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 šŸ˜‰ 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 šŸ˜‰ 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 šŸ˜‰

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! Iā€™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!

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