we?

  • Where does the sponsor/client think the group is? Where does the team think they are?
  • What are the blockers?
  • What major roadblocks lie ahead?
  • Does the team have a clear picture of the path ahead or is it constantly changing?

How do we get there?

Imagine a creek crossing with rocks of different shapes, sizes, and degrees of slipperiness. There are many paths to get across, but you have to focus on picking one rock at a time.

  • What do you need to achieve with each step, since you only get a few of them?
  • What exercise will help achieve that step?
  • How do you tailor it?

Putting it Together

designing_workshop

To bring this all together, I gather my team and draw something like this on a white board. The number of boxes represent the steps that will best fit in the chosen time period (usually a day). I aim for an hour per activity, because after that people lose focus.

We talk about what needs to be accomplished in each step and which activity will work best. Having different activities is important because it provides a variety of interaction and allows for both extraverts and introverts to participate in their own ways.

The last step is to create an action plan. We never want a client to walk away without knowing how to go forward.

Having a plan is critical, even if you throw it out in the first hour (which I have done). Going through this process ensures you are solving for the right things and gets you to plan B in a hurry.