As you practitioners or designers or product managers, the onus usually falls on us to facilitate workshops. Now that means getting people together and collaborating towards a goal. Workshops can either be really successful or they can be a huge waste of time. What are the five most common pitfalls when it comes to workshops?
The first in the most common that I see is misaligned expectations and what the outcome of the workshop will be. So the problem is that everyone has different ideas of what you’re trying to do. Now, the solution is aligning early and often on what the goals are, even weeks before the workshop takes place collaboratively decide what are our goals and then communicate them and things like the calendar invite into attendees and then we have constraints. Now, I like to think about this like a game of soccer. It would be ridiculous in real life to say you can’t use your hands, but that’s what makes the game. Now that’s a constraint. So just like in a workshop, we may say, OK, we can’t talk. Everyone is quiet and generating their own ideas. Now, there are four different kinds of constraints. The first being how we’re going to engage. These are how we’re going to talk and collaborate together. The newer your team is to workshopping, the more human decency kind of things that you’ll have to say, like no being on your phone and no interrupting others. The second is time, just like a soccer game has 90 minutes. You want to have a really firm time for your workshop. This is going to make the time within it more productive. The third is an artifact. Any conversation you have in a workshop, you want to be capturing it. That means something. That means that everyone has aligned and is ready to move forward. And the last is goals. Now back to my soccer example.
The goal of the game is to get the ball in the net. You want the parallel in your workshop? What is the goal? What are you all working towards? The third most common pitfall that I see is a prescribed outcome before the workshops even taken place. Now, the problem there is usually a lack of research. It’s a legacy, understanding or assumption. Now, the solution is to conduct research before the workshop and bring it in. You could even recruit end users and have them participate in the workshop itself. This is especially important for those people who go into the workshop already, assuming the outcome will be a certain thing. Pitfall number four, the results aren’t actionable. Now you can have a really productive, happy, exciting workshop where everyone leaves with warm and fuzzy feelings. But unless the output is actionable for your product, then it wasn’t productive.
The solution is at least assigning people to really take responsibility of the to dos leaving the workshop. This could mean taking pictures of the artifacts, taking notes and then sending out some kind of email with those to DOS and action items assigned number five. And my personal favorite is that it maybe didn’t even need to be a workshop in the first place. This is very common and it’s because people like to use and abuse the idea of what a workshop is. What I would suggest you do is redefine what a workshop is within the context of your organization. When do you need one versus when will a meeting or even an email suffice? It may be more often than not. Workshops can be an incredible tool. They can foster collaboration, build mutual trust and really drive an experience forward in a positive way. As you start to plan your next workshop, just look out for those five most common pitfalls.