A neon outline of a lightning bolt is held in front of a night-time cityscape.

Replace messy meetings with a Lightning Decision Lab

| Sam Hutchings

Sixty Second Summary

Our Lightning Decision Labs replace the messiness of your typical meeting with a structured and time-boxed workshop guaranteed to deliver a decision. These innovative workshops spark creative solutions and encourage doing over discussion.

This workshop is a great replacement for your typical decision-making meeting, and serves as the perfect kickoff for a larger project. Best of all, you can now book and schedule your Lightning Decision Labs online.

Full Article - 5 Minute Read

The Structure of a Lightning Decision Lab

A Lightning Decision Lab should take between 45 and 90 minutes for between 4 and 10 people. Obviously, your first Lightning Decision Lab is bound to take longer while everyone gets used to structure. But once you’ve been through a couple of them, you should be able to get the time down to 40-50 minutes.

In those 45-90 minutes, your team and our facilitators will work together to:

  1. Recap On What’s Going Well
  2. Shift Focus To What’s Holding Us Back
  3. Present Problems
  4. Select Problems to Solve
  5. Reframe Problems as Standardised Challenges
  6. Create Ideas for Solutions
  7. Vote on Solutions
  8. Prioritise Solutions
  9. Select a Solution
  10. Turn the Chosen Solution into Actionable Tasks

This may seem like a lot to fit into just 45 minutes, but it’s the structure and discipline of the Lightning Decision Lab are core to its success. There are places for open conversations in the workplace, but when you need to quickly and efficiently make a decision, the Lightning Decision Lab’s chit-chat-free nature is what sets it apart.

It’s worth noting here that you will need a leader of facilitator for a Lightning Decision Lab. A Lightning Decision Lab will run well when this person is comfortable keeping track of time and making sure people stick to it, is able to bring discussion to a conclusion when it shouldn’t be happening, and someone who is able to come up with an andwer or decision on the spot when there is a tie or confusion. Without a leader, this workshop will not work.

Recap On What’s Going Well

This workshop is going to contain a lot of discussion about problems and challenges, so it’s nice to start by spending a few minutes recapping on what’s going well. In just 5 minutes, each person will be asked to put forward one or two areas where they feel things are currently going well, and place them on the board.

Starting With Problems

Like many of our workshops, we want to focus early on identifying the problems facing the business. For seven minutes, everybody in the team sits and, without discussing, writes down all the challenges, annoyances, concerns or mistakes they can think of, normally for the last week or another time period.

Each problem should be written on a post-it note - this is where Mural comes in when delivering these workshops remotely - so that they can be organised and prioritised later.

Present Problems

Now, each person takes it in turn to present their problems as they share them with the group. During this time, about four minutes per person, nobody else is allowed to speak, and instead they should be taking down notes to help them remember the problems people have come up with.

This way of sharing keeps everything on subject and means that the workshop doesn’t go off on a tangent, greatly speeding up the sharing process.

Select Problems to Solve

Now that all of the problems have been presented, our facilitators give each workshop member two voting dots - either virtual or physical - which they can use to vote for the problems they consider to be the most important to solve.

Workshop members can vote for their own ideas, and they can even put both their votes on the same problem if they feel that strongly about it. Again, this is done without discussion.

Once everyone has voted, which should take no more than 6 minutes, it’s the job of the facilitator to collect up all the problems that have been voted for and arrange them in order of priority.

Reframe Problems as Standardised Challenges

This part of the workshop takes about six minutes and uses one of our favourite tools, “How Might We’s”. Working through the prioritised problems, the facilitator will rewrite each one as a “How Might We” challenge, standardising the format across the board.

A post-it note with
The answer to this one may be closer than you think...

By reframing these challenges as questions, we open up more creative possibilities when we come to produce solutions in the next stage. And by standardising each challenge around the same format, more time can be spent on producing solutions and less time on decrypting problems.

Create Ideas For Solutions

At this point, we take the most voted-for challenge (now rewritten as a “How Might We”) and spend seven minutes each coming up with as many ideas for solutions to tackle the challenge as we can think of. Again, this is done without discussing what we’re writing, which keeps things moving along and ensures that we have a variety of diverse solutions, without team dynamics and hierarchy coming into play.

We’re aiming for a quantity of ideas here, rather than looking for quality. We’ll have the opportunity to curate and refine the ideas we have later, but we can only do that if we have the seed of an idea already.

Once tims is up, the post-its are all put up on the board (be that a whiteboard in a physical space or a Mural board in digital space), so that everyone can see them.

Note: If there are multiple challenges that were each voted the same, start with one of them at random - people tend to pick the top-left one because of how we read - and run this exercise for that one first.

Vote on Solutions

A post-it note with the words
Make sure you use different coloured stickers for different voting rounds or purposes, so you know what they're for.

Just like we did when selecting problems to solve, each person now votes on the solution(s) they believe will best solve the “How Might We” question. This time, each person is given six dots. Again, they can vote for their own solutions or apply multiple stickers to the same solution. As always, this is done without discussion, but we give a little longer time - ten minutes - to allow people to read the solutions as they vote. We’ve found that this part of the workshop can often work better using online tools like Mural, because the result is kept anonymous until every has cast their vote.

Prioritise Solutions

Ignoring anything with fewer than two votes, the facilitators will now prioritise the voted solutions. This should take no more than 30 seconds.

Select a Solution

This part of the workshop uses another of our favourite tools, the “Effort/Impact Matrix”.

This 2x2 matrix lists effort on the y-axis and impact on the x-axis, splitting the space into four main areas. These are:

  • Low effort, low impact
  • High effort, low impact
  • High effort, high impact
  • Low effort, high impact

Taking each of the prioritised solutions one-by-one, our facilitators will quickly (20 seconds per solution, max) discuss with the workshop team how much effort they believe the solution will take and how much impact they believe it will have on the problem. Once this has been decided, the solution is placed in that area of the matrix.

Once all of the solutions have been assessed, the facilitator will do one of three things, depending on how the solution was categorised.

High impact, low effort solutions - known as Winners - will be marked with a coloured dot so they can be used in the next activity.

High impact, high effort solutions - known as Waiters - will be put aside and can be added to a task backlog to be addressed or re-prioritised once the Winners have been dealt with.

All low imact solutions - we don’t give these a name - are thrown away. These tasks typically don’t have enough impact on the business to be worthwhile and will just clog up the process.

Turn the Chosen Solution into Actionable Tasks

Once the “Sweet Spot” solutions have been identified, they are removed from the board one-by-one and the person who wrote the solution is asked to give actionable steps towards prototyping and testing the solution in the next one to two weeks.

After all the solutions have been written up, your team now has actionable tasks that they can commit to, which may happen another day. The remaining “High Impact” solutions are then turned into actionable post-its which can be added to your backlog. Anything that was deemed “Low Impact” will be discarded.

The Results of a Lightning Decision Lab

As the name implaces, the results of a Lightning Decision Lab are a series of decisions that help push you and your team past their most pressing problems, with a set of actionable tasks that the team agree offer high impact without huge effort.

You will also have a backlog of tasks, which may require a little more effort, which you can use once these tasks are completed, or which you can use as the basis for another Effort/Impact Matrix in the future.

When a Lightning Decision Lab is facilitated remotely, your team will be provided with a recording of the session as well as a download of the Mural board used for the workshop. This helps keep track of what happened, but can also be used as a useful learning tool for future labs.

When to Start a Lightning Decision Lab

A Lightning Decision Lab is best done when you have a decision to make quickly. So it is it a great component for a larger meeting or project, or perhaps even to help kick off a Design Sprint. It’s time-limited nature means that you’ll always know how long a Lightning Decision Lab will take, which makes it incredibly easy to schedule and budget time for.

How to Start a Lightning Decision Lab

Now you understand what’s involved with an Lightning Decision Lab, you can book and schedule your own Lightning Decision Lab for you and your team through out partners, Sprinty. If you have any questions, send us a message to get the answers.

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