Remote Decision Jam — make quick decisions with your team, from anywhere

Andrej Berlin
Feb 22, 2019 · 6 min read

My ex-colleague Jonathan Courtney wrote an article about how to run a highly productive exercise for solving creative problems in a team while avoiding tedious discussions. I highly recommend reading it and trying it in your next meeting. Here is how you can achieve the same and even more while not being on the same location.

Teams have a very special dynamic when they work together and you are not always lucky enough to have the perfect, most synergetic team, that needs 30 minutes and it the problem is solved. This happens sometimes, but is almost left to chance if you build a team by selecting people individually. The discussions take longer, moderating them becomes increasingly difficult with more socially incompatible people, but the tasks are still the same, you need to

  • Track a teams progress and prioritize tasks
  • Find the biggest challenge, generate potential solutions and find the best to get started with
  • Come up with creative ideas for an existing problem as fast as possible and distribute tasks

As mentioned above, you can use the LDJ exercise to replace all unstructured discussion with a clear process in-person but let’s look at how to solve it remotely, when you don’t even need to know the people you are working with. So let’s get started.

What you’ll need

Since this exercise will be run remotely, you only need to have a computer with a webcam and a microphone. This set-up is pretty important, as you want to use every possible communication channel to interact with the team.

You will also obviously need a team with a facilitator. The facilitator should be the person, who knows how this exercise works and guide everyone through it. If Mural/RealtimeBoard as well as this type of exercise are not familiar to everyone, you need someone who the team can rely on.

Set up the workspaces

You can use whichever online-tool your company uses. I’m not going to put out recommendations, but the ones I use are RealtimeBoard and Mural, which has a lot of presets. If your company blocks external apps, use Google Drawings or Google Sheets.

Pretty much all you need for each participant. Just copy paste them across the screen and replace “Workspace” with their names

Prepare individual workspaces for everyone, they should contain:

  • Long, rectangular post-its
  • Two different colors of square post-its
  • Colored circles / sticky dots
    (don’t need that in Mural, they have a voting system)
  • A timer to make sure people don’t think for too long

I also prepare the entire workspace with the steps below so you have clear spaces where people move their post-its to.

Write and prioritize problems

Step 1: Write down all problems in private (7 minutes)

Get the team to write down everything on their mind. Each problem goes on one single post-it. If you are working on a specific project, ask them to write down everything annoying or uncomfortable about that specific project. All blockers or challenges. Remember that everything stays anonymous, so make sure that people are honest. The process of writing things down will force people to solidify their thoughts and make them succinct and understandable for everyone else.

Also ensure that people write as many individual post-its as possible. It’s not important to get the best or most important problem, but a large amount to choose from.

After 7 minutes have passed, make sure everyone stops writing regardless of how much they collected. Be strict with the time and don’t make exceptions, time pressure slightly stresses people and doesn’t give them a chance to overthink. You will also make sure to finish in time.

Step 2: Read out the problems (2 minutes each)

One by one, let everyone move their post-it’s to the designated area and read them out. Don’t allow any discussion around the content of the problems, only make sure that everyone has understood every single problem. In the end you should have a good overview of all relevant problems.

Step 3: Vote on whatever everyone thinks is important to solve (6 minutes, 3 dots each)

Tell everyone to use three dots to vote on a problem they feel would be beneficial to solve. Participants can vote on their own post-its or place both dots on one.

By limiting the votes to 3 you are going to eliminate everything that’s not important enough to work on and you will quickly see large clusters.

Just imagine there’s text on them

Step 4: Arrange and Prioritize (30 seconds)

Take the upvoted post-it’s and arrange them in a hierarchy-tree. The ones with the most dots to the top, the ones with the least at the bottom. This will give you a clear overview of what needs to be worked on first.

Step 5: Rewrite top voted problems into to “How Might We” format

So far, the exercise was a way to warm up the team and they were able to express their problems anonymously and honestly. Now we will use exactly the same problem-solving loop to interpret these problems as solvable challenges. P&G are famous for using the “How Might We” technique in order to aid creativity when coming up with solutions.

For first, take only the one top voted problem and simply reframe it into a challenge starting with the words “How might we…”. The soft “might” allows everyone to see the questions with more curiosity and less pressure to solve. (In case there is more than one with the most votes, just pick the left one)

Generate solutions and prioritize

Step 6: Produce solutions in private (5 minutes)

You guessed it, we’re starting over again! This time let the team write as many solutions to the selected HMW challenge as possible. Again, make sure it doesn’t take more than 5 minutes.

Step 7: Move them to a shared space and vote (7 minutes, 3 dots each)

Again, everyone can vote as many times on a post-its as they like and also vote for their own.

Step 8: Prioritize Solutions (30 seconds)

If you are the moderator, you can speed up the process by doing it yourself quickly.

Step 9: Decide on the easiest task with the highest payoff (10 minutes)

Now that you have some good solutions and they have been prioritized, comes another exciting part, the Effort/Impact matrix. It gives you a visual idea on which solutions have the highest impact in implementation with the least amount of effort. Looks something like this:

If you have too many solutions, dismiss the ones with only one vote. We usually don’t even use those.

Step 10: Turn solutions into actionable steps

You can see there is a green square in the top left corner of the above matrix. Pick one of those, based on all of the steps before, this is the one everyone will agree on, simply because it makes sense to get done quickly. This will be the common goal. Write three steps, starting with the easiest, which will help you achieve that goal.

And you’re done! Ask someone to raise their hand and delegate that task to them. Here’s a link to a template I made in Mural.

As always, have fun and be safe and if you want, follow me here or on Instagram: @kischiman

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