Posted in Liberating Structures, Retrospectives, Working as a ScrumMaster

Liberating Structures: Design Storyboards – for planning productive meetings and workshops

Liberating Structures fundamentally changed the way I work, and they are helping me becoming successful as Scrum Master and Agile Coach. Liberating Structures are a set of patterns, that allows a group, of any size, to collaborate and self-organise around a topic, problem or challenge, by involving and unleashing the potential of each individual.

The structure Design Storyboards has proven very useful to me, when preparing meetings and workshops. Even though it is designed for a group, this structure fundamentally changed how I prepare to facilitate group gatherings.

It really helps me focus on the goal, and then select the best approach to achieve that. Without this, it is easy to fall in the trap of selecting the structure/activity first, and then missing the goal.

Answering the following questions, help me stay on track. The visual representation that comes out of it, serves as my “facilitation canvas”.

  • What is the purpose of the gathering?
  • What structures would I normally use for this session?
  • What Liberating Structures or other activities could achieve that purpose?
  • Which structure/activity is best suited to achieve the purpose?
  • What would the invitation that will trigger reflections and conversation with many perspectives look like? (See Characteristic of Powerful Invitations for Liberating Structures)
  • What should be asked to debrief if the gathering achieved the purpose?

The answers are recorded in the “storyboard”:

This example is a retrospective, evaluating my team’s newly created Definition of Done, dealing with some of the concerns the team raised: (1) we now have a Definition of Done, but we have tried that before, and it will just go on the wall and we’ll forget about it. (2) our new Definition of Done will not work with ‘backend stories’ so I can’t see how it will work. (3) To what use is our Definition of Done if we are not able to go all the way to done in each sprint?

The visual representation of the planned gathering is a great way to create shared understanding and foster fruitful conversations about what we want to achieve, when planning together with a group.

I have found it hard to use this structure together with people who did not yet discover the power of Liberating Structures or are not familiar with some Liberating Structures. So far I have been preparing on my own, presenting a design storyboard to the group, and then working from there. That is not really the intention, as my opinion will be more dominant, and makes it harder for others to contribute… Yet it is still better than what we use to do.

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