Facilitated workshops are typically a powerful approach to solving problems, but not necessarily the end-all solution itself which can be broad and complex. Getting everyone in the same room (either in person or virtually) to characterize the current state, make decisions, and commit resources can create powerful outcomes from all levels. So how do you guarantee the success of a workshop given the time and number of people involved?
You need to start with clear objectives, critical to understanding and determining the next steps. This is essential to keep the discussion focused, provide direction, and add any guardrails necessary to achieve meaningful results.
Second, it’s important to have the right people attend the workshop. This includes stakeholders that understand business drivers, decision-makers, and architects and tech leads with knowledge around the areas discussed.
Lastly, it’s crucial to involve a facilitator, someone external to the organization. They can guide the conversations without politics or the seniority of the organization affecting the workshop. Depending on the type of workshop, the facilitator may need to have expertise in specific areas of interest, such as CICD, Security, Collaboration tools, Cloud migration, etc. For workshops such as those, the facilitator will typically have various guiding questions to help direct the discussion. In the end, the facilitator will have recommendations on processes, tools, and approaches to resolve highlighted issues. This is more of a guided consulting workshop, where the discovery of key details is important. The team itself may not understand what the key details are (i.e., Unknown, unknowns), and that is why the knowledge of the facilitator is important.
In other types of workshops, the facilitator may be more of a generalist and an expert at calling out key issues blocking organizations from the growth and success they are looking for. In our workshops, the opening exercises include an introduction to learn about key areas that need improvement, for example, “Name three areas inhibiting adoption, growth, and scalability.” This allows the facilitator to organize those problem areas and gather issues, group them, vote on importance, and create teams to determine how to resolve them once those topics have been filtered down.
So how do you know what workshop is right for your organization? The two positions to understand are first:
- We know there are issues, we don’t know where to start. Let’s figure it out, build consensus, and attack the biggest issues we can.
- The second is, we have a large initiative, we need to assess where we are and get help moving forward.
In one case, business consultants can help by suppling skilled facilitators that know how to run general workshops. In the second case where more technical expertise is required, technical consultants and solution architects can help.
Aqueduct is an example of the latter case with three new workshops developed to cover the are areas of Collaboration, Security, and Hybrid Cloud. These workshop sessions are led by our architects, to help assess and provide detailed guidance.