Good Questions: Workshops

A mini-series by Katie Stotter, Strategy Lead

Asking good questions, often, can help you find value, keep things moving, gain alignment, and so much more. Good questions create clarity, challenge assumptions, and allow teams to test the boundaries of a piece of work. In this short series, we share our experience of how to ask the right questions and give you the confidence to be curious and provocative to get results.

How do we make them work?

Workshops and collaborative sessions have become a standard part of modern working life, and they’re certainly a big part of ours at &us. But a poorly planned workshop can be costly for so many reasons, not least if you don’t get to the outputs that you actually need. It’s even costlier when you consider the cost of hours spent per person in the session. 

We’re not going to give you a set of workshop activities to do here (each project will have different needs) or tell you how to run an actual session, but we will give you five questions to think about as you’re planning the activities.

Question 1: Why are we doing this? 

Much like those memes that mention meetings that could’ve been emails, make sure you know why what you’re doing is best done through a workshop. If you can’t answer that question you probably shouldn’t be doing a workshop. Don’t have a meeting for a meeting’s sake. 

Question 2: What do we want to get from this? 

You should always have an endpoint in sight. What are you hoping to get from the workshop? What will the work feed into? What will you do with the information afterwards? Make sure you communicate this early and consistently to attendees.

Question 3: How do we know when we’ve done enough?

For each activity that you put into the agenda think about how you will know when you’ve reached an acceptable point to stop. You don’t want it to drag out overly long, or feel too rushed by the time you have, but you do need to think about how long it will take to do those activities and how long it will take to get enough useful information or output.

Question 4: What kind of test, activity or tool is appropriate to get this done? 

As you’re thinking about what you want to get from the workshop, consider the kind of activity that will get you the best answers in the best possible way. Remember to include a range of activities (individual rapid-fire ideas, group discussions, break out groups etc) to get the best out of different participants.  

Question 5: What kind of answers are acceptable? 

Frame each activity in a way that will help participants get to the kinds of answers or outputs you need. Make sure you’ve understood beforehand what kinds of answers are acceptable to you as the project owner, and to the business so that you can steer the conversations in the right way in the room. This is especially important when you are generating ideas or creating change. Consider facts like cost, time, feasibility, alignment to strategic objectives etc. 

We hope these tips will help you in your planning, and guide you to more useful workshops and if you find these tips helpful.

If you’d like some help to get started, get in touch with us.