Make space for Innovation with TRIZ

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.

It’s all too easy to use continuous improvement as an excuse to keep adding new things to do. Like those Sprint Retrospectives that always result in ‘one more thing’ to add to the task list, one more check to the Definition of Done or one more workshop to an already overcrowded agenda. Often, more can be gained by stopping unproductive activities and behaviors. The Liberating Structure ‘TRIZ’ turns this upside-down by inviting the creative destruction of activities that limit innovation and productivity. It does so in a cathartic way that is fun, engages and involves everyone and is bound to create some laughs along the way.

TRIZ invites creative destruction of activities that limit innovation and productivity.

Uses in Scrum

We’ve used ‘TRIZ’ in Scrum for the following purposes:

  • TRIZ makes for a wonderful format for Sprint Retrospectives in Scrum;
  • Use TRIZ at the start of a Scrum implementation to identify behaviors and activities that limit effectiveness, and help the group finds ways to stop them. For the first round, ask “What should we do to completely fail our implementation of Scrum”;
  • Use TRIZ with a focus on delivering a “Done”-increment. For the first round, ask “What can we do to deliver the most un-done Increment imaginable?”;

Steps

  1. Organize into groups of 4 to 8 people;
  2. Introduce TRIZ and briefly explain that the structure has 3 rounds of 10 minutes each. Don’t give away what happens after the first round, as this will limit creativity;
  3. Together, identify one unwanted result. If there is not an obvious one yet, brainstorm one with the groups;
  4. Give the group 10 minutes to use 1–2–4-ALL to make a list of all it can do to make sure that it achieves the most unwanted result possible. Invite teams to be creative while making sure to keep it realistic;
  5. Give the group 10 minutes to use 1–2–4-ALL to make a second list of the activities that the team is already doing that resemble or are closely related to items on the first list. Invite groups to be brutally honest by asking: “If you’re brutally honest, which activities from the first list do you recognize in how we already work?”;
  6. Give the group 10 minutes to use 1–2–4-ALL to make a third list of all the activities or behaviors from the second list that the group wants to stop. Identify the first steps to help stop these activities. Help teams to avoid the temptation to add new things to start doing — focus on what can be stopped, and how.

Combinations

Liberating Structures can be easily strung to create programs for entire workshops or training. The options are endless:

Tips

  • Invite participants to have fun, go a bit over the top and have a laugh while they’re doing it. This helps create a safe environment where people feel comfortable being honest;
  • Don’t spoil the twist in TRIZ between the first and second rounds. Doing so will limit creativity and the brutal honesty that makes TRIZ work, as people will already start reflecting on their current situation during the first round;
  • Use post-its to make the results from the various rounds transparent (see pictures). Instead of rewriting the post-its for every column, ask teams to move activities from the first to the second list, and to the third list when they want to stop them;
  • Look for patterns with the group in the activities they identify for the first and second rounds;
  • We prefer to create three columns upfront (on a whiteboard or three flips) and uncover the columns throughout the rounds. This keeps a bit of mystery to the structure;

Closing

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