Workshop design and facilitation

WORKSHOP DESIGN & FACILITATION

Workshops can be incredibly powerful tools if done properly. Too often, however, the term workshop in the consulting world means "a collective waste of time and money."

I have extensive experience designing and leading effective workshops. I’ve worked with several Fortune 500 clients to help them achieve rapid, valuable outcomes by:

  • Working closely with client and project team members to clarify realistic objectives
  • Identifying the proper participants
  • Creating balanced, achievable agendas
  • Getting the right team in the workshop – experienced facilitator(s), subject matter experts, note takers
  • Capturing everything that happens in the meeting
  • Focusing on actions and outcomes, and on owners and accountability

Facilitation

Facilitation, the ability to lead groups in goal-oriented meetings and work sessions, is one of the most valuable skills I’ve gained in my career. A gaping chasm lives between a good meeting that achieves the desired outcome and a bad one that wastes everyone’s time. A great facilitator helps participants cross that chasm. Contrary to what many might think, facilitation is not an ability; it’s a learned and teachable skill. After my initial training back in 1999, I’ve had the opportunity to facilitate countless meetings and workshops, from 2-200 people, across a wide array of industries and situations. A few examples of engagements where I designed and facilitated workshops are given below. In addition, a presentation is available for download that shows training materials I created and used with my own teams in an effort to impart this valuable skill.

Sample Engagements

Over the course of a year, I facilitated a number of workshops and working sessions with the Columbia Pipeline Group (now a subsidiary of TransCanada), for whom we were designing an oil & gas pipeline integrity management application. Sessions explored the feature landscape, prioritized requirements, and delved into extreme detail about the underlying geospatial data for their extensive network of pipelines.
The alumni association for the University of California at Berkeley (CAA) needed to redesign its Web site in order to better serve alumni and the University alike. Content management on the existing site had become a nightmare, it wasn’t scalable, and the user experience wasn’t what it needed to be. Through a series of discovery workshops involving a broad spectrum of stakeholders, we were able to identify and prioritize site redesign objectives and gain consensus on the right conceptual model to pursue.
From 2007 to 2010, I either led or participated in half a dozen different key strategic workshops with Chevron, for everything from web site redesign to social media strategy. Sessions involved anywhere from 5-15 participants, and ranged from pure ideation sessions, to more targeted working groups aimed at solutions to very specific problems. View timelapse video of the initial web site redesign brainstorming session (requires Quicktime plugin).
As one of the three largest International auction houses in the world, with history dating back to 1793, Bonhams was poised to push their web site forward. Significant technical constraints, along with the realities of complex business operations spanning two continents, meant that the web site redesign needed to be approached thoughtfully, with a strategy that could be realized. Multiple working sessions were held with internal stakeholders and technical partners to determine the best way forward.
With a variety of products and services, many of which had evolved over time or been added through acquisition, Citrix was in a position where it needed to evolve. They wanted to explore the development of a deeper user experience design strategy, one where design complements engineering instead of serving it. Over a series of three days, with teams from eight different business units in Florida and Silicon Valley, and all key executive stakeholders, we conducted workshops to explore these issues and drive consensus.
Beachbody is an incredibly successful fitness brand, with a wide range of DVD products and health supplements that get people more fit and more healthy. Team Beachbody provides a social component to their products, one that helps people stay motivated and work together to achieve their goals. We conducted a series of facilitated workshops to explore the landscape of possible features for their new web site, which would be a complete redesign of their existing offer.
Several years ago, HP was reinventing itself. They were creating new visual systems for print, Web, and packaging, and were rearchitecting their global Web sites. I participated in multiple workshops with them (as a subject matter expert, breakout facilitator, note taker), the largest of which gathered more than 45 global stakeholders to resolve critical issues related to their market strategy and the role design played in it.
Autodesk has expanded their software offering dramatically in the past several years, but at the cost of some fragmentation in user experience, and some user interface development inefficiencies. MetaDesign was asked to facilitate a two-day workshop with Autodesk where these issues were discussed; I acted as both a subject matter expert and facilitator (having extensive experience with visual design system standards creation). The result was a significantly heightened awareness of the challenges they faced, and commitment on the part of several key stakeholders on actions.
Cisco, like Autodesk, has a huge array of software products and user interfaces, but no coherent system under which they are unified. MetaDesign was engaged by the User Experience group to address these challenges, and help facilitate a revolution in user interface design at Cisco. I facilitated two separate MetaDesign workshops for Cisco, which ultimately helped the UE group significantly in their efforts.