Workshops

Futurespective

An activity to help teams predict unexpected problems that may arise in a project, or to come up with ways of ensuring success.


Good for:

  • projects with lots of questions or worries
  • complex projects or ones which have changed quite a lot in the planning process
  • projects with clients whose past projects with us have gone badly (in our eyes, or theirs)
  • teams who can communicate honestly and without a blame culture
  • teams who have had problems working together in the past

Bad for:

  • teams who cannot communicate honestly

How to use #1: time-based futurespective

  • Draw a large diagram of the project plan on paper or a whiteboard. It should clearly identify milestones and project phases.
  • Provide every attendee with a pen and two different colours of post-it. Explain the rules of post-itting:
    • write one idea on each post-it
    • write large and clear
    • write it so someone else can understand without talking to you
  • Set up the first task: ask the attendees to image they've got to the end of the project, and it's a disaster. No-one's happy with the work; no-one's talking to each other. (It can help to really overexaggerate this; somehow makes people feel comfortable dealing with negatives) What happened to make it go wrong?
  • Ask attendees to write post-its (of just one colour) based on this task. Give them 5 or so mins
  • One by one, explain the post-its and stick them on top of the project plan. Use only the bottom half of the board/screen.
  • Once all post-its are up, start to discuss:
    • how the team can avert it happening
    • how the team will know that this bad thing is about to happen
    • how the team will mitigate its impact if it does happen
  • Now, do the same again, but with an optimistic slant. DO NOT MISS THIS BIT OUT: it's as important to cover the positives, to leave the team feeling like success is easily possible. 
  • Tell the attendees to image they've got to the end of the project and it's a roaring success. It's so good, people get awards. It's so good, team members form life-long friendships. It's so good, they put up public statues. What made it so good?
  • Ask attendees to write post-its based on this task. Give them 5 or so mins
  • One by one, explain the post-its and stick them on top of the project plan. Use only the top half of the board/screen.
  • Once all post-its are up, start to discuss:
    • how the team can make sure this happens. What are the potential obstacles and how can they be overcome?
  • Thank the team. Share the results, focusing particularly on the avoid/detect/mitigate actions for the bad things; and the actions to make sure the good things happen. The project team will want to refer to this over the project.
  • Refer to this at the end of the project, in the reflection/retrospective.

How to use #2: theme-based futurespective

  • Put up large pieces of paper labelled "Communication", "Process", "Deliverables" and "Impact". Or divide a whiteboard(s) into these four sections.
  • Provide every attendee with a pen and two different colours of post-it. Explain the rules of post-itting: 
    • write one idea on each post-it
    • write large and clear
    • write it so someone else can understand without talking to you
  •  Ask attendees to write post-its with hopes and fears (one on each colour of post-it) related to each of these areas. Give them about 5mins
  • Go around the room, and get attendees to add their post-its to the relevant section. Some discussion as you go is ok, especially if it adds clarity or suggests ways to achieve the hopes/avoid the fears.
  • Thank the group and share the results.  The project team will want to refer to this over the project.
  • Refer to this at the end of the project, in the reflection/retrospective.

Timeframes

Preparing this takes 5-10 mins.

Doing this takes between 30mins (team of 3) to 2 hours. You can cut down on the time by only allowing people to put up a certain number of post-its (2 or 3 for hopes/positives, and fears/negatives)

What do you need

  • Whole internal project team
  • Post-its in two colours
  • Pens
  • White board/paper on walls

References

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Advisors

Mark, Katy, Kat, Kim


Notes

  • This may be appropriate to do with a client team as well as an internal team. It depends on the client and the relationship we have with them