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Sometimes, the best way to get alignment, generate new ideas, hash out different perspectives, or just effectively collaborate is to shift a gathering of peers from being a “meeting run by the organizer” to a “workshop run by a facilitator.” Both meetings and workshops should have clear objectives, but workshops, when planned and run well, shift the mindset of the participants even before they arrive in the meeting room (which may make sense to have as a room at an off-site location). On this episode, we chat with master facilitator Jody Weir from THE ICONIC about her experiences, tips, and techniques for running an effective workshop. If you haven’t committed to run one by the end of the show, then Michael failed in his role as podcast facilitator.
00:04 Announcer: Welcome to the Digital Analytics Power Hour. Tim, Michael, Moe and the occasional guest discussing digital analytics issues of the day. Find them on Facebook at Facebook.com/analyticshour and their website, analyticshour.io. And now, the Digital Analytics Power Hour.
00:27 Michael Helbling: Hi everyone, welcome to the Digital Analytics Power Hour. This is episode 139. You know, we don’t often go behind the curtain here at the Digital Analytics Power Hour, but every couple of weeks I run a small workshop, if you will, of ideas and we record it and you end up listening to it. And as a facilitator, my job is to make sure that everyone is heard and we get input across the board and are sharing the best ideas and facts out to you, the audience. And sure, it’s not easy work. I mean, you’ve got that one person who chimes in on every single thing. Oh hey, Tim. How’s it going?
01:05 Tim Wilson: Hey, what? Huh? Sorry, I was checking my email. Have we started this workshop yet?
01:13 MH: And then there’s also that person that’s just trying to use the whole session for their own benefit. Oh, hey, Moe. How you going?
01:21 Moe Kiss: What? I cannot believe it.
01:24 MK: There’s people with agendas? Everyone just doesn’t come ready to share and listen and learn?
01:31 MH: Anyways, listen. But recently, Tim and Moe have felt that I could be doing a better job in my duties as well. So the whole point of this show is about how I can do a better job as a moderator of a workshop. Okay, no, but seriously, one thing all of us as analysts run into often enough is the need to facilitate a workshop, whether they be more of a didactic Lunch-and-Learn to a more collaborative planning session. So we decided to bring in an expert who could give us all some coaching on how to think about preparing for and running a great workshop. Judy Weir is the head of agility at The Iconic. Prior to that role, she led agile transformation at a few large financial service companies. She is an enterprise leadership and team coach based in Sydney, but is originally from the US.
02:21 MH: Before moving to Sydney, she worked in Silicon Valley for 12 years at two startups and Intuit, a large tech company. She’s been helping teams to collaborate and run interactive work sessions for her whole career and today, she is our coach and guest. Welcome to the workshop/show, Jody.
02:38 Jody Weir: Thank you. My God, it’s exciting to be here.
02:42 MH: Well, we’re delighted to have you and I promise not to be too defensive.
02:48 JW: Great, great but I’m used to this so we can work through it.
02:52 MH: There you go, okay. You’ll be gentle, I love it. Alright, so maybe a great way to start, Jody, is just maybe to talk a little bit about… There’s a lot of different kinds of workshops, maybe we could start with just describing some of the different kinds that are there and then we’ll see where the conversation takes us from there.
03:10 JW: Sure. Well, to me, a workshop is when you’re getting people together with diverse experiences and opinions and you need all that in order to achieve a certain objective. So there’s a reason why you want people to collaborate and to collaborate effectively. So that could be you’re trying to reach a decision on something and there’s multiple point views, it could be that you’re brainstorming some potential solutions for how you move forward. My favorite is a retrospective, so where you’re reflecting on what you’ve learned from something, an activity that you’ve done and how you might do things differently going forward. There could also be, from an analytics perspective, looking at certain data and deriving insights, so getting multiple peoples’ perspective on that data and building on each other’s insights to discover something that hopefully you wouldn’t have discovered if you were just analyzing it in isolation.
04:16 MK: Yeah, there are so many different types of ways that you can collaborate or run a workshop or a session. And I love preparing. It’s probably not my greatest strength, but Jody, I imagine when you’re doing say a brainstorming session versus a retro versus trying to get alignment on KPIs or agreement for a decision, all of those different types of workshops would require very different preparation.
04:45 JW: Yes, that’s true, but the theme there is they all require preparation. So I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve done a lot of these types of sessions, and I still prepare a lot, and I think the preparation pays off. It doesn’t always go as planned. In fact, it never does, but you’ll have a much better session if you do. And I put in anywhere from two to three times more preparation than the actual work session. So if it’s a one-hour work session, I’ll prepare probably one to two hours.
05:20 MK: Yeah, wow.
05:21 TW: At this point, you’ve done this so many times. Are you typically kind of pulling from a menu of techniques that you’re going to use, and preparation that you’re going to do? Or maybe, I don’t know if this is a fair question, going way back to the first time where you thought or someone asked you to, “Hey, we should do this as a workshop instead of just a meeting.” Was it kind of a hard break or was it that a meeting sort of morphed into a workshop or was it, “No, this is something where we actually need to actively collaborate. Let’s think of this as a workshop as opposed to a group meeting”?
06:00 JW: Yeah, it’s hard to know where it all started, but I think you could have workshop-y type activities within a meeting. I think any time you pose something as a workshop as opposed to a meeting, people are gonna get a little bit more excited and that’s because it should be more interesting. Ideally, it’s a collaboration session and you’re gonna contribute to something that you’re gonna get a result, which you couldn’t have gotten on your own and you’re creating together so that’s exciting. How I usually start is if it’s me that wants to run the workshop or sometimes I’ll be facilitating and someone else is kind of sponsoring the workshop, I start by understanding what are we trying to get out of this? What’s the objective?
06:45 JW: Why are we getting all these people together? And then if this is a success, what does the outcome look like? And then working back from there, “Okay, to get that outcome, what might we do?” And, there’s lots of… It’s never one solution, that you can get to that outcome a few different ways, usually. And so then I would have a planning session with that person as well as potentially… I mean, depending on the work session. If it’s a smaller group, it might be just that person. If it’s a larger group, it might be a sample of people that are gonna be there to sort of run some ideas of how we’re gonna get to that outcome, things we could do, what might work with this group, that kind of thing.
07:25 MH: It’s interesting ’cause on the one hand, running a good meeting, you should be starting with an objective and you should be starting with… And it’s only as we’re talking about this now, the handful of times that I have participated and sometimes that is helping to plan, occasionally, it’s facilitating, but that’s kinda loose, but it’s been… I like the idea that as soon as you frame it as a workshop, all of a sudden people are like showing up at the meeting instead of with their laptop open, but with their sleeves rolled up. They’re like, “Okay, I’m expecting that you’re gonna tell me to do something.”
08:00 MH: It is, by definition a workshop is participatory, I guess. It just feels like instead of a meeting that has an agenda, we’re gonna talk about X and Y and Z and then we’re gonna hopefully, get to this outcome. A workshop is… It may be a very similarly defined outcome, but the mindset going into it is, “But we’re going to do X and then we’re gonna do Y. And then with Y, we’re gonna do Z. And that’s gonna lead us to it.” Is that a fair way to distinguish?
08:33 JW: Absolutely, 100%. And then the planning also is when people walk into that room, are they getting the sense that this is gonna be interactive? They wanna hear from me. If you have, for example, stickies and sharpies on the tables and the tables are all in breakout group kind of small groups and there’s flip charts on the wall, you’re getting a sense of what’s gonna happen in this session as opposed to it’s a boardroom-style table setting and a slide is on the projector kind of thing.
09:09 MK: Okay, so I have to confess at this point, I have been in many a workshop that Jody has run and it’s one of the reasons that she’s on the show today because I’ve never seen someone who’s so good at running sessions and being a facilitator, but I guess the… What I’m trying to understand is…
09:27 TW: Moe, can you give us what one of the shining examples? Is there one that maybe ties to analytics or is there an example you can share that is a, for instance, this workshop? Sorry, I hate to cut you off.
09:40 MK: Oh no, no, no. That’s okay. We had a workshop over a tooling decision and the reason it was probably the most difficult is because everybody was very not aligned. And so bringing people together, I guess, to reach a way forward when the starting point is that people strongly disagree and that’s why I think Jody is one of the best facilitators I’ve ever seen because she did find a way to bring the people together and move forward, but so, one of the things that I’ve noticed in being in all of these workshops with Jody is that it’s not like she uses a cookie-cutter approach, it’s like the exercises are different and the things we brainstorm. And I’m curious, Jody, how do you make the decision of what activities to do? How does that happen? Do you just have this arsenal of knowledge of like, “I know if we’re trying to do this, that I should use this exercise or this icebreaker.”
10:33 JW: Okay, let’s assume that we want everybody in this session to contribute equally, ’cause that usually results in the best outcomes, one of the things I will always do is start off with some sort of an icebreaker. And I try to make the icebreaker… Well, it depends on the group, suit the situation. So if it’s a sort of serious group, it’s not gonna be a super quirky icebreaker ’cause that doesn’t fit. And sometimes the icebreaker will actually align to what we’re trying to do.
11:08 JW: It could be like if it’s a retro, what’s one word that you think describes the last sprint, for example? And what the icebreaker does is it sets the tone, which is I want to hear from all of you equally. And the sooner you get people talking, the more likely they are to continue talking. That’s one thing.
11:29 TW: But, can I ask, are there like websites or resources that are like, “These are potential icebreakers”? If somebody was saying “Ah, I wanna try this. How much is… ” And again, this is where it’s like, it may be tough for you ’cause you’ve been doing it. You’ve done it so many times. You’ve got like the, which of these 75 makes the most sense, but it’s like are there resources like, “Here are potential icebreakers,” and you would say, “Yeah, just consider, is it appropriate to the group,” or I don’t know, that may be an unfair question to ask. Email you.
12:02 JW: Yeah, well, Google is your friend as always. With icebreakers what you wanna think about is how much time you wanna spend because if it’s a big group and you want everyone to talk, that can take a long time. So then I try to use things that are gonna be quick like one word or three words, like three words that are gonna describe your upcoming weekend. And even if there’s 20 people, that still goes fast kind of thing, but you learn a little bit about the people. That’s the thing. It’s like if people don’t know each other, then I might make the icebreaker something where they can get to know each other a little bit better. If I want them to get out of their comfort zone, another icebreaker I like to use is pair up with someone that potentially you don’t know that well in this session, on a sticky, you each draw a portrait of that other person and write their name. And then give it back to them, and then as people are introducing themselves…
13:01 JW: For example, on a flip chart, let’s say you have a bunch of different teams or departments or areas represented, you’ll put that on a flip chart, and then they could put their name under which area they’re representing. And so then, it’s kind of creative, but then you also can take a picture of that, and that’s your attendance sheet. And so if anyone wants to know who was at that workshop, it’s right there for you. So that’s the other kind of pro tip, is that you wanna make it easy to capture what happened at the workshop as well. And I will just take that, and put it into compliments or whatever, I won’t re-type it or anything, it’s like, “You wanna know who was there? Just look at that.”
13:38 MK: Yeah, nice.
13:39 JW: So yeah, it’s tastycupcakes.org, I think it is, or maybe it’s, “.com.” They have a bunch of games and things you can play. They’re not all ice-breakers in the sense that they’re not all short… Yeah, “.org.” But… Yeah, and then there’s just the questions like random questions, “What don’t you mind getting up early for? What’s your go-to chocolate?” It can be something super-easy, just to get people started.
14:07 MK: So I know we’re probably gonna touch on this quite a bit, introverts. You’re in the tech department, and bringing people together for workshops is always incredibly tough. I find that with a whole bunch of introverts, it can be even more challenging. And I know for myself, I have a team member that I used to work with. And if we were doing something like this, I had to tell her in advance, and be like, “This is what’s gonna be happening in this session, because I know you need two days to think about it before we show up.” What other strategies do you think are useful? Like you talked about equal participation, so how do you make that work once the ball starts rolling and make sure that everyone is able to participate?
14:54 JW: Yeah. So this is really important, because this is 50% of your audience or the people in the room; usually, depending on the group, it could be higher or a bit lower, but this isn’t like catering for one person, there’s lots of introverts, and they have extremely good information to share, there’s lots of extroverts, and they tend to over-share. So how do you manage that? So there’s a couple of ways. One, you just mentioned, Moe, so if you can give people an idea of the kind of information you’re gonna be asking for, that way, the introverts or anyone has the option of preparing ahead of time if they’re not comfortable preparing in the moment.
15:34 TW: Can I ask on the prep work? Is it kind of important, ’cause it seems like if there is kind of a, “Here’s what we’re gonna be doing,” where do you balance the pre-work that’s required, knowing that there will still be people who don’t do it at all, versus pre-work that is really kind of optional to help the introverts and those who are conditioned? Is there a balance there, or am I kinda hitting something else that pre-work’s kind of technically something different?
16:03 MK: Tim loves a bit of pre-work.
16:05 JW: Well, pre-work could be a bunch of different things. So if you’re having a session where you’re gonna try to draw out some insights from some analysis that you’ve done, the pre-work might be, “Read this report, and then we’re gonna discuss your insights.” So you bring sort of your insights into the workshop, and then you combine that with other peoples,’ and you build on that to come up with, “Here are our group insights,” right?
16:29 TW: But is that… That’s different from the prep you’re talking about to make sure the introverts are prepared, or…
16:34 JW: No, because introverts tend to want to think through things and have a bit more time, they like to read something and kind of let it soak in and think about how they’re gonna respond, whereas extroverts kinda just respond in the moment and are more… Are comfortable with that. But it is different from the example I was giving earlier, which is like let’s say you’re just asking… Let’s say you’re running a retro, people kind of… A lot of people know what retros are all about, so they might prepare anyway. But you might say, “I’m gonna ask everyone for their top three things that went well and top three things that they think they wanna change,” or, “I’m gonna ask you for one example in each of these categories,” what worked well from the people process or system perspective, that kinda thing. So that you could do as pre-work, to help with introverts, or just to cater for all different types of personalities.
17:31 JW: And it’s not just introverts for this too, sometimes it’s seniority, so people who are less senior or newer to the group might feel more comfortable having a bit of time to think about what they’re gonna share, it depends on how comfortable they are. In the actual session, if you think of it like an onion, it’s really good to do… Ask questions, and then give people a minute to think about, “What is your response?” and then, “Pair up with somebody and discuss your responses with each other,” and then doing kind of a wider group share. And that way, it builds the participation, but everyone… It starts with everyone contributing. The last tip I’ll give you there is stickies. So you can actually…
18:21 JW: Well, stickies are great, right? But they could also get out of control, because if you have too many stickies, it’s like, “It’s gonna take us forever just to understand what’s here.” So a good thing to do with stickies is have people think about a certain question, like, “What’s… We’re brainstorming, think about what we wanna do in order to improve our conversion rate. Everyone brainstorm on your own.” And then say, “Okay, now, everyone give me your top two stickies.” And that way, it’s equal voice from the beginning, so it’s not like, “Moe has 10, and I only have one.” And so, in that situation, Moe’s actually dominating, even though she’s not meaning to, and we have a lot fewer stickies to actually group in theme, and we’ve prioritized; so there’s multiple benefits for doing things like that.
19:13 MK: And so I’m really curious. I’m gonna confess I have done this before, and I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do. So and this happens in a meeting as well right, where you do want equal participation and you notice it’s kind of the same two or three people that are always talking and there’s people that are not talking, should you turn to them and say like, “Hey Jodie, what do you think?” Is that good, or does that make people feel pressured because suddenly now, maybe they’re not ready to say something they don’t have something to share, what’s your thoughts on that?
19:48 MH: So I think it can make people feel pressured, but the intent behind it is good, right? ‘Cause you’re wanting equal participation, equal talk time, equal voice which the Google Project Aristotle and all the stuff on psychological safety that Amy Edmondson has done from Harvard says that high performance in teams comes from equal talk time, equal voice. So what I recommend there is letting them know that’s likely to happen so setting some ground rules upfront. So I might say something like, “You all have great ideas and I know you do, and we wanna hear from all of you in this session so if you have been talking a lot, I might just ask you to pause so that other people have a chance.
20:36 JW: If you know that you’re kind of a person that tends to speak a lot, maybe hold back a bit, give other people a chance and if you’re more senior, maybe consider speaking last.” I might say that in the session if there’s somebody I know who dominates and that can usually be the most senior person, I might take them aside before the session and say, “If you want this outcome which is getting information and ideas from everyone, the best way to do that is for you to hold back.” And maybe even tell them, I’m here to listen and hear your ideas, I’m not here to force mine on you so that they’re not waiting for you to speak either. So it depends on the dynamics but you usually kinda know, in your prep you’re gonna get some feelers for what you’re gonna be dealing with in the session so that you can accommodate for that.
21:31 MH: And I’ve found on the flip side of that, when you’re trying to identify people who don’t talk as much and you wanna pull them out, I’ve learned try to be careful how you ask them, ’cause there’s been times where people didn’t wanna share and I kinda didn’t give them an option. So try to be like, “Hey I haven’t heard from you, is there anything you’d like to?” So they can say no just in case, otherwise if they… If you kinda put them on the spot that could be even worse than not hearing from them at all. But that’s something I learned which I try to keep in mind, ’cause I like to look for those people who aren’t talking very much and then try to grab them too, but I like… Yeah, these are really good.
22:11 JW: Yeah, Michael what you’re saying is excellent so you wanna always give people choice, so how you phrase things and also you might say, “Tim, I always love your insights, I haven’t heard from you that much. Would you be willing to share what’s going on in your head right now if there’s something there?”
22:30 MH: Yeah.
22:31 JW: And then it’s like then Tim could say, “Yes, here it is.” Or, “I’m actually good, I’ve heard everyone saying what I’m thinking.” So it’s not like making them feel like you have to say something here, it’s not back to the wall kind of situation, but you’re creating space for them, that’s what you wanna be thinking.
22:50 MH: Yeah. I’ve also noticed in groups where there are people who maybe aren’t all from the same language initially, so like people with a second language, they sometimes need a little more time to be able to contribute as well and so you wanna try to also remember that. So sometimes especially developers in those communities you may have a group of English speakers but you may have a group of folks who… Or people in the room who have English as a second language, and just remember that they’re overcoming a first cognitive hurdle and then a second one, just to be participating so that’s been one that I’ve been able to pick up on a little bit over the years too.
23:27 JW: Yeah, Michael that’s an excellent point and in general as humans we’re more comfortable speaking up in smaller groups. So if your session is big, then this is where getting people to pair up or maybe form groups of three or four. In a group of three, or four, you’re gonna be more apt to feel comfortable talking and then bringing those ideas to the wider group so that’s another way to accommodate for that.
23:56 MK: So Jody, you touched on something a little bit ago and I wanna hone in on it, and again I know this because I’ve been through a workshop with you which is rule setting and I’ve seen you do this with great effect. Well, get the group to agree on a set of rules with great effect. Can you talk to us a little bit about why is that important and how does a facilitator help guide the group toward setting some rules and expectations at the start?
24:27 JW: Well, the reason it’s important and it goes beyond work sessions, but principle-based working it’s like, what are your values and let’s follow those, and it’s much easier to agree on certain principles in a work session such as, we’re only here for an hour and a half, if there’s a site outage or if there’s a family emergency so that you need to have your devices accessible or with you understandable, but otherwise if you’d be willing to put them aside, I think that would be great and you can make it a bit fun. Like we wanna do a little technology detox, all that kind of stuff. So it’s easier to agree that and then when someone is checking their phone or that kinda thing, you can kind of be like, “I thought we agreed.”
25:22 JW: So, it’s something that they are already agreed to do and it really depends on the group. I went to a work session, the other day and they actually walked around with a box and collected everyone’s phones and I was like, “Oh wow, okay.” And they’re like, “Yeah, we’ve already learned that if we have them we’re using them and we just need to just get them out of our hands.” And so, they already kind of were self-regulating in that way.
25:50 MK: That’s awesome.
25:51 TW: But I guess depending on the length and I’ve done, kind of like, the more recent ones that I’ve been part of have been more like half-day workshops or multi-hour and we’ve done the… “We promise you there will be breaks and at these breaks, we are totally cool with you pulling it out and checking your phone,” like we know that asking you to step away for three hours, your manager may be emailing you and you may be trouble or whatever, or you just wanna check something else, but we will take a break and at the break, you are welcome to check your electronics to get your screen time in there.
26:25 JW: Yeah.
26:26 TW: And that seems to have worked.
26:27 JW: Yeah, exactly. And then the other potential trap is sometimes technology is necessary because you have remote participants so you might be using a real-time Miro board or everyone might be on Zoom. When that is the case, it’s easy to be like, “Oh I’m here and there’s my Slack there and this person’s going on and on, and I might just check my Slack.” So you’ve gotta be conscious that people could get distracted. So sometimes, it’s best to just go non-tech if you can, but then technology can obviously help in other ways. So, it’s a balancing act and it just depends on the situation.
27:09 MK: And so, Jody, what are some other examples of rules that you’ve seen teams set in some of these sessions other than technology?
27:19 JW: No idea is a bad idea. We’re here to learn, we wanna hear from everybody. And usually I try to get them to set them. It depends on timing. Once again, if you’re just trying to save time, you might ahead of time, say, “Here are the rules,” but it’s much better if they set them because then it’s their rules. And then usually, I’ll have a list of “here’s what I’m hoping they’re gonna come up with,” and if they miss something critical, I’ll say, “No one’s mentioned this. Do we wanna say anything about this?”
27:49 MH: Yeah.
27:50 MK: Jody, I really loved… And I’m pretty sure you were the instigator of us getting to this particular rule. Along with the “No idea is a bad idea.” I’m pretty sure you were the “yes but,” so if someone throws out an idea and you don’t agree with it, rather than saying “I don’t agree with it,” you respond with, “Yes, but,” so how do you add on to the idea versus shoot down someone else’s idea? And I remember that was one of my “a-ha” moments, thinking, I really liked that as a rule because I think it stops people from criticizing each other, or making someone feel silly.
28:27 TW: I don’t agree with that, Moe. I don’t think that’s a good idea at all.
28:30 MH: Yes, but.
28:32 MK: No.
28:34 JW: Actually, it’s yes and.
28:36 MK: Yes, and. Yes and.
28:37 MH: Yeah.
28:37 JW: Yes, and.
28:38 MH: Uh oh.
28:40 MK: Dammit!
28:42 MH: ‘Cause it really, really stuck with her but no.
28:44 MK: I was like “but seems like such a negative word. Yes and.”
28:47 MH: I was like “this doesn’t sound right to me I don’t know what is going on.”
28:56 MH: Oh my goodness.
28:58 TW: You’ve been doing it wrong ever since.
28:58 MK: Well now I’m never gonna forget it am I?
29:02 MH: Yes, but.
29:02 MK: Yes and.
29:02 MH: Well now you know what’s wrong with our podcast.
29:05 JW: The one I thought you were gonna bring up which you reminded me of is: Sometimes you’re getting people together, because there’s an issue and you need them to agree and move forward together. And so, a rule that’s good in that situation is, this is the place to say what you wanna say if you don’t bring it up here, it’s not cool to bring it up anywhere else. So we’re not having sidebar conversations outside of this meeting. And this is where we’re talking about it, this is where we’re agreeing, you can… What is the Amazon one? You disagree but…
29:42 MK: Disagree and commit.
29:43 JW: And commit. Yeah, exactly. So it’s trying to put a stop to all of the side conversations and the smaller group conversations like… No, we’re coming together as one team and we’re moving forward together as one team.
29:57 MK: I think that’s a great rule.
30:00 TW: It’s funny, my current kind of workshop maven in the last couple of years, actually funnily enough it’s been Val Kroll who was two episodes ago, on our International Women’s Day episode but we’ve been working on a few different clients, but one of them… It’s interesting ’cause there’s the work-shopping because people are disagreeing and we wound up using it, being an outside consultancy, where everybody thinks they’re agreeing, but when you really try to pin them down, they start to… You realize there’s not a whole lot of definition. With this one client, one was just around races around a campaign, which groups were actually responsible for what? And it was like trying to nail a jelly-fish to a wall.
30:40 TW: To try to get that pin down. And the same thing was one where they said, “Well we have different types of campaigns,” and we were like “Great what are the types of campaigns?” And literally, we could not get it nailed down and we went around and around for a few months before we realized like, “Wait a minute. They don’t really have this defined.” And that wound up being… ‘Cause it wasn’t people disagreeing, it’s just like everybody was kind of thinking of it in the way from their kind of narrow view. And by the time everybody arrived, it was, “We all agreed that we probably should have a common language for this. So now let’s do the workshop.”
31:16 TW: And it was funny ’cause we knew… We had very, very specifically what we wanted to get out of each of those workshops. And it seemed like something that was super simple and obvious. We’re like, “Why do we have to have a workshop for this?” It’s like, “Well, because it’s a large enterprise and it’s a simple idea and they really can’t… We can’t figure this out through a series of call-in meetings.” We actually need to sit down, get off-site. I guess we haven’t really mentioned that either, but as you say, rearranging the room, putting the Post-it notes that whole getting people thinking, is participatory. I assumed going off-site is kind of another way to shake it up.
31:52 TW: If you’re in conference room 100B which you have six meetings in a week, that feels the same. Whereas if you can say, “Oh, we have the other office or we have a space that we can rent out.” It’s just like mind blowing, everybody walked out of those so happy that we’d had it even though we were trying to answer a fairly narrow question.
32:14 JW: Yeah, that sounds like a really successful outcome and you’re right, going off-site can be really good, just to get a bit more headspace and really… It also immediately when you go off-site it’s saying, this is important and we’re willing to invest our time, our money, our energy in this. The other thing about off-sites is they tend to be longer, so like half day or a day and that can be really good too because if you do it in the office, you tend to just do it in your normal meeting increments, like an hour, so you might have something that’s gonna take you four hours to get through and if you do it in the office, you do it for one hour over four weeks so it’s taking you a month to get to the end, whereas if you just go off-site for half a day, it’s done in dusted.
33:02 JW: And that’s assuming you don’t need time in between, but if you’re finding that all we’re doing… If we’re doing nothing in between, other than other stuff and this is really important, why not just focus on it for a whole half day and get it done.
33:16 MK: Yeah, wow.
33:17 TW: Which seems like too, if you have… If you’re doing it four sessions over four weeks people are like, “Well, I can’t make it to that one.” ‘Cause… And so they’re kind of drifting in and out. Where if you say look, it’s a half day and yeah, things come up but it’s gonna be you’re there, you’re not, and as long as there’s enough advance, and there’s the time to have some advance notice, then it is… People take it like, they’re like, I’m really gonna miss something, I’m not gonna miss what they think of as one fourth of it, they’re gonna… It’s binary, I’m gonna… My voice is gonna be heard or not. Yeah.
33:46 JW: That’s so true.
33:46 MK: Okay, so I am not the best time keeper in the world, but I feel like in these sessions, timing actually is pretty important. How do you Jody manage how long an activity should go for? How much do you stick to timing if the content’s good? Can you give some advice on that?
34:05 JW: Yes. So timing is very important because if you don’t pay attention to it you’re just rolling the dice, you could easily run out of time. So when I plan a session I will think about high level what are we gonna do, about how much time is this gonna take? So I’ll always plan the first five minutes gather, you’re not getting anything done other than people getting in the room as efficient as you wanna be.
34:30 MK: Yeah.
34:32 JW: And then, I’ll set some high level timelines for things. I will… It depends on… Sometimes I’ll do an actual detailed run sheet where it’s like the start and stop time for this is whatever time, so I really make sure that we’re on time. However, there’s another extreme to that where I’m quite loose with the time depending on how things are going, like this is a really good conversation I’m gonna let this run and I know then that I’m gonna have to shave some time off for something else if I wanna get to the outcome we’re trying to get by the end. I always most often always… Is that a word, most always? Try to delegate time keeping so I’ll have a run sheet with time and if I’m the facilitator there’ll be someone else in the room that I’ll say, can you be my time keeper?
35:22 JW: And sometimes it’s very obvious to people what the timings are, other times I don’t like to make it so obvious because I wanna have the flexibility to change it and I don’t want them to worry oh, we went five minutes over now what are we gonna do? ‘Cause I can take care of that. The other thing is if they’re doing something for a certain amount of time and Moe knows this ’cause everyone who knows me knows this, but I will have a timer going that they can see. So if they have three minutes to brainstorm on their own, I’ll have a three-minute countdown timer in the room that they’re looking at that they know how much time they have left.
35:57 TW: Oh wow.
35:58 JW: And I’ll give them…
36:00 TW: Jodie is holding up her timer right now…
36:03 MK: It’s like one of those ones you see when you’re presenting.
36:06 MH: Yeah, that’s awesome.
36:07 TW: She has 2 minutes and 47 seconds to finish this response.
36:11 JW: I give them a bit of warning and then having a bell or something so when it’s time, those kinds of things can make it fun too and it keeps things moving.
36:23 MK: Speaking of which Jody, I think you still have my bell from back in Iconic days which got handed over when I left but I’m…
36:31 JW: Your bell has multiplied, we have multiple more bells.
36:34 MK: Oh good. I’m curious, why do you assign a time keeper? What’s the rationale?
36:41 JW: Okay, so when you’re facilitating there’s a lot that you need to do, the more help you can get, the better. So, I often say whatever I can let even everyone know this is what I’m trying to do, so everyone help me facilitate this. If people are going too deep and here’s an example of too deep, let them know if people are going off topic call it out, I don’t need to be the only one calling that out and then we can keep moving. So things like note-taking, so taking action items, scribing, being the timekeeper all those kinds of things are great things to delegate so that you as facilitator don’t have to focus on multiple things.
37:24 MH: Yeah, you keep your focus.
37:26 TW: So but as you’re delegating those tasks which are fairly… That you’re delegating those to participants, you are a facilitator. I guess you’re not bringing in like four other people who are non-participatory just doing those roles, it’s totally the participants. So what about a co-facilitator, is that a… Are there cases where it’s best to have a co-facilitator either to brainstorm during the breaks or… Do you ever facilitate with somebody else, is there a reason to ever do that? And you just clarified that definitely these tasks that are being delegated, are to the participants, not to other facilitators.
38:08 JW: Yeah, having other facilitators is a fantastic idea and very rarely will I run a session where I’m the only one in the room that knows the plan, for the session. Whether that person is a co-facilitator or sometimes they’re… If you wanna say like, “The session sponsor,” they’re the person that’s brought everyone together. And co-facilitators is great because then if you forget something the other person can chime in. It gives you a little bit of a break to prepare for whatever you’re gonna do next. So if you… And a lot of times, having that person… It depends, if you really need people in the room to be focused on the content, then having a neutral facilitator and mutual co-facilitators might be the way to go. But if it’s okay, that people can manage contributing with the content as well as helping to facilitate then using someone that’s in the session can work well too.
39:06 MH: That’s the focus on the process not the content they can focus on. I know when I have… I’ve been the second chair facilitator, I guess. ‘Cause it’s scary, I guess that’s where anyone is thinking, “This sounds great.” But oh my God, I’m gonna pull this together and I’m gonna have to guide and lead. That does seem like… It seems like a great way to say pair up with somebody, plan together, come up with the time together, do all that together, know that you’ve got a buddy there, that if things start to go south 20% of the way through, you’ve got a literally a process ally and advocate to help you. That to me, for me, personally, would bring the stress… It does bring the stress like way down rather than saying, “Yep, I’m running this, and if it goes south it is on me to think on my feet and fix it.”
40:00 MK: Speaking of going south.
40:00 MH: Okay. [chuckle]
40:01 MK: I’m really curious, Jody. There isn’t always but there is often a person or people in the room who do not wanna be there, who bring a really negative energy to the session, or for some reason just don’t wanna participate. How do you manage that?
40:22 JW: Yeah, and that does happen. So ideally you find out ahead of time what the situation might be so that you can plan for that. But then as we all know, sometimes just things happen and you didn’t see it coming. So a couple of things, one, if things are really getting out of control like overly emotional, not in a good way, I recommend calling a break and that’s another reason to leave the breaks a bit flexible, like to say, “We’ll have breaks,” but not to say, “We’re having a break at 10:30.”
40:54 JW: ‘Cause then if you call a break early, people are like, “What was that?” [chuckle] But calling a break, one, it allows whatever tension or emotions to settle a bit but then it allows you to regroup and to strategize with your co-facilitator, with your sponsor, it could be because things get heated. I also sometimes do this, because I’m like, “I think this is going in an okay direction, but I wanna check-in and make sure that everyone’s alright with it.”
41:28 JW: So sometimes I’ll do that, just with everyone. “I’m feeling like we should let this conversation go because it’s important, even though it’s a little deeper than I thought we would get. How do you feel about that?” I might check-in with a few key people and then let the rest of the people comment as well. Or might take a break and then, huddle with certain people and say, “What do we wanna do here?” And sometimes it’s like, “You know what? If we let this bit go, which I think is important. We might not get to where we thought we were gonna get in this session.” And that might be the best approach and it might be okay.
42:03 MK: Okay. So one of the other things that I find… And to be honest, this is the reason I wanted to do this episode so much because I feel like in today’s day and age, everyone’s all like, “Let’s get in a room and brainstorm and then we’ll fix the problem.” And then everyone walks out being like, “Oh yeah, so 30 people just gave up two hours of their time.” And I’m not gonna lie, I calculate the cost of us being in that room. And everyone walks out being like, “That was a huge waste of time, everything we heard is stuff we’ve already had ideas about.”
42:36 MH: I wish you’d stop invoicing me for every podcast recording Moe, by the way. I wanted to bring that up.
42:43 MK: But there seems to be no follow-on after the session. And then people just feel like, “Well that was a big waste of time.” How do you, I guess, post session have the follow through and have people feeling like all their amazing ideas, and the place you got to went somewhere?
43:03 JW: So, great point. Yeah, I actually think it is a failure if you bring all those people together and it doesn’t result in any action because otherwise, it’s just a therapy session, and maybe a bad one at that, right? So it starts with the planning. So when you’re planning you’re trying to get to a certain outcome, but it’s not just about getting to that outcome. It’s like, let’s say you reach a decision and these are the key insights from this analysis work we’ve done. Okay, fine.
43:31 JW: What are you planning to do with those insights? Are you planning to communicate them, are you planning to act on them and if so, how do you keep that momentum from that session going, and are very clear on the next steps, actions, timing, that kind of thing, and who’s going to follow that through? And make that part of the session. So either you’re figuring that out in the session, or you’re referencing it in the session. So now that we have this, here’s what we’re doing with it. And even if it’s a work session for example and your aim is to get clear on direction. Let’s say you’re setting your objectives, and key results for the quarter. Okay, well, we’re gonna set them in this session, so then let’s plan on having an all-hands with the team two days later, that’s already booked and that’s where we’re gonna present them to the team. And so it’s… The momentum is there to keep it going.
43:53 MK: So Jody, lots of people listening who work in data and analytics, like we started from, do end up for various reasons running lots of these sessions. And I know you and I have talked about it before. Sometimes sessions do go badly. And I think as a facilitator, it’s incredibly tough on yourself. You take personal responsibility or blame almost yourself for if things don’t go well. And I remember chatting to you about this, and you have this really pragmatic way of thinking about it. Do you have any advice for people that are attempting to craft and learn this skill, ’cause they’re not all gonna go great. I guess, what would you say to those people that are giving this a crack but maybe they haven’t gone as well as they wanted, how would they bounce back?
45:13 JW: Well, I like Tim’s point about pairing up so that you don’t feel potentially as stressed about it and you can learn from each other, you could pair up with someone who has potentially more experience at doing something like this and learning from them. The other thing is the thing I like to think about is, planning is really good but there’s only so much you can plan for and there’s things that happen that are unpredictable, like you can’t predict the kind of day someone’s gonna have leading into that workshop, and they might participate in a certain way that isn’t ideal because of that. And you just have to do your best in the moment.
46:00 JW: But sometimes things don’t go great but it’s like learning from that and reflecting on it and changing things next time. It could be like if it’s really extreme, you could say, “I wanna do a retro with all of us on this ’cause this wasn’t ideal we need to figure out how to work together better going forward, and we all need to contribute to that.” So, it’s not always on the facilitator, we’re all adults, we all need to own the energy we bring into the room. And that could be another thing to say in the ground rules, if you think that, that is potentially a problem.
46:41 MH: Wow. This is so good, Jody. I love having you on the podcast. We do, in the interest of time…
46:49 MK: I have another 50 questions.
46:52 MH: And we keep referencing, retro retrospectives, which are agile things. But that’s the other thing is that doing retrospectives on campaigns and using marketing retrospectives, is kind of like a cool workshop. I’ve participated in that as well. So, I just realized you mentioned retro, a couple of times and the agile people are like, that’s a project retro and I’m like, “You can do a campaign retro, too.”
47:15 MK: Jody actually ran a lot of those at The Iconic, very successfully.
47:18 MH: You guys are gonna drive me crazy now.
47:20 TW: Who’s the time keeper?
47:21 MH: I’ve delegated time keeping for this session to apparently, no one.
47:26 TW: Correct.
47:27 MH: We do have to start to wrap up.
47:29 TW: Know what that is? That’s a lack of effective planning.
47:33 MH: Yeah, is that what that is? Thank you, Tim. Let’s just take that, and yes and it all the way into a last call, why don’t we?
47:42 MH: So, one thing we do like to do, and I’m sorry we do have to start to wrap up ’cause we could keep going for quite sometime and I love this topic. We’d like to go around and do a last call, something we found recently that we think might be interesting to our listeners. Jody, you’re our guest, do you have a last call you’d like to share?
48:00 JW: I do, so my new favorite book is called “Brave New Work” by Aaron Dignan. It’s awesome, it’s about modern ways of working, new ways of working, the future of work and super inspiring. He also has a 50-minute talk, if you just wanna watch a video that he describes a lot of the key concepts in the book, you can find it on YouTube. It’s a 50-minute talk and there’s 20 minutes Q and A. And Q and A is just as good as the talk. So dig in people.
48:35 TW: It doesn’t look… It doesn’t sound like it’s a play on Brave New World, the Aldous Huxley dystopian novel. I’m assuming it’s just incidental similarities in the title.
48:48 JW: I haven’t read that book so I don’t know, I can’t comment.
48:52 TW: Oh. It’s an old one. It was like…
48:54 MH: Yeah, It’s kinda old.
48:55 TW: 1930s, yeah.
48:56 MH: Well, thanks for that last call, Tim. Alright, hey Moe, what about you, what’s your last call?
49:03 MK: Well okay, it is actually a repeat last call because it’s been previously Michael’s last call. But I’m doing it because it’s changing my life. I’ve been reading, Never Split the Difference. I’ve been having…
49:18 MH: Oh, Good.
49:19 MK: Yeah, I’ve just been having an issue at work, where there’s a person that we just seem to disagree on lots of stuff and I’ve been finding that my communication methods have not remotely been working, and so I started reading, Never Split the Difference, and I’ve been trying some of the tactics in that. I’m finding it really useful. And the funniest thing that I found from after reading it… So it’s all about negotiation. Is that by following some of the examples that they set in the book, I actually ended up changing my mind in the negotiation and agreeing to the other person’s point of view, which I didn’t anticipate because it’s all about how you get the other person to agree with you. But it actually… By posing some of the questions and some of the… I Love the tactic about when someone’s like, “This team’s gonna own this thing.” And you just say, “Own this thing?” And then they elaborate. I found that we… Yeah. Anyway, I’m very pummped Michael…
50:15 MH: I love that one.
50:15 MK: Thank you for the recommendation.
50:17 MH: I love that one. It’s sort of like, “Oh, how do you think we’ll do that?” And then just be like, “Eh?” [chuckle]
50:23 TW: Yeah.
50:23 MH: It’s so good.
50:25 TW: Yeah, yeah. I’m terrified thinking about our next podcast planning session that Josh and I are just gonna get steam rolled because you guys have these…
50:32 MH: Well, I mean technically Tim in most of those conversations you just refuse to negotiate. You’re just more like, “No.”
50:39 MK: Well, maybe it’s a good place to start from.
50:39 MH: Maybe no.
50:39 MK: That’s what the truth says.
50:46 MH: Well, for those workshops, we’ll try to do a better job of some pre-planning that we’ve learned that work super well for those. So okay. Tim, what about you? What last call do you have?
50:57 TW: So I’ve got a a list that is a… My last call is not a list. It is a list that Technology Review put out, that is 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2020. And I saw it once and read it, and thought it was interesting. And now, I’m getting hit with it from 20 different places, but it’s just a very… They’re true journalism with a little bit of thinking. So I’m gonna just rattle off what that list is and then, if any of these strikes your fancy, somebody should go check them out ’cause it’s their list of 10 Breakthrough Technologies for 2020, which they qualify as to what would qualify for it, but un-hackable internet, hyper-personalized medicine, digital money, anti-aging drugs, AI-discovered molecules, satellite mega constellations, quantum supremacy, tiny AI, differential privacy, and climate change attribution. So it has attribution in there.
51:51 JW: Wow.
51:51 TW: But there are a lots of them that have aspects of very forward-looking kind of machine learning AI stuff in them. And it was just a fun read, to say, “Wow, there are people doing some really cool and interesting stuff.”
52:05 S?: Very nice. What about you, Michael?
52:08 MH: I’m glad you asked. So I think on the show or in various talks, we’ve definitely showed people some of the ways you could choose charts, like a chart chooser, like Extreme Presentation blog had one, Juice Analytics had a charts user, and there’s a lot of these examples. Well, I ran across something recently that I really love, and it sort of has that new place sort of on the wall kind of a feel to it. I think, I first learned about it through a friend of mine, Evan LaPointe. It’s called the Cognitive Bias Codex.
52:38 JW: I feel like I’ve seen this.
52:40 MH: So a couple of guys have taken over 180 cognitive biases, and they’ve aligned them to where they are, what kinds of biases they represent, and then made this beautiful visual of them. So it gives you this very nice way of looking at where they line up, what major categories they’re in and then down to each one. So I think, it’s one of those things that’s beautifully designed and well-thought through, and it just makes it a delight to consider the ways that we turn our brains against the things that we’re attacking.
53:14 MK: I actually find that one really full on. I’ve used that one a lot before. And there’s also some heuristics that are not on that chart, which is one of the reasons that I haven’t referenced it previously. I think, it’s beautiful, but I also think it’s a lot to digest and makes you realize how flawed our brains are.
53:31 MH: I’m not saying our brains aren’t flawed, Moe. I’m saying…
53:34 MK: I know.
53:34 MH: And I’m not saying… I don’t think they’re saying that it’s complete, either. But I just think it’s good to have… I like references. I like reference materials, I like printing stuff off, and you could order a poster of it if you want to. Okay. From time to time, we go and we go look, and we see somebody post a review and we wanna share it with you on the show. And LJ’s Mom 90024 said, “So relatable. Just listened to the reporting versus analytics episode and I am in love. I thought my co-worker and I were crazy when we spent so much time trying to convey the difference, everything said was so relatable. It made me feel like I’m not crazy. Other analysts think the same. Can’t wait to listen to more. Sad I’m just finding it now.” Well, a couple of things. It’s so great that you and your co-worker are in love. No, I don’t think that’s what she meant.
54:30 MH: Or if that’s even a she. That’s not… But we’re sad that you’re just finding it now, too. So go to iTunes, give us a review so that more people can find out and realize they’re not alone, they’re not crazy, and that there are people out here in this world who relate to their everyday work that they’re doing in analytics. So thank you so much for listening, LJ’s Mom 90024, you’re the best. All right. What a wonderful show. I’m sure as you’ve been listening, you’re popping off with ideas or examples of where you’ve had amazing workshops, and here’s why you thought they worked well, or workshop horror stories where it was like, “Oh, this was the worst thing ever.” We would love to hear from you.
55:15 MH: The best ways to do that are on our Twitter, or on our Measure Slack, on our LinkedIn group. So please feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to hear from you. And as always, our show itself would not be possible with what is probably an emerging wunderkind in the workshop leadership category, which is our producer, Josh Crowhurst, so we’re very appreciative to him as well. And once again, Jody, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show with us. What an absolute pleasure, thank you.
55:48 JW: It was fun being here. Thanks for having me.
55:51 MH: Absolutely. And I know I say for my two co-hosts with relative certainty, Tim and Moe and Michael Helbling. We all think, no matter what’s happening out there, keep analyzing.
56:08 Announcer: Thanks for listening, and don’t forget to join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or Measure Slack Group. We welcome your comments and questions. Visit us on the web @analyticshour.io, facebook.com/analyticshour, or @AnalyticsHour on Twitter.
56:27 Charles Barkley: All smart guys wanted to fit in, so they’ve made up a term called analytics. Analytics don’t work.
56:35 Thom Hammerschmidt: Analytics.
56:37 TH: Oh, my God. What the fuck does that even mean?
56:44 MK: Think about how prepared we are for this already. We’re all at home dialling in. This is like, we were set up for Armageddon.
56:52 MH: Oh, yeah. That’s the whole reason I started my company, is so I could be at home when this happened. No I’m just kidding. The end of the world, but the podcast will go on.
57:01 TW: That’s right.
57:01 MH: Yes, it will.
57:02 MH: Every two weeks, we will get you a podcast episode about analytics.
57:07 TW: Well, Jody greyed out for a minute. Are you still there, Jodi?
57:09 JW: Yeah, I’m here.
57:11 MK: Tim, it was you. You froze for everyone.
57:13 TW: Okay.
57:13 JW: Don’t put this one on me Tim. This one’s on you.
57:19 TW: The first rule of facilitation, it’s not important at this point to assign blame.
57:24 JW: Okay, sorry.
57:25 TW: I’m sure that we’re… Yeah, there you go.
57:29 MH: They also never prep the guests that there’s something that’s gonna come up…
57:34 MK: I like the surprise of you randomly singing. I think it works.
57:40 TW: I’m the asshole on the audio when we start up. And then, I’m just doing this weird yelling at the mic at the end. So all of our guests are like, “That’s a weird dude.”
57:51 MH: There’s a kind of beautiful symmetry to it, Tim.
57:52 TW: Well it’s really just… It’s just gonna be…
57:54 MH: Okay.
57:56 MH: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the…
58:00 MK: No, that’s not… That’s not funny.
58:02 MH: Moe, just stop for a second. I’m trying to do the replacement.
58:06 MK: I was like, “Guys stop punking me.”
58:12 MH: That’s an outtake.
58:14 MH: And I guess, we’ll be here…
58:18 MK: Well, not really. Just my microphone. I was wildly throwing around the room.
58:22 MH: I’m not really… I was like, “Why do you need to be ready for this? I don’t know.”
58:29 TW: Rock flag and sticky notes.
58:31 MK: Sticky notes.
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