An alternate technique used for process discovery is the workshop. Workshops can accelerate the decision process and drive consensus among the process participants. With this technique, the process participants and stakeholders are gathered for short periods of discovery. Workshops provide the obvious advantage of the team’s decision-making and agreement, and also foster other advantages that may be less obvious:

  • Workshops are a team building exercise. Bringing the stakeholders and process participants together provides a team perspective and focuses on success for the project.
  • Workshops can expose that some stakeholders have been left out of the discovery process. Many interviews may have to be pieced together before realizing that full representation has not been accounted for.
  • Workshops can be powerful brainstorming and problem-solving exercises – the experience of defining and discussing processes naturally leads to issue identification and suggestions for improvement.
  • Workshops can expose very different views on what is occurring, existing problems, and how the problems should be addressed. Clearly, these issues may be ‘hot-button’ and political in nature.
  • Workshops are a powerful tool for elicitation of process information and requirements but pose some unique challenges.

The consultant running the workshop must be a strong facilitator to ensure workshop productivity and the potential for unwieldy sessions. The consultant must also be sensitive to any cultural, personal, or political agendas within the company or group in focus. The consultant must also ensure that attendees are aware of the overall project and are prepared to make useful contributions. Responsibilities of the consultant acting as facilitator include:

  • Distributing relevant awareness documents in advance of the session.
  • Establishing a professional environment for dialog and exchange.
  • Ensuring logistics and facilities to support the team and meeting objectives.
  • Establishing and communicating the goals and objectives.
  • Keeping the agenda on track and ensuring the session schedule is followed.
  • Establishing and enforcing rules.
  • Facilitating the agreement and decision process.
  • Ensuring participation and handling unproductive behavior.
  • Managing conflict over unresolved issues by recording and building a plan for resolution after the workshop.

The prospect of bringing together a large group of people may expedite understanding and decision-making, but also has the potential for conflict. In fact, the Global Services design team establishing the requirements for a process consulting methodology (in a workshop setting, no less!) were divided in their opinion of the effectiveness of workshops. One well-established example of a workshop used widely in Japan is the Obeya method. Obeya (which translates roughly to “big room”) implements a workshop setting for enhanced project management, problem-solving, and process analysis. Obeya is recognized as an important tool for lean product development, enhancing the decision and communication process. The Obeya concept or strategy has been widely adopted in Japan due to its success at Toyota and is one of the approaches used by the PTC Global Services team on the Toyota account. A key concept and advantage of Obeya is the inclusion of stakeholders whose opinion and participation may otherwise be limited or held back. The suggested techniques for executing a workshop include some principles from Obeya.

  • Use large, different colored sticky paper to list process actors, activities, issues, decisions, etc.
  • Use a large wall to assemble the process information on sticky paper and lay out the process. This allows flexibility to change activity sequence and add or remove activities (and other information) easily.
  • Encourage interaction of participants at the wall. Stimulate exchanges by moving participants out of their seats to discuss process sequence and review the developing description.
  • Transcribe the process description to electronic format and plot on to “big paper” and post in the meeting room. The “big paper” becomes the focal point for communication and understanding of the process.
  • Employ the use of a digital camera to capture process information and team participation.

The pictures of the process information may serve as a temporary record of what is to be electronically transcribed. Pictures of the participants serve a unique purpose of demonstrating team building and problem-solving. These pictures should be displayed in the room and included in presentations describing the capture, analysis, or design process.