Lead Better Workshop or Meeting Using This Agile Practice

August 4, 2017
August 4, 2017 Georgiy Zhytar

Leading effective workshop is a challenging task, whether you are a professional trainer or a newbie facilitator. In addition to a number of soft skills and experience, there is one important quality distinguishing great and mediocre workshop leaders. Great leaders encourage and receive a large amount of quality feedback which they use to constantly improve their work. Today I’d like to share with you a simple yet powerful technique that will help you to make one more step towards greatness.

The technique is called a ‘Happiness Door’. I actively practice it during my workshops and keep being excited about results this practice brings. It was originally introduced by Jurgen Appelo in his revolutionary book on agile management “Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders” and refined in a latest “Managing for Happiness: Games, Tools, and Practices to Motivate Any Team“.

To use Happiness Door during your session you’ll need just a few simple things:

  • Free space on a wall, door or a board at least of the size of a large flip chart sheet
  • Set of sticky notes
  • Pens, pencils or calligraphic brushes (for most aesthetically developed participants 😊)

During the initial part of the session, introduce the practice to the group and keep encouraging providing as much feedback during the flow of a session as possible. For that, you should consider adding an intentional feedback breaks in agenda and of course, lead by example by providing your own feedback.

The practice itself is quite straightforward:

  • Participants write their feedback as soon as they have it on a sticky note (more often, better)
  • They stick notes to a Happiness Door space over the session in a way that the vertical position of the note reflects a level of satisfaction with the workshop. The higher it’s been put, the more satisfied the person is. Try printing or drawing a funny emojis to help navigate people easier.
  • If someone doesn’t want to provide feedback specifics, encourage them to still reflect their satisfaction by putting an empty note.

On a first sight, this technique looks quite unsophisticated, so you might wonder what makes it so powerful and useful? Here are 5 top reasons I believe Happiness Door is a crucial tool for improving quality and engagement of my workshops.

  1. It helps create more trustful and open atmosphere
    • It messages participants that you are genuinely interested in their feedback so truly caring about their opinion and experience
    • It’s informal and convenient way of providing the feedback, so people are more likely to enjoy and use it than filling a long email questionnaire later
  2. It encourages people to be more engaged and actively interact during the session
    • Providing quick anonymous feedback on a sticky note works as an interaction ice-breaker for the most introverted participants
    • Making a note and walking to a wall to stick it is a physical activity that makes you wake up from the desk and energize a bit
  3. It enables continuous just-in-time feedback for you as session facilitator
    • You can quickly respond to the feedback and course correct the rest of the session if needed
    • As you’ll already have plenty of feedback by the session end, you have a chance to discuss most important things with the group immediately before they leave
  4. It gives you more and higher quality feedback
    • The format itself allows you to efficiently receive a feedback for larger groups of people, which otherwise could be problematic
    • You are able to collect additional context for the feedback (satisfaction with specific parts, energy levels or even individual feelings) in addition to traditional ‘what to keep doing’ and ‘what needs to be improved’.
  5. It improves overall perceived satisfaction from the workshop
    • Due to a social proof effect, visualizing largely positive feedback from participants helps to improve the overall satisfaction for those participants that originally were passively neutral or even dissatisfied.
"We should celebrate learning, not successes or failures."
Jurgen Appelo, 'Managing for Happiness'

Hopefully, I convinced you to give Happiness Door a try during your next workshop or meeting. It’s one of these simple yet powerful Management 3.0 practice that you should experiment with and add to your toolbox. I also recommend to check out more info and case-studies on a Management 3.0 web.

Finally, try experimenting and extending the practice with things like:

  • Better link a feedback with specific parts of a session by visualizing agenda (e.g. split the wall with vertical lines and put names of specific parts on a top)
  • Get more dimensions of feedback by using different colors of sticky notes. Green – keep doing, Pink – consider changing, improving, Red – Need Urgent Attention (aka ‘We need more coffee!’)
  • Bring more fun by inviting people to share a facebook-like feeling statuses on notes (‘Georgiy –feeling excited about finishing this article’)

Subscribe to a LeadingWisely Digest to regularly receive a dose of knowledge and inspiration from us! Have fun and share results of your both successful and failed experiments with others to facilitate learning!

Georgiy Zhytar

Founder of LeadingWise.ly | On a mission to help businesses accelerate growth, innovation, and productivity

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