Workshops Going Virtual

This week I held my first fully remote Strategy Choices Workshop with the leadership team from Formula Roofing. Here’s some good and needs improvement things I learned through the process.

Let’s start with social validation:

“This high focus forum has been a very effective way to discuss high level issues with the whole management team”

“Love the opportunity to reflect on macro issues in a controlled and guided environment”

“The use of the whiteboard software and your template setup has been a very helpful way to explore the perspectives of the team without talking over one another”

“Discovered more about co-workers perspectives”

Overall, the workshop felt as effective as in-person ones I’ve delivered. I felt like the team generated good discussion and the outputs were of similar quality to what in-person teams created.

But, it does miss some of the nuanced interaction and non-verbal clues that in-person workshops make easier. One needs improvement was:

“I felt a bit awkward at times interjecting a thought into the conversation”

And this is a real issue. I think having cameras on helps people see non-verbal cues when people speak, but it is still more challenging to get spontaneous debate and constructive inquiry. I found myself asking specific people to contribute when they were quiet or I saw hints of them wanting to say something. I need to get better at facilitating more spontaneous discourse in a remote setting.

This gets especially challenging when flipping between the meeting tab, a presentation, and the whiteboard software. This is easy in person, but hard remotely. Zoom does a good job of having faces stay on the screen when a presenter navigates to a different window or application. If you’re using Google Meet (like me,) learn to use the Picture-in-Picture option from the … menu:

This will put a 4×4 matrix of cameras in the foreground. It shows the cameras of whomever most recently spoke. You can see some of the participants to gage interaction. It also helps inform around when you are talking about a topic of interest versus need to allow for questions or move on. I still agree it felt “a bit awkward at times” and I need to get better both when presenting and encouraging group interaction. I may switch to Zoom to get a better experience for this feature.

Regarding the whiteboard software, I needed to use a third party software to get all the functionality required for an interactive workshop. Zoom, Google Meet and MS Teams have whiteboard options that are fairly good, but they do not have important features like:

  • setting up templates
  • having meeting members follow your view
  • voting

I found 3 options that met my needs well:

  • InVision
  • Mural
  • Miro

I eventually settled for InVision. It has all the functionality needed included in their free version. You can only start 3 boards before needing to upgrade, but it has good base functionality and pricing options for expansion. The one capability I found somewhat difficult to get people to use was their addition of sticky notes. I believe Miro has better functionality for this, but it and Mural required an upgrade to get voting functionality and to allow for the number of guests I required. I may move to Miro as I expand the number of workshops I deliver.

Some other learnings from this virtual workshop:

  • Giving prework in advance of the workshop helped to set expectations, but I got responses from less than half the participants. This could be a company culture or timing issue, but I will allow more time for responses in the future and follow-up more aggressively. I believe having participants work on some of the important questions we tackle on their own prior to the workshop allows for more thoughtful and honest responses in less time. With this goal in mind, I will also expand some of the questions I have them write down prior to the meeting even if I don’t ask them to send it to me.
  • I was glad that we broke the workshop over two days. Because of logistics, I’ve held in-person workshops in 1 day and find that participants and I are worn out by the end. There are more outside distractions and less time to reflect and contemplate as we move through the training and exercises. It is also easier for me to be more focused and to digest and summarize some of the early input from the first day for use in later exercises with the team on the second day.
  • Keeping focus is important as exercises build on one another. This workshop felt like some of the early decisions were not as effectively translated into the most important work for team members to own that were developed in later exercises. Maybe it is earlier work is not in the room on the walls as we proceed. I will work to better remind all of those decisions as part of the setup for exercises that build on them. I think this is more important for remote workshops.

The agenda we followed is below. Brown items are facilitated exercises. Blue are where participants get to give input in less structured formats.

One example of a deliverable from this workshop is the draft for their new mission, vision and values statements. Starting from blank pages, the team developed this:

We protect properties from the elements to create lasting value.

We strive to be the leading, innovative, full-service provider of quality roofing, solar, and weatherproofing in and around Denver.

We lead and execute with values of:
– Quality workmanship
– Capable and efficient delivery
– Doing what’s right
– Delivering what we promise
– Staying at the forefront of innovation
– Always improving to grow our value

I am sure there are still some tweaks in store, but they are off to a good start. From what I know of the founder and their work, this gets pretty close to how they work and I think sets them up well to make important decisions as they move forward.

I am also really excited about the content we recorded as part of this workshop. Over the coming weeks, I will build this into a self-study option. I plan to use extracts from the recordings as examples. There’s a ton of work to do to make this a reality. I would love any advice from the community on how to best make this interactive and effective. I’ll share more along the way.

That’s it for this week. As always, follow, share, like and reach out on the about page or on LinkedIn if I can answer any questions or help address a specific need you have.

Don’t forget to follow your Passion, find Joy in your work, and create enough Freedom to pursue all of your life’s priorities.

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