The patient is lying. It’s one of the most recurring sentences in the Dr House TV serie. Isn’t it a common thing in everyone’s life? Everybody lies. The reasons? Maybe people don’t know the truth, or they think they know it and they might want to hide the fact they don’t actually know it. What happens when all these lies start messing up with your workplace’s life? With your job? The results won’t be good. At all. Knowledge, in the broad meaning of “knowing stuff and knowing what’s going on”, is the foundation of any company processes and decisions.
If a choice is made based on poor previous information and knowledge, it will most certainly be the wrong choice.
But thankfully, there’s a lot of ways and tools to fill these gaps, and most of the times the reason for these gaps is: lack of communication. Throughout the years, having seen this process happening a million times in the most varied companies all over the world, Alberto Brandolini @ziobrando , Avanscoperta Founder and Trainer, and international speaker and trainer (Skills Matter, GOTO, DDD Europe, to name but few), gave birth to a technique called EventStorming. (The book on EventStorming is currently being finalised, and you can find it here).
The goal of EventStorming is not easy: define visual solution to complex problem using post-its.
It’s quite funny that one of the ways to help Digital Transformation being implemented has to be based on good old post-its and a wall to stick them on. But it does work, and the recipe is very simple: take a mixed and heterogeneous team of people who know a process, ask them to draw the flow “as they know it” using post-its and placing them on an 18-metre wall. Shake it a bit, kick off a conversation, and wait for the real process to emerge on the wall.
Why did I say “real”? Because we tend to assume we know the truth or we’re afraid to look stupid if we ask for more information.
When these elements emerge during a constructive exchange of ideas, the effect is double: on one hand, the process and the flow will be drawn “as is”, showing points of strength and weakness at the same time, with the help and participation of the whole group. On the other hand, knowledge will be shared so those who didn’t know something before the session started will know it when the session finishes.
In business processes, the truth is almost always shared, and meetings are the best time to bring it out. The problem is to make it emerge in the correct way.
Here the facilitator, who is not part of the team drawing the process/flow, gets trained during the EventStorming session itself. He didn’t know the process before entering the room and he tries to deduct/extract it from the post-its, even making nasty/naive questions at times, with the only goal to enable and encourage the conversation among the participants to the session.
The facilitator also needs to mediate and help solving issues as they come along but, most importantly, he needs to bring the conversation back to its focus: what is the main flow/process of the session about?
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to a meeting where, at one given point, the whole conversation starts focusing on a part of the process which involves only 10% of the stakeholders.
We often spend hours and days in endless meetings trying to find all the solutions to all the problems of the company, without having a clear preliminary understanding of the main process. By the main process here we broadly mean “when everything goes on smoothly and we’re making money”.
But then you only need one red post-it on a very specific spot, and the flow takes another direction, it takes a detour: that’s the sign of an issue that will need to be dealt with, sooner or later. In such a case, the facilitator has to take note of that one thing marked by the red post-it and make sure it gets discussed later on. The focus needs to be kept on the main use case, and the facilitator’s task is exactly to keep the group focused.
Another important task of the facilitator is to keep track of the conversation as it happens, removing, adding or moving post-its when needed. Many things will be said and changed during an EventStorming session, so it’s important to keep track of those changes.
The process, now detailed in dozens of post-its, can be visualised and approved by the group, and it becomes the “talking document, visible by all participants”. It can be a starting point for a discussion, for a follow-up, to find where an improvement in the flow is needed.
In quality of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitator, I was very surprised to discover that some concepts of EventStorming were drawn by Seymour Papert’s Constructionism. This theory says that learning is more effective if the learner is somehow involved in the production of tangible things and, by using post-its, all participants to an EventStorming session take an active part in the construction of the flow analysed by using something tangible that we also use in our everyday lives.
It’s been also a surprise to find out that with EventStorming we are able to use spatial and visual memory in order to build mental maps and therefore make meetings more productive and engaging. If on average the active people in a meeting are never over 50% of the participants, by using this technique you’re considerably increasing this percentage. Each individual is encouraged to share his opinion, to take part in the conversation, to stick that very post-it on that very place, whether it’s before or after the post-it of others.
EventStorming is also able to overcome one of the biggest limitations on nowadays meetings: the absence of a tangible and real output. How many times have you carefully read some minutes or recap emails after a meeting was over? How many pictures of boards and flipcharts have you taken, without ever analysing them again, or translating them into a chart or a graph?
After a LEGO workshop, you surely have a physical output, but for economical and logistical reasons (LEGO have a cost, and the space to store them has a cost too) this output won’t be easily visible, or at least not on the long term.
Whereas with EventStorming, it’s more likely you’ll have some wall space where you can put up the paper roll used during the session. Moreover, this actually becomes an opportunity for anyone passing by (imagine you put this up in an open space scenario) to get some knowledge on the flow/process analysed, or even adding more post-its and therefore taking part in the construction of the knowledge itself or improving “the Big Picture”.
Imagine having a coffee with colleagues and stare at the wall… this too can then become an opportunity to do some brainstorming: studies have shown the best ideas come up when you’re not actually looking for inspiration.
A one-day workshop involving 15 people, or a 2-hour meeting, becomes a plenary for the whole company for the duration of a month, with no additional costs, and with a huge opportunity to share the knowledge acquired.
And so this article ends… MacGyver always had his Swiss pocket knife with him, and this helped him fix anything. It’d be great to have such a tool, but it’s an utopian wish. Alberto Brandolini, though, introduced me to a tool which is highly disruptive in a lot of business scenarios. If you think about it… there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for all problems in real life. Companies are different from each other, and the same goes for meetings and people, but a tool like EventStorming is way more immediate and useful than others. Being easily replicable, visually effective and understandable at all levels of a company, it couldn’t be any other way.
This method excites me for how it represents the flows schematically and this is precisely one of the main tasks I perform in my company and by the clients I work for. I have already used it for internal company projects, and after overcoming the first doubts, my colleagues were impressed by its simplicity and for the clarity of the output. Certainly the excessive use of post-it is a shock for my inner boyscout, but the end often justifies the means and, for now, it is certainly worth it.
The go-to entry point for all the things EventStorming (including the next dates for the EventStorming Master Class taught by Alberto Brandolini himself): https://www.eventstorming.com/
This article is inspire by the italian version