Designing a meetup about Liberating Structures

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Last Thursday I facilitated an internal Liberating Structures meetup together with Lars Coppens at ABN Amro. This meeting had a specific goal: How can you use Liberating Structures within Scrum events and especially with a distributed team. The time box and our challenge? Within 1.5 hours introduce several Liberating Structures and explain how to use these structures, so that the can be used with a distributed Scrum team. In this post I will describe how we designed this session.

I started by creating a list of structures I’ve used myself within Scrum events and added structures I could find others have used. You can find the list here.

Experience a structure?

The best way to learn Liberating Structures is not only to learn how to use them but also to experience them yourself. But because of the limited time, we thought people might be disappointed when we only covered a single or maybe two structures. We therefore tried to think about another way to give the participants as much information as possible without making it just a boring one-way presentation.

Information overload

Our first thought was using a Shift & Share. We could set up a station for every Scrum event and just make a presentation out of it. But that would be boring! Instead, we thought of asking the attendees to identify structures that we could use for each event. That automatically made us think of doing Caravan. Wouldn’t it be nice to let the people themselves add additional Structures to the initial list and create a long list of possible structures for each event?

But then we thought of a possible flaw in this plan. A lot of people still don’t know Liberating Structures and are attending this meetup to learn about them. So without briefly explaining the structures, it would probably be very hard for them to select structures for an event. 

Power to the people

We eventually came up with the idea to use Open Space Technology to let the participants pick the structures they want to learn about. This way we had an opportunity to share as much information as possible in a way that people could decide for themselves what they wanted to learn. And maybe we could close the session by asking the participants which structures they would like to experience themselves. With this output, we could structure our future meetups. 

We already had an extensive list of structures that could be used to facilitate Scrum events. So we picked a number of them that could be used for multiple events and wanted the participants to choose from these. 

With the possibility of over 40 participants, how would we find ourselves other facilitators and quickly decide on a schedule? We could just ask them, but what is the fun in that 😉 so what if we would use a Gallery Walk as input for the Open Space?

Our string

The eventual string we came up with looked like this:

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Impromptu Networking (with Folding Spectrogram)

To introduce the participants to each other, we used Folding Spectrogram as a way to form the first pairs for Impromptu Networking.

We used the following invitation for Folding Spectrogram:

  • Form a line, starting with the person which has the least experience in using Liberating Structures in Scrum events and ending with the person with the most experience in this area.

After everyone was paired up, we used the following invitations to start Impromptu Networking:

  • What do you hope to give and get from this session?
  • What is your experience with Liberating Structures and have you ever used them in a Scrum event?
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Gallery Walk

We created posters for the selected Liberating Structures which we spread across the room together with the card from the card deck and an icon of the structure and invited the participants to walk around in silence first to see which structures there were.

Next, we invited them to move to the structure they had the most experience with. We made a mistake to include 1-2-4-All which of course attracted the most people 😉 but luckily there were also people at other structures. For us, this was an indication we might find possible facilitators for the Option Space.

In order to select the topics for the Option Space. We asked the attendees to move to the structure they wanted to know more about.

Option Space Technology

After this, we asked who would want to facilitate one of the structures where people gathered around and quickly found a couple of volunteers. The rest of the slots would be facilitated by Lars and me and therefore, we invited the attendees to create their own schedule using the remaining structures.

We proposed to facilitate each slot using the following steps:

  1. Introduce and explain the selected structure
  2. Using a 1-2-All to answer the following questions:
  • For which Scrum events can you use this structure?
  • Can you use this structure in a distributed environment and how?
  • Can you use this structure within a small team (less than 6 people)?

When the time box was over, we quickly debriefed what we had discovered and introduced an online tool called mentimeter. 

Using for distributed facilitation

To wrap up the meeting and gather input for our next meetups. We used the tool mentimeter to ask the participants two questions. 

Mentimeter is an online tool that I use a lot with distributed teams to collect feedback from individuals. I’m still planning on writing a separate article on this, so keep an eye out for it in the future 😉

We could have used a 25/10 to determine which Liberating Structures our public wants to experience during the next meetup. But using the ranking question in mentimeter we could get a similar outcome in less time. And at the same time let everyone experience how easy can be used.

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As a wrap-up question, we asked the participants for feedback on this session and if they enjoyed it. Luckily most of them did! For me the best feedback we received is that almost a third of them wants to experience more structures in-depth and thinks 1.5 hours might be too short to do so. So, challenge accepted! I’m looking forward to facilitate future meetups!

What do you think of the string we came up with? Do you have any tips on what we could’ve done better? Let me know!

as also published on:

Liberating Structures and (distributed) Scrum Events

For an upcoming meetup I’m preparing a session on how to use LS for Scrum Events and especially events where the participants are distributed and joining the event remotely.

Here’s a brief overview of some LS that can be used for the different Scrum events. I’ve marked all structures with an * that I’ve used myself in a distributed setting.

Refinement / Planning

Daily Scrum

Sprint Review

Sprint Retrospective

On the liberating Structures website you can find a design checklist for virtual meetings. Since the link is currently no longer working, you can find the document here:

How to Solve Any Problem in 3 Steps Using the Zombie Retrospective

image provided by Modern Requirements

Facing challenges is an inevitable part of life, but how we deal with them can make a big difference. When problems show up, it’s important to focus on the things that unite us—it’s better to have a common enemy than fight internally. Experience in complex software development has taught me that it’s crucial to stop, think and act at regular intervals.

Read the complete article here:

Innovation Accounting in Scrum

Innovation Accounting in Scrum

Abstract: In Scrum a Product Owner can be described as a “value maximizer”…but how is value calculated? In this presentation we consider how empiricism ought to underpin any assessment, and at how the discipline of “Innovation Accounting” can challenge predictive value assumptions.

Sprint Review Anti Patterns and How to Overcome Them

If your Sprint Review looks like this, you are doing it wrong:

  • Approval Session
  • Development team presentation
  • Closed feedback bubble

Signs you are doing it right:

  • Product Owner owns the event
  • Who is who? Everybody is engaged.
  • It provides valuable feedback
  • It gives the direction where we want to move to
  • It can give insight in likely completion dates

Share novel ideas and creative solutions with ‘Shift & Share’ and ‘Caravan’

Shift & Share is a Liberating Structure that helps spread novelty across groups and functions. Innovators showcase their ideas or products and gather meaningful feedback in short cycles. In one hour or less it’s possible to include everyone in a large group and make every voice heard in a structured, constructive way.

Caravan is an exciting twist on Shift & Share that blends it with the Liberating Structure Wise Crowds. It’s especially useful for gaining clarity on a challenge or — maybe most important for Scrum Teams — to receive useful feedback on new features and product increments during multi-team Sprint Reviews.

Read about it in this article:

Servant Leadership 101: The 4 V’s to Create a Strong Foundation

Servant-leaders must create a strong foundation that helps people feel empowered to take action, enables them to move forward in a common direction despite uncertainty, and to feel inspired and resourceful during challenging times.

The 4 V’s can help you establish this strong foundation:

  • Vision – “What do we want?”
  • Values – “What is important about that?”
  • Value – “What value are we creating? What outcomes indicate we are succeeding?”
  • Validation – “How will we measure valuable outcomes? How will we validate our assumptions about value?”

Read the complete article here: