Closing activities form the “future” section of the agenda. Following the Exploring phase, they are focused around the question ‘How do our new insights help us move into the future?’
As with Opening and ‘Exploring-Divergent’ activities, there is a lot of overlap between ‘Exploring-Convergent’ and Closing activities. For me the distinction is the move to a planning phase: establishing a goal to move forward with, and the activities to support it. If the focus of the session is Planning, this could use up to half the allotted time, for others around a third to a quarter.
It’s also important to be aware of the time span available to implement change, and have the group select the most valuable area of focus within that context.
Ranking / Selecting:
Finding the right focus is much more reliable when multiple interests are represented – it’s easier to avoid personal agendas and generates more discussion around what really is valuable and possible. Selection criteria, such as ‘what we are able to do now,’ ‘what fits best with our team objectives’ and ‘what do we have most passion for’, play a significant part in identifying an achievable goal the whole team is committed to.
- Ordering – Simply placing the ideas in priority order on the board is a good quick way to agree on importance – a variation is to have the group do this in silence at first, to identify debate-worthy areas.
- Dot voting – quick technique using scarcity to clarify personal commitment
- Impact / Effort Matrix – timeless sorting method for short / medium / long term plans (Innovgames.com has an online version as well)
- Other decision-making grids: using the framework above, rank items by ‘Risk vs Impact’, ‘Importance vs Urgency’ and so on
- Thirty-Five – great technique for sharing and ranking ideas in one, esp with an added twist of selling each idea as you go along. Works as a quick-and-dirty ranking method for generating and selecting ideas for discussion in groups of 10 and up – not ideal for finalizing critical issues
While it’s generally agreed that we should create SMART goals, it’s hard to find activities that support goal clarification. Esther Derby’s article on Double Loop Learning provides some excellent questions to interrogate the goals for validity; and I use this format in retrospectives:
- Goal Focus – Friendly way to ensure goals are SMART: once you have consensus on a goal, ask the questions: Can we do it? Why is it important? What could stop us from achieving it? How will we know when it’s done? Clarifies that the goal is appropriate for the skills & responsibilities of the team, as well as the time allotted.
Physical interaction tends to be a more effective way to indicate the level of commitment or agreement than a purely verbal response, and is more likely to surface any hesitation, making it easier to clarify the boundaries of what can be achieved.
- Thumb vote – powerfully simple indication of agreement: Thumb up: I agree / support this goal; Sideways: neither agree nor disagree – will vote with whatever the group chooses; Down: I don’t support this goal / don’t think we should do it now.
- Fist of Five – more detailed than a thumb vote, showing degree of alignment
- Vote with your feet – Physical & spatial vote, nice for large groups: for comparative values, have participants stand somewhere along a line indicating their position on an issue. Gets the group moving, shows physical choice of position, and creates a 3D graph of the spread of commitment
- Jump vote – Fun physical ice-breaker type vote in which each member jumps to indicate their level of commitment, enjoyment, intention etc. – ideally for lighthearted topics and large groups. Use a circle format for a quick opening or closing.
This nuts-and-bolts section identifies how to take a new possibility to a new reality, and could feel tiring or exciting – it helps to get this pace right. Again, it’s important to limit the actions to a realistic number.
- Problem Solving Tree – Consistently asking “How can we do that?” generates detailed actions for solving issues (another version here)
- Graphic Gameplan – Identify major steps required for meeting each objective – nice for high-level project views, and a good way to generate collaborative plans; also a nice Exploring activity for focused planning sessions
- Who / What / When Matrix – For simpler goals, generate the action plan collaboratively
I try to close all facilitated sessions with a quick feedback format that allows participants to review the experience, helps me to get to know the teams better, and helps me improve as a facilitator. The higher the trust relationship, the better the feedback, the more trust is built … and so on.
- Plus / Delta or Keep / Change: What was positive, what to change
- Start / Stop / Continue: Quick version of the Exploring game
- Helped / Hindered / Hypothesis: helps frame how well participants were able to contribute (from Agile Retrospectives)
- WIIFM – Review the What’s In It For Me notes created in the Check In phase – gives feedback on whether expectations were met, and generates interesting discussion around what was learned in the course.
Another wrap-up mechanism is sharing individual perspectives; I do these in call-out fashion:
- Three wishes – Some things I’d love to see happen (from Agile Retrospectives)
- 1 Takeaway – One thing I’ve gained from this session
- Temperature Reading – Good debrief technique for longer sessions
- Appreciations – Nice way to highlight contributions that otherwise would likely go unnoticed, and end the session on a positive note (from Agile Retrospectives)
A strong closing session helps to build confidence that the way forward is relevant and attainable. Following thorough Opening and Exploring sections, this creates a reliable process for implementing beneficial action … and repeated consistently in retrospective format puts us well on the journey of effective, directed Continuous Improvement.
Most of these activities come from books, blogs or training sessions I’ve been part of; some I’ve created to meet specific needs. Where I can find attributions they are noted; if you see any I’ve missed, or know of links I haven’t found, please let me know in the comments below.