Sketch your happy workplace
A forward-looking twist on agile retrospectives
Try this futurespective in which individuals on your team sketch themselves happiest at work. By imagining the future, teams implicitly create a response from current pains, unmet desires, and explicitly shows the future matters. Sketching also brings a relaxing and expressive activity for teams that usually talk, listen, or write during meetings.
Choose a clean, quiet, space that has surface areas and comfortable seating. Setup the space by having white papers and black sharpies already on the tables. Try to remove any other supplies, these are distractions. This activity takes 1 hour and works well for for groups of 10–20 people.
- black sharpie markers
- A4 or 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper
- Stopwatch (phone timer will work)
For this activity specifically, it’s especially critical that you the facilitator creates a calm and quiet mood with your body language, tone of voice, and choice of words. I recommend speaking slower than usual to create a sense of space for ideas and thought.
Today we’re doing a futurespective, this means we’ll be thinking about the future of the team and you in it. We’re going to do a sketching activity where you get to think about your happiest self at work. By the end you’ll have a better idea of what you and the other people on this team need to enjoy their work.
We’ll use the first half to sketch and the second half to share with the group about what you drew. I’ll be looking for common themes that translate into insights for you to consider while collaborating, for discussions in your one-on-ones, and as a way to collectively understand what matters to this group.
Why sketching? Sketching activates visual, kinesthetic, auditory, and linguistic skills. Since we’re activating multiple parts of your mind, you’ll have different outputs than from a writing on sticky notes or having a conversation. This is not an art competition, so whatever and however you draw your ideas works.
This point can help disarm people who are attached to the typical retro formats or are nervous about doing a drawing activity.
Next ask people to hold up their sharpie marker, then their sheet of paper. This helps you make sure everyone has the right supplies and signals to the group it’s almost drawing time!
I’m going to set a timer for 10 minutes. Use this time to draw your happiest self at work. Think about questions like:
Where are you? Who are you with? What’s on your desk? Do you have a desk What do you hear? What do you see around you? What are you thinking about? What are you working on?
Set the timer for 10 minutes and turn on some soft relaxing music. Decide in advance what you want to play. I put on this nice set by my friend Dan. https://soundcloud.com/djdansherman/hinterland-03
Give a time update when two minutes remain and ask people to put their pens down when time is up.
Reflection (1 min)
It’s important for us to collectively understand what matters to each other. Each person will have 60 second to talk about their sketch. Take a minute right now to jot down what you want to share with the group.
This helps people reflect on what they just produced, and get the sense for 1 minute feels like.
Sharing (20 min)
Great. Now you’re going to tell the group about what you drew. We’ll start with [pick a person or get a volunteer] and go clockwise. I’ll set an alarm for 60 seconds, when the alarm goes off, the next person should start talking.
Set your iphone timer for 60 seconds. Every time someone starts talking reset it back to zero. I haven’t found anyone to go above time yet. If possible, type notes on your phone of the nouns, verbs, and keywords mentioned by the team members. Later you can drop them into a word cloud generator to share major insights with the team.
Wrapup (2 min)
Thanks for participating. You did a great job and now we all have an idea of what would help each other be happier, especially on items that are actionable like [more sunshine and plants in the office]. Take your sketch home or to your desk and use it as inspiration to improve your days and work experiences. It’s a lot easier to get what you want when you know what you desire.
Write a 2–3 sentence email with the team with the major insights from your wordcloud. This is another way to quantitatively visualize what matters to your team right now. You can print it out and post it up for a few weeks shared space as a reminder of what matters to the collective.
Good luck and happy sketching!