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Why are we here again?

You’ve been invited to a full-day workshop. You know it’s important as you’ll be discussing a big project and lunch is included. You get there and everyone is keen to share their ‘two cents’ – their big ideas, their concerns, the risks, issues and impacts.

  • But what do you intend to do with all this input?
  • Is everyone clear what kind of input they are meant to provide at this point?
  • How do you avoid this just becoming a ‘talk-fest?’
  • Why do we all feel overwhelmed?
  • What is the specific purpose and intended outcome of the workshop?

Too often we lose sight of our purpose.

Workshops are useful collaboration channels but if planned and managed wisely, they can be incredibly powerful value-creating inputs into your change vision and strategy – a chance to align key people; to extract relevant subject-matter; and to ensure progress to the next stage of your program.
The reality is, most workshops deviate, digress (and often regress) as attendees traverse in divergent directions.


The path of most workshops: poor clarity of purpose and misaligned participants


To address this your workshops must have clarity around:

  1. Intended purpose – what are we trying to achieve by when? Today and long-term.
  2. Intended outcome and what output that will feed into – how the workshop links to the next stage of the project or change journey.
  3. Roles and responsibilities – what input is required from each attendee. Before, during and after.
  4. Facilitation – who is responsible for maintaining the direction and progress of the workshop and ensuring alignment of attendees. You must have a ‘navigationally-focused’ facilitator.

Every workshop is an input into a bigger picture. Participants must understand the end-state and the process to get there.

When every ounce of workshop time, energy and input is focused and aligned to a common purpose with process clarity, something magical happens. That overwhelming feeling dissipates. A prosperous future appears certain. A team of people bond and feel inspired and satisfied.

Put simply: you’ll be a big step closer to achieving your vision.

Are your project workshops effective?  Could your project benefit from outcome-focused facilitation?


  • Chris says:

    Most workshops i attend are helpful exchanges of learning but very detailed and i usually forget most of what is discussed within a few days…. subject matter experts tend to take over. The outputs often don’t follow through and i think a lot of the value is lost afterwards.

    • Huw Thomas says:

      Hi Chris, we’ve all been there! I find it helps to chime in with some simple questions to raise the group’s thinking up a few levels to the highest purpose and longer-term view. This highlights what is truly important and hence avoids digression to low-value minutia. For example: “What will that capability/solution help us achieve? How does it help customers? If it doesn’t ultimately benefit customers, why are we doing it? What will it help employees do better? How will they respond to it?”
      Also, ask questions that summarise and ask questions that define topic/workshop outputs and outcomes, for example: ‘Have we achieved our intended objectives? What have we agreed today? What is the scope/solution/requirements/strategy we defined today? What are the next steps required to turn these outputs into outcomes or inputs for the next phase? How should we progress after today?
      Best of luck and get in touch if you need help!

  • Paul Vittles says:

    A large government organisation said at the beginning of a multi-million dollar change project “Everything is going to change”. I asked them what it would look like at the end. They said “We don’t know but everything will be different”. I replied “If you don’t have a clear picture of what it will look like at the end, you’ll probably find that very little is different”.

    • Huw Thomas says:

      Interesting anecdote, thanks Paul! Given change generally invokes fear, saying “EVERYTHING is going to change” is about the scariest thing a leader can say to their people. It’s also hard to build buy-in if you can’t share any details. Instead of fuelling fear, leaders should help their people overcome fear by creating CERTAINTY. Just as a good facilitator links the details of a workshop to the broader strategy and project process (as per the above blog), leaders must be able to articulate an inspiring vision as well as a believable (even if challenging) pathway to achieving it. Framing such messages in a way the people see how they fit in and benefit, also generates engagement and strategic commitment.

      • Paul Vittles says:

        Agreed Huw. The evidence suggests that most things change very slowly and a few things change quickly or are forced to change. However, I hear leaders every day saying “We live in a world of constant change” and rarely if ever hear them saying “Most things don’t change and won’t change so don’t worry but we really want to change this one thing”. It’s worked well for me over the years – more leaders should try it!

        • Huw Thomas says:

          I really like that Paul. Reassurance of what won’t change definitely brings certainty and engagement. Similarly I feel the word ‘transformation’ is incredibly overused. It implies an overnight, radical change, which is not possible (or even desirable) for large organisations. I’ve even heard a strategy of “our 5-year transformation” – it’s an oxymoron! More like incremental improvement over time. Why overstate it?
          Please get in touch if you’d like to chat further Paul. cheers, huw@blueseed.test 0414186165