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This is a guest post by Merv Wyeth, Business Change and Benefits Management Specialist.
Benefits Discovery workshops are typically used in the early stages of a project or programme. In such a workshop a group of interested individuals are brought together and encouraged to articulate business problems, and what might be achieved by solving them - namely benefits. The role of the facilitator is key. It is their job to ensure that participants are fully engaged in the process, in order to build consensus and capture collective wisdom.
Typically, the workshop exercise will involve post-it notes in some shape, form or colour, and flip-chart paper. There are some challenges with this approach. It can be difficult to gain and maintain the attention of the audience, and in my experience, it is often difficult to read another’s writing or understand what they mean - or meant - when you later write up up the results. And what do you do about the shy ones with the great ideas, who dare not speak out lest they appear foolish, or feel intimidated by the brooding presence of a domineering boss?
At the end of the day, someone will get the job of collating the workshop output, perhaps by taking photos or transcribing flip-chart hieroglyphics and disseminating some form of write-up. In my experience, it doesn’t take very long before the insights, intentionality and value of the output evaporates or is overtaken by other priorities.
This summer, I used Mentimeter to support a benefits discovery workshop for a UK Government transformation programme. Representatives from a wide cross-section of the organisation affected by, or capable of affecting, the transformation participated.
In just two hours more than 30 attendees had submitted over 600 responses to a number of carefully crafted questions. This was a prodigious amount of useful content with up to 100 answers to some questions, for example; "Thinking about the benefits described & ranked earlier (in the workshop), how will we know that we have achieved them / how can they be measured?"
The voluntary inclusion of initials as part of the response was an important innovation as it has enabled us to follow up on answers that merit further enquiry. Another question that we found to be productive was; "Who else should we speak to about the benefits of the programme & why?"
The quality and quantity of audience response was far better than the traditional workshop approach used in several previous workshops. These are some top tips for workshop success:
Supply participants with information about what to expect on the day well in advance
Brief participants on the purpose and context of the workshop, including how to use Mentimeter and the plan for dealing with workshop output
Sense check workshop questions and the end to end process before the session with some ‘friendlies’
Develop a backup plan without Mentimeter to de-risk the session if the technology fails! (It worked beautifully in our case, but it did reassure other members of the team to try something new.
Immediately after the workshop, I rearranged the sequence of Mentimeter slides and switched the voting pace from ‘Presenter’ to ‘Audience’ mode, to enable participants to review content for themselves and submit supplementary information. On the train journey home, I was able to review content, highlight key points and share the results with the rest of the team in Excel and PDF format and as a live link to the presentation.
Building on the success of this initiative, Mentimeter was used for two further workshops, reinforcing key themes and helping to triangulate information from multiple sources. And, because good news travels fast, Mentimeter is now used for other types of workshop on the programme, such as requirement capture, risk and issue identification, as well as in the wider organization.
There is an old African proverb that states ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ Benefits Discovery workshops are about going far; gaining commitment, building consensus and capturing collective wisdom - and all the time taking others with you. Mentimeter transforms this process.
Merv Wyeth is a Business Change and Benefits Management Specialist, and Mentimeter user. Connect with him on LinkedIn.