Building on my last post about Domain Storytelling this time I will dive a bit deeper in the technique from the perspective of a facilitator.
After facilitating a few of the Domain Storytelling workshops it was becoming obvious that when complex business rules were being presented the single facilitator was becoming a bottleneck. The near-simultaneous task of trying to visualize a Domain Story, learning the domain language and at the same time keeping track of all the essential comments from other participants about the story, was challenging. Facilitation was perceived as a a very intense exercise and in Domain Storytelling the book there are several suggestions that help you address the very same issue. My small piece of advice, in case you need to facilitate a workshop on your own, is to have a rather strict schedule with regular breaks after each hour at maximum.
In one of a workshops I was assisted by a colleague of mine, who was quick to observe that the most valuable discussions would actually occur during the moments that were the most intense for the facilitator. Thus we started looking for methods to extract the value from these types of conversations by trying to engage the participants on another level.
Our first modification was having a backstage-facilitator documenting the Domain Stories using the modeling web-tool , while the whiteboard-facilitator ran the show in a usual manner. This provided different perspectives on the discussion with the domain experts, along with an advantage of having several artifacts available on different formats when going through the workshop in aftermath.
In future workshops, we can imagine adapting the format by inviting the most engaged participants to actually contribute on the whiteboard. Assumption is that the technique is simple enough for everybody to grasp it in a short period of time.
In the most recent workshop we attempted another approach by starting with Impact Mapping-inspired session, trying to steer the discussion towards goals, impacts and needs as a groundwork for writing Domain Stories. This sets the stage on what the group is trying to achieve by commencing a workshop with a nice big-picture view. Having the session timed-boxed to an hour seemed enough for our purpose. We did start writing the first Domain Story immediately after that session but as an option you could try to sketch out Use Case Diagrams as shown on the Domain Storytelling website for softer transition to Domain Stories.
This indicated that, in order for workshop to be successful, the facilitators need to have flexible methods at their disposal, not just choosing one technique over the other, but being able to smoothly combine the techniques during the same workshop.
I will conclude the post with two suggestions on how Domain Storytelling could be combined with patterns from other techniques.
Inspired by Event Storming, when the discussion gets heated and the facilitator struggles to keep up, consider adding Hot-Spots post-it notes on the whiteboard or ask participants or the team to add the notes. Scribbling something on a lilac or red post-it note can serve as a reminder of a valuable discussion that can be re-visited as a separate Domain Story. Presumably the most engaged or chaotic discussions are the ones which bring the most value to the table. Even if it is difficult for visualized stories to keep up with the discussion it is important to capture something that can be revisited later on in a greater detail. Adding textual annotation to the actors and work objects are part of the mechanics of Domain Storytelling, and that should work fine in most cases. However in a more chaotic workshop environment consider using post-it notes as suggested above.
Game Storming suggests combining divergent and convergent methods. In particular, first divide the participants into groups (divergent) and then present the outcome of group discussions to everybody (convergent). This is based on the premise that smaller groups are more effective and engage the participants more strongly. Each group could still use Domain Storytelling while it could be beneficial to have a dedicated facilitator for each group. The workshop could be summarized by running Lean Coffee format based on the insights in Domain Stories, e.g. use textual annotations or hot-spot notation to choose the topics for the Lean Coffee session. This will allow more free, yet time-boxed, discussions with the focus on the selected topics. As the Lean Coffee is proposed run at the end of the workshop, consider naming it Lean Chocolate as a kind of dessert after a main course!
Ideas presented in this post were developed in a close collaboration with my esteemed colleague Thomas Strandenæs during joint facilitation effort on several occasions.