Start with the End in Mind – Envisioning Workshop

I think grounding a team to understand why they are embarking on the development of a product at the individual, team, company and possibly world level is extremely powerful. As Daniel Pink (@DanielPink) points out in his book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” having a strong purpose is one of the three pillars of that motivate us. The other two being mastery and autonomy. Below is a detailed guide for running an envisioning or shared vision workshop. I have run this at many different levels (i.e. team, leadership action team, community of practice). The details below are a combination of excerpts from the “Coaching Agile Teams” book by Lyssa Adkins (@lyssaadkins) along with some notes and tips from my experience running it.

Materials Typically Used:

  • Flip chart paper
  • Masking tape
  • Index cards
  • Sharpies
  • Pens
  • Post it notes
  • Timer

Workshop Steps and Notes:

  • Teams need goals at multiple levels: What’s in it for me? What’s in it for us as a team? What’s in it for my company?
  • Write these goals in present tense, as if they are already true.
  • Step 1, what’s in it for the individual. On scraps of paper or index cards, ask each team member to write their name and the completion of this sentence: “When this project is over, I want to say I have….” For example:
    • “… improved my ability to communicate well with others.”
    • “… moved to using proven software engineering practices (i.e. Continuous Integration (CI), Pair Programming, Test Driven Development (TDD)) as the way to develop high quality software.”
  • As team members finish these, place them on the flip chart paper in a circle similar to the example below.
Vision - Step 1 (Individual)

Step 1, Vision of Each Individual

  • When done with this, announce each individual vision to the group and ask if this is something the rest of the team can support. I usually ask for a thumbs up or “Yes.”
  • Step 2, what’s in it for the team. On a separate flip chart paper, guide them to create a succinct and meaningful statement of what they desire to become together. Usually I have the team write sticky notes that capture the high points they would like to see included and then have a volunteer in the group take a stab at writing a succinct sentence. Usually this takes a couple of iterations.
  • Try to make sure everyone gets heard. You might ask, “How does this feel for you” or “What do you feel is missing?” Some of the time I have used roman voting throughout to make sure we caught some of the folks that didn’t feel heard. Once most everybody is voting thumbs up with a few sideways votes then we have a minimum viable team vision that can be evolved over time. You will most likely feel it in the room when a good vision emerges. Some examples:
    • “We are a creative group of people, bringing out the best in each other to create products that matter.”
    • “We deliver excellent and useful products and listen to our customers and ourselves so that we can be great, not just good.”
  • Once you have the minimum viable team vision, write it at the top of the flip chart with all the individual visions like the example below.

Step 2, Vision of the Team

  • Step 3, what’s in it for the company. Ask them to write down statements about what is in it for the company. If available, I invite a significant stakeholder (i.e. person with the budget) to give a high level vision of the product to the team. Then the team can capture what is heard and develop the company vision from that. Then they can validate with the stakeholder during or after the workshop.
  • Write the company vision in the middle of the individual visions, similar to the example below.

Step 3, Vision of the Company

  • Step 4 (optional), what’s in it for the world. The final level of goals is “What’s in it for the world?” If the team’s endeavor does not benefit the world in a remarkable way, invite them to look on a smaller world scale. Skip this completely if this doesn’t feel applicable.
  • When you wrap up this activity, let the team know it’s no mistake that the company and world goals live inside the individual goals; by attending to individual growth, we create the environment that lets us achieve the business goals. Then, draw their attention to the team vision statement written in huge letters at the top of the chart.
  • Once completed, digitize the results, print it out on a decent sized poster (3 feet wide or bigger) and display it in the team room and on the teams home page. Then you can refer back to it when necessary. I usually review this periodically and am able to recall individual visions during the retrospective that might help the team move in a direction that is beneficial to them. For example if someone had a vision to improve their software engineering practices and the team surfaces poor code quality in the retrospective then I may refer to that individuals vision that mentioned they would like to adopt TDD or pair programming.

Running this workshop has worked really well for me in the past for both kicking off a team or rebooting one.

If you try it, let me know how it worked out by leaving a comment.

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