I was fortunate enough to attend UX Australia in Sydney this year, and this workshop by Andy Budd – about running good workshops – was a highlight for me. As much as I enjoyed the content and hands-on practice, it was most interesting to observe a master at work. It’s fairly common knowledge that good facilitators are good communicators – and that means a lot more than just being a clever lad. Communications consultants/coaches often talk about the importance of things less tangible, like: gravitas, passion, modulation, body language and the ability to command a room. These things aren’t easily learnt, and it’s not a box you can tick during preparation. Watching Andy work his craft, by facilitating us for a few hours was in itself insightful and helpful.
Of course, there was also a great deal of practical advice on how to successfully plan and execute good workshops. Design games were a focus and a number of techniques fitting different stages of the project life cycle were explored. There’s a separate post in that, to be sure.
Unfortunately someone mistakenly made-off with my precious workshop notes (there was some real gold in there). A fellow participant Sheryl Soo saved my bacon by publishing her own notes which were remarkably similar to my own. Here’re the best bits.
The current state of meeting culture
It’s really difficult to get productive without buy-in. Meetings are typically very expensive. And we tend to fail on general meeting rules like setting agendas, getting action points. But meetings can be productive, if managed correctly. We need to apply design thinking approach to meetings.
Meetings aren’t broken – people are.
We tend to have lots of comments and biases. We are easily led and susceptible to “group think” We are strongly influenced by social hierarchy We tend to overvalue our own ability, and undervalue others Loss aversion means we tend to stick to our first ideas. We are bad at estimating future states – we tend to look through rose coloured glasses and assume that everything will go right.
We need to design structures that mitigate biases. We need to become expert facilitators. Good UX people are good facilitators. We help people make sense of the chaos.
Good Meetings are not hard.
Here’s some principles. Even though they seem fairly straightforward and standard, it’s amazing how often we don’t do them.
1. Set Agenda 2. Be strict on time – timeboxing is a very useful skill 3. Define meeting outcomes 4. Have defined roles
e.g. a Facilitator to take notes, a time keeper, a note-taker. Remember that the meeting owner is not necessarily the facilitator.
Think of workshops as a design activity that helps even out commenting biases. They make things more active, more tangible. It’s about solving problems in a group context.
Why design games?
“Games” are a great way to facilitate a meeting because: They are collaborative They have a shared set of rules that everyone adheres to They have structure – a start, a middle, an end. People know and understand the tempo. They are great for team bonding or client bonding (building rapport). You could even split up agency staff with clients for client relationship building.
Planning the workshop
1. What kind of workshop is it? What’s the goal?
2. Who do you invite? – Those responsible for the results – Those responsible for doing – Those impacted by results – Those who can feed in useful info
3. Structure your workshops – Plan timeslots. And don’t forget to plan the time in the middle. Be realistic. Schedule in time for chit chat. – Plan standups at odd times can help people arrive on time. Like 9:57am. – Build culture through meetings
4. Set the Scene Good facilitators are energy catalysts.
Good facilitators are
- upbeat and encouraging
- command the attention of the room
- are good at improvising
- are non-critical, and reserve judgement (don’t let the key stakeholders be the facilitators)
- active listeners (make it obvious you are listening)
- good at spotting and highlighting interesting trends
- get the best out of the group
- know how to work the room
Sheryl also took great notes on the specifics of the design games examples. So head on over to her posting if you want to know more about that.