Making your engagement efforts scalable

Making your engagement efforts scalable

Creating an engaging and interactive ‘workshop-in-a-box’ communications approach

An observation in Monster Towers at the moment, is how many times per week Danielle writes the following phrases in project scope documents – ‘we will develop a compelling corporate narrative’ and ‘we will design and create a visually engaging and content rich workshop in a box’

We shared with you previously, here, some steps and ideas around the first so now we will explore the second.

Why workshop-in-a-box?

The need to connect and engage people face to face is still strong. Even in a digital world there is still a desire for live interaction, as an opportunity to discuss as a group and to build relationships.

But with tighter budgets and globally dispersed employees, conducting centrally held face to face sessions is not always possible. A viable alternative is needed – combining the power of face to face interaction with the consistency and impact of centrally run events.

A workshop-in-a-box is this alternative.

What is a workshop-in-a-box?

It really is what it says on the box. A pack containing everything needed to run an engaging, interactive workshop. This usually includes:

  • A visual focus point 

Normally an illustrated version of the vision or strategy or a different visual representation of a new process or way of working. Whatever it is, this central visual provides a comprehensive focus point for the discussion. The more engaging, visually compelling and interesting it is, the more likely it is that people will spend time exploring and discussing the key messages.

  • Facilitator guide

This helps anyone facilitating the session to do so in an engaging and consistent way. Containing information not only on the subject matter but also tips on how to set up the room, how to ask open questions and what to do with the outputs. This helps to drive both consistency in messaging but also provides support to people who might be nervous or inexperienced in hosting such discussions.

  • Output templates

Most workshops lead to the development of outputs, be they commitments, action plans or ideas. By providing templates, the messages are more likely to be captured consistently. The added advantage is that these can be transformed into a permanent visual output which can be used on an ongoing basis to remind people of the part they played in the discussion.

  • Question cards

These help the facilitator drive interesting and engaging conversations.

  • Exercise instructions and materials

By designing activities or exercises for people to carry out during the session this will encourage interaction and increase understanding. The pack can contain everything you need to set up and deliver these activities including instructions and any materials.

  • Memory stick loaded with an Introduction video or animation

A good way to ensure that each workshop starts with the same context. Again, the more interesting and engaging this is, the more likely it will capture people’s attention from the start.

Does this approach work?

We are huge fans of big, impactful events in order to bring people together, forge strong relationships and encourage cross functional working but recognise this isn’t always possible. A workshop in a box approach is a very strong substitute. This is what previous workshop in a box attendees said about events they attended.

93% agree it was a good use of time
89% said “the conversation brought to life our objectives and helped me understand them”
92% said “I was encouraged to express my views during the conversation
95% of Managers said the pack has been an effective tool for communicating our Customer Delivery objectives to my team

Why are visuals so important?

Simply put, engaging visuals make content much more interesting. They allow people to discuss, debate and ask questions so much more than a set of PowerPoint slides. An engaging visual helps to physically draw people together, as quite often this is a large printed sheet that allows attendees to gather around and really collaborate. It can also be used following the workshop as a proof point of the involvement of many.

What topics could use this approach?

It could be used for the roll out of a future vision, the cascade of strategic plans and even training material related to technical technology changes. In order to make it a cost-effective solution however, work out how many people need to be communicated to, as the more people that can be involved, the more the cost per person reduces. This usually means communicating strategic or critical messages, collaborative visioning sessions and involving people in new ways of working. Now you could carry out a DIY version for minimum cost as long as it still remains engaging. Just providing a box of printed PowerPoint slides and instructions to read is not going to help your messages land!

So while nobody wants to be put in a box, a workshop in a box doesn’t mind at all. And Danielle won’t mind writing out her favourite sentence all over again!

Got a complex topic you want employees to engage with?

Our visual and creative design team can help you make an impactful, interactive and business relevant workshop. 



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Do we know where we are going?! Bringing your organisations’ vision to life

Do we know where we are going?! Bringing your organisations’ vision to life

The importance of bringing Organisational Vision or Strategy to life, and our top tips.

Everyone wants to know where they are going and how they are going to get there, unless of course you are one of those carefree travellers who puts a pin in a map at random and leaves the house with nothing but a backpack, a passport, a change of pants and a toothbrush… wow, that was a great conference…no, but seriously, we are talking about Organisational Vision and Strategy.

No, no, please don’t hit delete, we know it may sound a little corporate and dare we say uninteresting but isn’t that just exactly why we need to bring it to life in a more interesting way?

In our experience, the clearer an organisations’ plan is to see, understand and communicate, the easier it is for everyone to get behind it and the more likely you are to actually stand a chance of getting there.

If your people believe in what you are all doing and where you are all going, they are more likely to stick around and give their best in order to help achieve it. And that feels good for everyone!
Even better, if you can involve people, and truly understand the business challenges faced at all levels, then tangible, actionable, creative solutions can be developed.

This level of involvement gives individuals the chance to have their say and feel they are contributing, and are not just another number on a page. It will also ensure that your future vision is relevant and applicable to everyone.
So how on earth do you do this, especially if you have numerous global locations? We have a step by step process that we adopt and here are some top tips from some of our previous experiences…

1. Acknowledge the truth

You can’t make a clear path for where you want to go if you don’t know where you are. Get out into the business – talk to people, spend time doing focus groups, doing interviews etc- the more people and levels you speak to the better. If you can offer anonymity, you are more likely to get a truer picture of what is going on across the business.

We’re happy to talk to anyone, by the way.

2. Create the future

You may already have a stated vision, a mission statement, or a purpose statement. Don’t let it just be words on a page but encourage people to explore how it actually looks and feels.

Involve as many different voices as you can and ask them what they believe the future can be – an Leadership Team vision is not going to be the same for Mel who works in the plant.

3. Replay your findings

If you don’t tell people what you have done with their inputs, they will see this as an exercise and won’t believe you. We always use powerful visuals, videos or animations to replay these findings.

4. Involve everyone in the ‘how ’

This is undoubtedly the trickiest part, the biggest risk of people going off at a tangent or getting bogged down in the data and smaller intricacies of running a business. Or worse, just being generic and not specific enough.

Design events and communications in such a way that involve people, will allow localised teams to build on the existing state, add their relevance to the future vision, keep on track with their discussions, have an interactive experience and generate outcomes of tangible steps and actions that they can implement.

5. Share it!

Creating a rich picture is one way to show the collective vision and strategy. Tell your story to everyone!

Keep communicating and show evidence of things that have already happened as a result of this approach that is making a difference.

6. Don’t let it be a gimmick

Keep it front and centre.

If it is a picture, have it on display in offices. Keep dialogue going in meetings, townhalls etc…you name it.

Hold yourself accountable to it. If needs be, revisit it 6 months down the line for a refresher session; have you done what you said you would do? If not, then look at how can you amend that to ensure you are back on track.

An Example..

If you really want to be clear on where you’re heading and how to get people to all pull in the same direction then, in our experience, nobody has done this better than our friend Ben Hunt-Davies and his concept of Will It Make the Boat Go Faster. The ultimate literal ‘all pulling in the same direction‘ which ended in him and his colleagues achieving their lofty ambition.
Your ambition might not be an Olympic Title but if you and your people are losing direction and feeling overwhelmed then a clear view of where you’re going is going to help.

If you want a step-by-step guide about how to share your organisational strategy or vision, find a copy here 

Need your vision bringing to life?

We are experts in helping organisations to breathe life into their vision, values or strategies. Bringing our creative expertise to make corporate narratives engaging, compelling and memorable. 



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Who has got the ‘D’? Decision-making in complex organisations

Who has got the ‘D’? Decision-making in complex organisations

It may come as no surprise that if you search the term ‘decision-making’ on the internet, it doesn’t throw up just one framework or methodology, but, well … umpteen. In fact, it’s quite a decision to decide which ones to read.

Just searching the term RACI reveals the following deviations and variations. RACI, RASI, RASCI, RACI-VS, RACIQ and our personal favourite (just for the way it sounds), RASCEIO. Isn’t that one of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan?

Now we don’t intend to get involved in the politics of Brexit in this article. After all, we are doing everything we can to retain and build our readership, rather than conspire to drive people away. However, here’s a little help for those closely involved in the decision-making process and for those involved from a distance too; either as bemused observers, interested stakeholders or comedians seeking new material.

Whatever Brexit may represent to you, one thing we can all be sure of is that after a long decision-making process, involving a huge number of people, it did not happen on time.

The deadline has come and gone and we’re no clearer on the next steps. Now that is certainly a familiar story in business and one that affects us all.

So, what can help us to make better decisions, or perhaps more timely ones?

The Cynefin Model

 

In an article for HBR, David J. Snowden and Mary E. Boone suggest that understanding the kind of problem you’re solving is a key starting point. They describe a framework which Snowden and a team at IBM developed, which must be one of the very few to have a Welsh title. Cynefin

Ref: Cynefin model. Dave Snowden (1999) IBM.

It sets problems into what he described as a ‘sense-making’ model rather than categorizing model. So, how might this help us everyday?

What kind of decisions are you trying to make?

 

If you are deciding where to hold your conference or which external speaker to book then this is ‘simple’, according to Cynefin. Weigh up the pros and cons, set a deadline for the decision and once made, go ahead with the arrangements.

If it’s simple, keep it simple. However, if the challenge is to shift behaviours and ways of working and you wish to bring that problem to life through experiential activities, you can’t expect to arrive at a ‘decision’ quickly or simply. This kind of solution takes time, because the problem is ‘complicated’ and requires deeper analysis. Be realistic about how much time it should take and plan accordingly.

According to Cynefin, it also requires experts, so if you’re looking for someone to bring complicated content to life, then remember to get in touch.

Who is making the Decision?

So, we know the context and the kind of decisions that need to be made, but who is going to make them? This can be the most complicated part of the process.

In large organizations, this problem can seem insurmountable, as there is no agreement about which function/region/individual has the authority to make a decision.

On one occasion we had stepped through the whole proposal, pitch and contract process before discovering that the person with the financial authority had never actually been told about the planned conference, at all.

It turned out that everyone was so scared of the individual, they dared not tell him. Thankfully the work went ahead, but that was only because, in the end, WE told him!

Having confidence to make the decision.

Finding out who approves or signs-off is something that can prove very elusive. We’re working with a client who has a useful framework in this regard, crafted specifically to fit their values.

Their company-specific framework focuses on knowing who has the ‘D’ for decision-making and endeavouring to make that transparent to everyone.

It may not be the most senior person, nor even the budget holder. It could be a number of people, such as a project board or steering group, but whoever it is, everyone needs to know. Other people can still be consulted or give advice or be in the information pool and so on, but the certainty is that they are NOT the ‘D’.

Since using this framework, and the nomenclature of the ‘D’, the company concerned has turned the corner in the speed and efficiency of their previously ponderous decision-making process. It’s more than a happy coincidence that they are also growing the company successfully too.

The fear that important business decisions, strategic and financial, will be held up, is slowly dissipating.

Do you need help bringing your decision-making process to life?

We are experts in bringing to life complex concepts and this can include helping people to understand the impact of the existing decision-making culture. 



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Global Leadership Conference; How did it go?!

Global Leadership Conference; How did it go?!

In a previous article all about the preparation process for a global leadership conference, we asked the question, ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ It seemed fitting, to share what actually happened. Plus of course, we share what went so well and why.

Speaker rehearsal

We always try and make sure it happens but for a variety of reasons often leaders are reluctant or unable to do a full rehearsal. Not in this case. Every executive featured in the main sessions, put in quality rehearsal time. Fabulously supported by the technical crew from the event production partners. It was especially valuable because the room layout meant this meeting was conducted with a stage in the middle of the room.

Different and brilliant!

 

Contingency plans

Yes, the unexpected happened. Of course it did. A senior executive was unable to be present for one day and so others stepped in, slides were adjusted, scripts re-written and all of it achieved calmly and in good time.

The key is not focus on why it has gone wrong or worse, who is at fault. The key is to work together to fix whatever it was. An experienced team, as was the case at this event, will have the knowledge as to what can be done in time to fix any issue that comes up and the skills to make that solution happen. 

Keep to Time

The efficient movement of 240 delegates around breakout spaces, lunch, external trips was no picnic, but nothing was dropped and the biggest overrun was 15 mins, which we gradually caught up through the day. Result!

It helps to have someone assigned to oversee timings and even better if this person has the knowledge about the event to decide, in the moment, if a section needs cutting or where time can be made up without damaging the integrity of the whole agenda design. 

 

In the moment.

It was a long week for the global delegates, but they really did stay incredibly engaged throughout. This is down to a combination of factors one of which is the positive culture this organisation has in the first place. It was also down to a very well considered agenda, fiercely protected reflection time and of course – high energy facilitators!   

 

Flex

There were one or two minor tensions in the week about what could be done when and by who, but the pressure to flex to meet the inevitable changing requirements often falls to the venue team. An event can quickly fall apart if they are not willing to help you out when needed. Building good relationships with this team, keeping them informed as things change and be willing to get stuck in when required all creates an atmosphere of collaboration and willingness to help. 

Teamwork

We said last week that provided the team could work well together, you could pretty much solve anything and that proved to be the case. 

The world-class Core Design team from Purple Monster and the client. 

Our very own Robin Fritz and Haley Rushing from The Purpose Institute.

The story

Teamwork really is the story here and it’s worth mentioning why our relationship with this particular client and the two individuals we work most closely with, is so special, we hope from their side as well as ours. 

First, they are willing to place their trust in us, even when we are pushing the creative boundaries. They understand that the hours spent in detailed design, creates a seamless conference with both a logical and emotional flow.

They are willing to engage in difficult conversations to get everyone on board – this in the face of knowing that the financial management as well as the delegate experience will all come down to them. If the conference is a success, they will be thanked for doing their job. If it’s a failure, the buck stops with them. Despite this obvious pressure, we always know we have their full support.

Everyone played their part in full and probably the most obvious expression of this was the creation of the ‘world bazaar’ exhibition. For logistical reasons, there was a very short window of an hour to transform 15 ‘booths’ from shell form, to fully stocked displays from around the globe, each with its own unique story and regional flavour. We would love to be able to share a time-lapse film of the set-up, but nobody had enough time on their hands to be filming.

It was not just the speed with which the whole thing was assembled that stood out, nor was it the fact that simply everybody (and we mean everybody) pitched in. It was more that it was done with such good grace; with fun, collaboration, sharing tools and know-how and mostly, well, sweat really.

There were so many highlights to the conference. Hayley Rushing from The Purpose Institute being one of the many inspirational speakers, although the only external one on this occasion. We’re not at liberty to share what was spoken about, but what we can share is the part we see as mostly our responsibility – the engagement of the audience and the tone and style of the meeting.

The wonderful setting certainly helped; the bold and creative design of the main stage; the informal and fun tone established by the Chair and CEO; the commitment to the theme of music alongside the quality and thoughtful presentation of content – all of these things helped the engagement. We did our bit too and to finish, here’s some feedback we received over the weekend.

You are amazing at what you do, have formed great relationships with the organization and have built amazing trust and comfort so that people can really be themselves. Bravo!

You guys were simply awesome. Both in the weeks and months leading up to the meeting and in the moment. 

CEO, Global FMCG Organisation

Would you like to create an event like this one?



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Preparing for a global conference; What could possibly go wrong?!

Preparing for a global conference; What could possibly go wrong?!

After months of design, preparation and planning a large scale, global leadership conference…What could possibly go wrong?! 

 

The simple answer and the one that no one really wants to hear is quite a lot! So, we figured as we head into our big event, the least we could do, to provide reassurance, not just to our clients, but to anyone else embarking on such an endeavour, is to create a small check-list of the watch outs.

Speaker rehearsal.

Senior executives have done this kind of thing many times before and as a result, are tempted to look at the slides and then leave the rest to chance. Strongly advise them not to. It is always worth a walk through in the space to take a good look at lights, the mics, the audience seating and their timing. Beware especially the speakers that say things like “I’ll be fine on the day”. The most experienced international performers rehearse in the space, whenever they have the chance, and the smart ones take that time also to build rapport with the technical crew.

Contingency.

Ask all the ‘what if?’ questions. What if there’s a power failure and there are no slides, no music etc? What if you have to cut the presentation by 15 minutes? What if you had to step in for someone else? You don’t need to forecast catastrophe, but it’s healthy to expect the unexpected.

Keep to Time.

There really does have to be someone with authority, who is keeping everything to time. Complex events, including the movement of hundreds of people really do rely on keeping to time. If a speaker runs over by 15 minutes, they may not consider it a big deal, but the knock-on effect for the venue staff, the crew, the delegates, the other speakers can be huge. If someone is going on too long – get them off.

In the moment.

It’s difficult for anyone to focus and concentrate for a whole week, but unless you are asleep or on a break, then the only way to be is fully present. Stay in the moment, whether it’s to listen, to ask questions, to present, to help someone else, to notice something that ‘s needed. Conferences can be hard going but being fully present will help you get most from the experience.

Flex

There will be last minute changes and being able to flex and improvise can often be the answer to ensuring a smooth path. If someone is having a minor meltdown because something hasn’t arrived or their slides aren’t right, be the one that reduces the tension by providing an alternative for them. Change the order to give them time to reshape their presentation and help them do it.

Teamwork

There will be problems. If you can work well as a team, then those problems will be solved a whole lot quicker. It may require you to do things outside your normal remit. Do them, with a smile. It helps if everyone knows their role and responsibility, but don’t throw anyone under the bus, be in it together and own up quickly if you’ve made a mistake. That way it can be sorted. Before the start of the event, bring everyone together and make sure they all feel part of that team – whether chief executive or production assistant.

A story to help…

And it wouldn’t be a PM article without a story. For a one-day leadership event, focused on forecasting the future, we chose to have on stage a large Dr Who Tardis prop. Nothing wrong so far.

However, on the morning of the event, when we opened the packaging, we were a little surprised to discover a Disney Princess Castle. There were a couple of interesting conversations, but happily none about whose fault it was.

Instead, we decided to front up the mistake to the client and proceed with the castle, because it really was a fabulous prop. The result, people still remember that conference fondly and in particular, the analogy of myths and legends that we created on the fly.

Would you like to partner with us?

We are experts in bringing your business content to life, creating memorable meetings and events for your people.



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How to find a partner

How to find a partner

Don’t worry, Purple Monster has not ventured into the world of internet dating, although perhaps our avowed intent to bring content to life, might add a little something to the sector.

As a small organization, we can rarely take on any sizeable project without working with a partner.

For large conferences it might be a production company, or other creative agencies. For transformation and learning programmes, it might be partners from academic institutions, private companies, small or large consultancies. It may be single contractors who are working in the organization but see an opportunity to partner with us. Whoever it is, we’re always up for a new partner relationship.

And just like a first date, the initial meeting will set the tone for the relationship. Don’t try too hard to impress, but instead be as open as possible and be respectful of every potential partner, even if they are a direct competitor. Make sure you get to know each other. It might only be possible to meet over the airwaves to begin with but put the camera on and be prepared to share who you are. This approach will always work out better in the end.

Over the years this is what we have found that works best when partnering with others. But please note, this doesn’t mean that we are the perfect partner for everyone.

1. Make sure you treat your partner as an equal.

This might require acts of generosity towards a less experienced player, or it might require you to punch above your weight. Whichever way you flex, make sure you behave as an equal partner.

2. Be a trustworthy partner

At some point, you are almost certainly going to be involved in a ‘difficult conversation’ with your partner. So, be clear from the off and avoid the temptation of making claims you can’t back up.

There is a helpful tool for this. The Trust Equation, created by Maister, Green and Halford. You can find a full explanation here

3. Find the right fit

Choose partners that offer capabilities you don’t have and when put together with yours create something unique. Always be prepared to put the partnership to the test with a client. Otherwise, you really can waste an awful lot of time talking about what might be possible.
Although the potential partner may have very different skills and capability than you, always try to choose a partner with the same values and principles. This isn’t about what is written on their website, but about how you observe them behaving. Do you trust them to speak to your client on your behalf? If yes, you’re in a good partnership.

And here are the stories….

The trials – We had one, now defunct, partnership, in which the other party always felt it necessary to do some carrot-dangling of future work. It rarely came to fruition and the work we occasionally did together didn’t ever feel like a partnership. We felt more like a performing seal, brought out to impress early in the relationship with a client. It wasn’t very life-affirming, nor effective.

The triumphs – We have two new partnerships well worth a mention. Our accountants, Pentlands, who are partnering with us to establish simple and efficient financial reporting and our wonderful Ukrainian friends at One Philosophy Group, with whom our partnering relationship has only just begun.

We also have many wonderful long-standing partnerships, including Craig Spivey, creative genius; Jon Trevor, improv legend; Ben Goddard, musical director extraordinaire; Catherine Allan, fabulous scribe. But one particular partnership is worth a special mention. By This River, our video production partner. Whatever request we make of Mike Sedgwick and his team, we always know they will be doing their absolute best work for us. They epitomise the description of trusted partner. 100%. They make us feel really special and this is not only life-affirming but it’s also terrific fun

 

Would you like to partner with us?

We are experts in bringing your business content to life, creating memorable meetings and events for your people.



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