Moving from workshops to workshop culture”

Something I’ve been thinking about recently, based on what I’ve seen with clients, is how workshops can play a part in transforming the way teams work together. I think of it as three levels:

Level 1: workshops as an event

A group of people meets on a one-off basis to have a focused discussion. It might be a rare opportunity for people to come together, so it needs to be productive. An external facilitator is brought in to run the session, ensure collaboration and creative thinking, but also that there are concrete outcomes. With great facilitation, the group can make a lot of progress in a short space of time.

Level 2: workshops throughout a project

After seeing what can be achieved with a single workshop, a team starts to bring workshops more regularly into the way that they work. They’ll facilitate these sessions themselves, and use different formats – e.g. kick off, ideation, retrospectives – at various points through a project to support communication and progress. The workshops help to create a rhythm and momentum to teamwork and are a key part of the overall workflow.

Level 3: workshop culture

As a team runs more effective workshops, it starts to influence their everyday culture. Workshops help to bring more open communication, increased transparency and help the team to build trust and more confidence in each other. As collaboration improves the team becomes more self-aware. The team values a facilitative leadership style that is more tolerant of ambiguity, guides progress and asks questions rather than providing answers.

Here’s one example of how workshops helped to accelerate a culture of innovation at Emerald Publishing.

I’d lo to hear your thoughts on this. Have you seen similar patterns in your team? What challenges are there in moving between the different levels?