Share novel ideas and creative solutions with ‘Shift & Share’ and ‘Caravan’

Liberating Structures are facilitation techniques that allow you to unleash and involve everyone in a group — from extroverted to introverted and from leaders to followers. In this series of posts, we show how Liberating Structures can be used with Scrum. If you’d like to experience Liberating Structures first-hand, make sure to join our Immersion Workshop in Amsterdam (December 10 & 11) or one of the other ones taking place in Europe in December. This post was written by Johannes Schartau.

Shift & Share is a Liberating Structure that helps spread novelty across groups and functions. Innovators showcase their ideas or products and gather meaningful feedback in short cycles. In one hour or less it’s possible to include everyone in a large group and make every voice heard in a structured, constructive way.

Caravan is an exciting twist on Shift & Share that blends it with the Liberating Structure Wise Crowds. It’s especially useful for gaining clarity on a challenge or — maybe most important for Scrum Teams — to receive useful feedback on new features and product increments during multi-team Sprint Reviews.

In this post we’ll share examples of how we’ve applied this structure within our Scrum training and coaching engagements.

Uses in Scrum

We have used Shift & Share and Caravan for a number of applications in (and outside) Scrum:

  • For Scrum teams to showcase their product increments during multi-team Sprint Reviews;
  • For Scrum teams to gather meaningful feedback from stakeholders, customers or other developers;
  • As a way to share the results and get input on planned actions after an Open Space;
  • For members of smaller initiatives within a company to share progress and ask for help as part of a larger ongoing Agile transition;

Steps

  1. Explain that small groups will be moving from station to station for a presentation and feedback round. If it wasn’t done in advance, identify the 3 to 7 presenters for the innovation stations. In a Scrum environment, this can be representatives from the Scrum teams. Form the same number of small groups as there are stations.
  2. Each group goes to a different station, where presenters conduct their sessions.
  3. Participants ask questions or provide feedback.
  4. Small groups move to the next station.
  5. Repeat until groups have visited all stations.

Caravan is a twist on this structure that mashes Shift & Share with Wise Crowds. The focus is more on the group members interacting with the presenter’s challenge or product instead of consuming content. The presenters describe their challenge (or showcase their product) very briefly, answer clarifying questions and then turn their backs to the group members, who subsequently give advice and discuss the challenge behind the presenter’s back.

This works especially well in a Scrum environment with close contact to customers and stakeholders. The Scrum team members describe the challenge they set out to solve by developing software and then let the participants try it out for themselves without interfering. Can they actually reach the intended result without further explanation? What do they think of the process? What else were they hoping for? What other ideas come to mind? Groups usually forget that someone is listening after a while and the feedback becomes honest and meaningful. This feedback then informs further product development, backlog refinement, Sprint Planning etc.

A story from the trenches

The German IT-Consultancy firm Holisticon lives by the principles they use with their clients. As such they decided to put three of their Liberating Structures products to the test: the German website, the Liberating Structures app and the Liberating Structures design cards. Holisticon used the Liberating Structures user group in Hamburg for feedback.

After a short pitch from the three product developers for the respective product and splitting the crowd into three groups (Liberating Structures beginners, intermediates and pros) they used What I Need From You to identify what each of the groups expected from the products, what needs they would like to see satisfied.

Using Caravan, the groups were free to explore whether the products actually provided any kind of value and addressed their needs. The product developers had two minutes to showcase the features of the product, one minute to answer clarifying questions and then turned their backs for five minute consulting sessions.

The resulting feedback was incredible. Group members started playing with the products without the developers being able to guide or interfere. Consensus formed quickly within groups about confusing or unnecessary features. Essential information that hadn’t even been specifically asked for came to light (for example how much group members would pay for the design cards).

In a final Fishbowl the developers came together to compare what they had learned and to look for overarching patterns. Strategies to quickly explain Liberating Structures to novices across mediums were discovered and action steps devised.

Combinations

  • Use Shift & Share to present and work on the results of Open Space sessions;
  • Follow up with Improv Prototyping to generate new variations of the content that was presented;
  • Let the presenters or a subset of group members share their insights in a UX Fishbowl;
  • Help the presenters and their peers make sense of what happened using What, So What, Now What?

Tips

  • Play with the timing but keep it as tight as possible;
  • A test run for the presenters is often a good idea as they most likely won’t be used to such a strict time limit and the inability to influence the discussion (when using Caravan);
  • Be very clear about the direction the groups should be moving in to shift from station to station in order to avoid confusion (we like clockwise);

Closing

We’re always happy to hear your experiences or suggestions.

If you’d like to know more about Liberating Structures or experience a large number of them first-hand, make sure to join our Immersion Workshop in Amsterdam (December 10 & 11) or one of the others taking place in Europe in that month.