Upon receiving a meeting invitation for a process workshop, most people cringe. Process workshops can be tedious, confrontational, and frustrating. In a recent client engagement, the Thought Ensemble team was charged with holding process workshops for eight IT Service Management (ITSM) processes. In addition to the challenge of holding engaging and successful process workshops, we had severe scheduling constraints to navigate and little to no current state process documentation to review. So we decided to get a little creative with our approach. Here’s how:

  • Consolidated Process Workshop: First, we addressed the scheduling conflicts by selecting one full day to dedicate to process work. Most attendees spent the entire day in the workshop, but a handful attended for specific process discussions. This allowed us to maintain focus on the task at hand all day rather than breaking and coming back together several times over a period of days.
  • Time-Boxed Agenda: Having a full-day process workshop required us to create and stick to a strict schedule in order to ensure that attendees came and went at the right times. To help maintain this schedule we kept a parking lot for conversations and decisions that would need to be made outside of the workshop.
  • Preparation: Since our client did not have much process documentation available, we put together simple process flows based on the ITIL framework and our understanding of their environment. These process flows were distributed in advance so that participants could come prepared to ask questions and help customize each flow.
  • Workshop Roles: The preparation that we did in advance really helped ensure that the workshop ran smoothly. Assigning very specific roles for each of the Thought Ensemble team members prior to the workshop was key. We had a facilitator, a scribe/time keeper, and a presenter. Each team member knew their role, knew what to do, and when, which enabled us keep to our time-boxed agenda.
  • Technology: Our presenter used his iPad Pro to not only display the process flows but also to mark them up in real-time, making it easy for attendees to identify which step we were discussing and to see any changes immediately. This also helped us to quickly identify and make follow up changes to the process flows after the workshop, allowing us to turn around updated documentation within 24 hours.
  • Fun: Process workshops aren’t always the most fun, but along with our streamlined approach we also brought in snacks, catered lunch, and took regular breaks. We encouraged productive conversation and maintained a positive, fun tone throughout the workshop. And by the end of the day, we not only had a set of customized processes and a list of follow up items from the parking lot, we had also formed and reinforced bonds within the team.

The Thought Ensemble team has received many compliments on how well-run the process workshop was. Even better, the client has started implementing the process flows and using our templates to create additional processes.

Hopefully you can pull a few ideas to improve your next process workshop from our approach. We’d love to hear back from you: what techniques have worked for you in facilitating a process workshop?