Thursday, February 12, 2009

Don't Outsource It! Learning from Reporting

Workshops can produce walls full of flipcharts, if they are designed to create these artifacts from the various discussions and group work. We rarely run an activity that does not have a capture element as we find it helps groups make their thinking explicit, creates an external object (the flipchart, slide, drawing) that they can discuss and debate, and keeps people clear on the topic or question of the discussion. These flipcharts also help the reporting process and help people recognize their own words in the final record of their work together.

It's on the reporting process that I want to focus in this post. We're starting to work with a new partner this week with whom we're doing the design, and will eventually deliver, a two-day workshop at the end of the month. We were asked if we would also write up the report at the end of the meeting. This particular request we had to decline.

Writing up the final report from a workshop or discussion is one of the deep learning opportunities that these kinds of events provide. To externalise this learning to an outside team means that part of the value of the event goes with them when they leave. Quite apart from structuring the report content (much of which is done with a logical workshop design), thinking into the concepts, identifying patterns, unearthing potential contradictions or differences in understanding, can all be used to go back to the team to continue the learning and conversation on the topic. It gives the host or manager (or someone in his/her team) a feeling for the nuances of the discussion that simply reading the report would not necessarily provide. It also puts their fingerprints and style on the report, and the act of synthesizing content and repackaging it into narrative form (like writing a blog post), helps them remember it.

Reporting might seem like a part of the workshop process that you want to outsource, but think again. This parts really embeds the learning so it can be used later, which presumably is one of the reasons to hold the event in the first place!


Anonymous said...

Good advice. Thank you!

I've found from experience that it is usually well worth making time for the workshop "owners" to do a simply structured debrief immediately afterward. Some of the most useful insights and learnings emerge and make it clear what the subsequent report should focus on.

Gillian Martin Mehers said...

Hi Jack, Thanks for your comment! Indeed that conversation (hot feedback) can draw on people's most immediate reactions. I remembered hearing people talk about an After Action Review (and we have done it once or twice under that moniker). I just googled it and was interesting to find out that After Action Reviews (AARs) were designed by the military and used for reflection and review. There is an interesting description on wikipedia on this. I like the idea of cross-sector learning:
cheers, Gillian

CHUCKPNH said...

As an (extreme) extension of this, I have found the use of an "historian" during a change process to be exceedingly useful. The historian interviews and works with the change leaders and agents and by asking them to articulate what is happening, why and how helps them to better see and understand what is working, progress being made, key strategies, etc. as well as preserving an in situ record of the change and its process less tainted by retrospectives created in the future.