in Process, tools

Next week I’ll be leading a strategy and vision workshop for my team.
The output defined for success:

  • An illustrated vision for 2025 for the local team.
  • The 2018 Strategic Priorities.
  • A high-level plan with key-milestones for how to achieve the long-term vision and 2018 strategic priorities.

The allowed time for the workshop is only 2.5 hours. This will be challenging considering the scope and the number of attendees, estimated at 15-20 people, all of whom typically have strong opinions.

From Discovery to Design. My process for designing the flow.

To generate a flow that drives to the outcome specified as criteria for success, I did the following:
1. Alignment with the primary customer: The manager of the team. I find that alignment with the stakeholders is THE most critical element. As long as I can get a solid understanding of what the desired outcome must look like I will be able to execute. If you do not have clarity from them as to what success looks like, no amount of planning will help you. As I move through my planning I continuously align and get feedback from the primary stakeholder, my customer, to ensure we are on the right track.

What I do NOT do is involve them in the details of the flow. I want to know the desired outcome they want. How to get to the outcome is on me to decide.

  1. I started doing! I mind-map and wrote down the following:
  2. Goals. Here I listed the desired outcomes.
  3. Logistics and admin. Here I listed number of people, duration, location considerations.
  4. Ideas. Here I listed the tools and frameworks that came to mind to be used. I wrote down a number of frameworks, all of which I’ve used in the past (always slightly modified to fit the specific engagement). With each framework I mentally captured thoughts and jotted down key-words to remind me of how such flow might work.
    – Business Model (full-canvas version or the 4-quadrant)
    – Current Future Barriers
    – Where to play, How to win. The 5 questions by Roger Martin.
    – Balanced Scorecard. I like the nuance considering this workshop is an opportunity to serve the leadership with well-considered input. The BSC covers Revenue, Customers, Growth and Innovation, Internal; You can adjust the elements to what you want to emphasize.
  5. I looked through previous work I’d done. In the last year alone I’ve done at least 3 customer facing engagements which had related outcome elements, i.e. defining a vision and the strategies with milestones across multiple Lines Of Businesses within organizations.
  6. I listed down the various models I considered for use and listed the pros and cons, with additional notes as to how the model could be used to execute the scope. See below for more details.
  7. I found myself a bit stuck and decided to let Google rescue me. Spending only about 30min on Google helped me open my mind to new aspects and tactics that I could consider for the workshop.
  8. I started putting different flows together, starting by expanding the mind-map on the tangent of relevance (ex.: building it out from Current Future Barriers).
  9. As the mind-map overflowed I naturally moved to separate papers.
  10. I continued to write down flows, and iterate, particularly adding the timing element into the picture.
    After filling about 6 papers with notes I found that I landed on a flow I liked.

Moving from Design to Deliver

After many manual rounds of iteration I moved to Excel, where I opened a blank sheet, filled out the columns, and jotted down the official v1 of the workshop flow.

With my workflow being in Excel it was easy for me to spot the timing challenge. This caused me to change a few things.
With me designing digitally I also significant details to the execution. This allowed me to further get into the “real experience”, a feedback loop that caused me to change up a few things.

What I changed?

  • I ended up adding the Visioning exercise earlier than first anticipated.
  • I also moved some of the sessions to group work. This allowed me to save overall time.

The final flow (as of today, 3 days before the workshop is executed)

The last mile

In preparation for next week I will rehearse the flow to get into a “real-experience”. I will be thinking through more nuanced elements such as:
– Managing the energy and preparing a few Energizer exercises.
– Examples: “Ninja, Grandmother, Tiger”, or “Clap, stomp, wiggle”. 🙂
– The risks related to personalities and how they might play out during the day. I will need to have a plan for possible disruption or dis-engagement.
– Timing risk. This is typically always the biggest challenge. In advance of the workshop I will define corners to cut and alternative routes to take to get us to the goal.
– Room and space. I will go to the workspace location and rehearse there. This will provide additional insight. Here I will start setting up the room.
– Preparing templates. I draw them on the walls/whiteboards/flip overs. Sometimes we will have the template pre-printed and I’ll tape this to the wall area for each group. I typically do this the night before. This is one of the last elements before the workshop starts.
– Securing catering and other logistics like name-tags, etc. We need to do some of this in advance, I typically ask the Admin support staff to help, but I provide them clear direction, such as the number of attendees, dietary restrictions, timing for serving, etc.
– I clean my phone out to have enough storage for video and photos that we are taking.
– I check the technical setup. In this workshop we will not be using any inspiration or providing power points, but that is often the case.
– Securing the tools we need. The typical tools needed are:
– Sticky notes. Get the super stickies. The others fall off the whiteboard walls
– Markers
– Fresh whiteboard markers and erasor kits
– Enough whiteboards for each group to have 1 or 2. Alternatively we bring in flip over charts.
– Flip over charts that stick to the wall
– Paper and tape
– Dot-votes
– Name-cards

Prepping participants for the workshop

A few days before I will send out an email to prep the attendees for the workshop. The email defines the objectives for the day, lays out timing and logistical elements, and provides some light pre-work to inspire, educate and bring people into the right frame of mind.


Executing any workshop, be it internal or customer facing, takes significant effort to get right. Success should be measured by how well the workshop meets the desired outcome.
The above lays out my standard process for engaging.
I hope you found this detailed overview to be useful.

I’d love to hear from you what your process is and what tips you have for workshop excellence.