Everyone available for a discovery session with relevant insight to share. eg, sponsor, product owner, BA, architects, team, etc.
What is it?
This is a facilitated information gathering activity designed to explore, document and prioritise current challenges and bright spots in an organisation, team or project across six interrelated dimensions.
- People & culture
- Tools & technologies
- Work environment
Yes, there are overlaps across these dimensions.
People communicate in governance processes about, and by using tools and technologies according to their culture and environment. The aim here is not to perfectly categorise everything into each dimension, but to think through our bright spots and challenges across these different dimensions.
Debate about the overlaps can also lead to actionable insights and solutions.
This practice originally focussed on challenges, but has been adapted to also explore Bright spots. Bright spots are described in the book “Switch: How to change, when change is hard” and has similarities with Appreciative Inquiry.
Why use it?
Quickly build shared understanding of the context of a given initiative, uncover pain points (challenges) across the organisation, team or project, and reveal skills and strengths (bright spots) that should be harnessed to accelerate momentum towards the target outcomes.
How to do it?
Ask the group to think about the current bright spots and challenges they experience, and then get them to categorise these across 6 these dimensions.
All participants should individually write up their challenges on sticky notes, then post them on the walls in the relevant dimension.
Facilitator, or a volunteer from the group should review, cluster and summarise the responses (affinity grouping), before asking everyone to come back and vote for the most pressing challenges, and most relevant or useful bright spots to focus on.
You could use 2 different coloured dots when voting to create a prioritisation matrix.
Eg. Important & Urgent, Effort & Impact, Risk & Value, etc
Get alignment and be clear on how and where the group should focus.
- From their own individual perspective? Or their perception of how others see their challenges?
- On the organisation? The team? The project? The technology?
- Are you documenting current state? (issues) or thinking about challenges that might block desired state? (risks)
- Are you thinking about bright spot skills, strengths, processes within the team? Or in the broader organisation that might be available to help?
In sequence, or all at once?
A] everyone works in sync going through each dimension, one by one, together as a group spending 5 mins on each one.
B] everyone works independently for 30 mins to populate all 6 frames, and then review each dimension together at the end.
- Markers, sticky notes, sticky dots, sticky easel pad sheets, sufficient wall space.
- Prepare easel pad sheets with each of the 6 dimensions and post around the walls, or divide a large whiteboard into 6 areas. Give everyone dots, sticky notes, and a marker.
- Discovery: https://www.thoughtworks.com/insights/blog/discovery-day-one
- STEEP analysis: http://www.utsdesignindex.com/researchmethod/steep-analysis/
- Fishbone / Ishikawa: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishikawa_diagram
- Brightspots: https://www.fastcompany.com/1514493/switch-dont-solve-problems-copy-success
- Appreciative inquiry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appreciative_inquiry
Most people can quickly understand each of the dimensions and dive straight into the task without much explanation, but sometimes it becomes necessary to define the terms, discuss the differences, and provide examples. The following may be a useful starting point, or reference, for those who need it to help build shared understanding.
Here’s some common definitions of these terms, but what do they mean to you and the team?
You can use these as a starting point for discussion, or as a reference for clarification.
People and culture:
Organisation design, Performance management, Professional development, Hiring practices, Retention, Contribution practices
What do we mean by “Culture?”
“Ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular group of people or society.” “Maintain an organism in conditions suitable for growth.” (common biology def.) “Culture is to a human collective, what personality is to an individual.” (Hofstede)
Tools & Technology:
Platforms, networks, interfaces, infrastructure, applications.
What do we mean by “Tools & Technologies?”
“Technology is the knowledge and general concept or idea, and tools are how we apply it. For example, fire is a technology, and sticks, matches, lighters, fuel, bellows, are how we apply, manage and maintain that technology.” “Technology: Use of knowledge for practical purposes.” “Tool: Device, implement or application used to carry out a particular function.”
Operations, management, support, release practices, guides and frameworks.
What do we mean by “Process?”
“actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.” “steps and decisions involved in the way work is completed.” “interrelated work tasks initiated in response to an event to achieve a specific result.” “standardised workflow for achieving a particular task.
Physical environments, working styles, open plan, hot desks, remote / distributed.
What do we mean by “Work environment?”
“All your surroundings when working. Your physical working environment is, for example, your work tools as well as air, noise and light. But your working environment also includes the psychological aspects of how your work is organised and your wellbeing at work.”
Stakeholder, staff & customer engagement, meeting cadence, online, offline, 1 to 1, 1 to many, fast feedback loops, realtime/async.
What do we mean by “Communication?”
“Imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, listening, writing, reading, or using some other medium.” “Successfully conveying or sharing ideas and feelings.” “Ways of sending or receiving information, such as phones, or computers.”
Direction, decisions, approval checkpoints, policy, budgeting, reporting, metrics, values and principles.
What do we mean by “Governance?”
“the framework of rules, relationships, systems and processes within and by which authority is exercised and controlled in corporations.” “authority, accountability, stewardship, leadership, direction, and control.” “direction and decision-making procedures and metrics for validating impacts to the project.”