Facilitating a Visioning Workshop



Last week I co-facilitated a workshop for a government organization that needed to come together as a branch and brainstorm on the challenges and opportunities they are facing. This branch has a variety of digital products to serve rangelands in their jurisdiction. The workshop’s end goal was to define the portfolio vision and a 1-year and 3-year portfolio strategy.


For collectively crafting a vision with a group, I have always found extremely useful the Product Vision Board designed by Roman Pichler [1]. This canvas helps bring people together and work on both visioning and strategy. So, I thought that a good outcome of the visioning workshop would be two completed product vision canvas with strategies for 1 and 3 years.


After a successful visioning exercise, I thought I would describe the session’s structure and the facilitation techniques we used in this post. I do this, hoping that it provides some ideas to others. I acknowledge that every situation is different, and this is not a cookie-cutter approach.


Workshop Structure

The workshop included 5 phases:


1. Understanding our partners and users. This phase’s goal was to create a shared understanding of who we engage in the portfolio to ensure all voices are represented in our work and identify further engagement.


2. Understand user desired outcomes and pain points. This phase helps us understand and create a shared understanding of the business context, motivations and drivers.


3. Explore what success would look like in 1 and 3 years. This phase is about helping everyone stay in the problem space and think about how their lives would be different if a successful product were delivered to them in the short and the long term.


4. Identify alignment with business goals. Create a shared understanding of the business goals and how the success factors for 1 and 3 years align with those goals.


5. Collectively prioritizing the needs. What needs to address in the first year, and what can wait for years 2 and 3?


With all the information that emerged from the phases listed above, the group will then be able to complete the product vision board.


Tools

We needed a virtual collaborative space for the attendants, so we decided to use Miro as a whiteboarding tool, and Zoom as a videoconferencing tool that allows the creation of breakout rooms.


Audience

We had an attendance of 23 people. The group was multi-disciplinary. They all have different roles in the organization. The invited staff members are internal users of the product as well.


Phase 1 - Understanding our partners and users

We asked people to gather in breakout rooms and brainstorm who is impacted by our portfolio. We aimed for divergent thinking here and smaller groups to foster active participation and meaningful conversations.





Phase 2 - Understand user desired outcomes and pain points

In this phase, we did an individual activity where we asked attendants to think of their own roles and write down their desired outcomes and the pain points they experience while trying to achieve them.




Phase 3 - Explore what success would look like in 1 and 3 year

The goal of this phase was to gain insight into high-level outcomes. For this activity, we created breakout rooms with 3-4 people each as asked them to collectively answer the question, "What does success look like in 1 and 3 years?". Additionally, we asked them to dig into the "why" of their success factors. We realized that each group could benefit from a coaching approach from someone asking them good questions to help deep reflection. We assigned a facilitator/coach to each group.




Phase 4 - Create a shared understanding of the business goals and find alignment

During this activity, the Product Owner presented the business goals that the portfolio needs to achieve. After briefly discussing the goals, the attendants were asked to identify the ties between the success factors identified in phase 3 and the business goals.


This activity allows validating that the proposed business goals align with the user needs. It could potentially unveil some new business goals we did not think of before, or they may as well indicate a complete miss-alignment between specific business goals and the information the users and staff are providing.





Phase 5 - Collectively prioritizing the needs

Inspired by the 1-2-4-all liberating structure [2], we asked smaller groups to decide on what the top 3 priorities would be for the portfolio. After the thinking timebox expired, we merged two groups and asked them to determine their top 3 priorities collectively. We did this one more time with everyone in the room.


As this activity fosters divergent thinking to converge later, it is OK to combine ideas into different, overarching new ones. It was vital to let everyone rephrase the goals and merge them during the group sessions and the final discussion.





Product Vision Board:

After several brainstorming and portfolio discovery hours, the group was ready to populate the product vision board sections. By now, the team had discovered and created a shared understanding of the following:


1) Who our users are and which ones we will focus on in year 1.

2) What their desired outcomes and pain points are, which allows us to identify their needs

3) The business goals and which ones take priority in year 1.

4) A few portfolio solutions that may have emerged as we talked about problems.


Filling the product vision board armed with all this information was an easy task. But be mindful that more conversations need to happen as the team iterates on this board. This outcome was just the beginning, and the vision and strategy need to be revisited often.




I hope the description of our visioning workshop is useful to you. Again, we do not believe in silver bullets, so adapt it and make it work for your particular needs if you wish!


How do you facilitate visioning activities in your organization?



References:

Product Vision Board, Roman Pichler

https://www.romanpichler.com/tools/product-vision-board/


Liberating structures, 1-2-4-All

https://www.liberatingstructures.com/1-1-2-4-all/


Cover photo by Matthieu Joannon on Unsplash

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