Rushi Raja, Author at Everest Group

Tales of Horror: Workshop Edition | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

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Workshops are common in the global services industry, for all purposes from solutioning to product/service updates to team building and more. But depending on how they’re run, they can be exciting or dreadful, valuable or time wasters.

In our 20+ years of workshop facilitation, we’ve seen some “interesting” things. Here are our top tips on how to ensure your next workshops are successful – or not.

“I’m not sure who needs to be there, so let’s invite everyone.”

We’ve all heard the phrase “the more the merrier.” But whoever said it wasn’t talking about workshops. Even multi-day workshops always seem tight for time, so you need to be targeted on who you’re inviting.

  • The big bosses: We’ve seen two types of head honchos at workshops.
    • Those who don’t want to participate at all in the workshops because they’re too busy doing “boss stuff” (aka cigars, scotch, and riding in helicopters)
    • Those who show up and take over the show (I’m the smartest, listen to me!)

Although it’s important to have execs present at workshops, their presence should be limited to an overview and conclusion. They need to understand what’s happening, but still be distant enough to let their project managers be involved, since they’re the ones who are responsible for the outcomes.

  • The SMEs: It’s always tough when you’re an SME relied on for niche information. On one hand, if you leave the office to attend a workshop, something for which you’re accountable could go wrong. On the other hand, you need to be at the workshop on the off chance a question is directed to you. For this reason, we recommend having a smaller core group of SMEs present during the workshop, and having a balance group on standby to answer questions as required.
  • The scary consultants: Since I work for a consulting firm, I can’t knock consultants in general. But there’s also a time and a place for everything. Having an external consulting firm facilitate workshops can be a huge benefit in terms of coordinating suppliers, questions, and time, but their presence should be just that.  When you allow an external consulting group to ask questions on your behalf and take over your responsibilities, you’re reducing the participation of your own staff. Let us facilitate and prod, but your team must remain very involved.

“This is an important subject, so let’s block everyone’s calendar and see how it goes.”

No matter how long you decide your workshop will run, it’ll never be enough. You’ll always have participants asking for more presentation time. But the workshop needs to follow a strict outline, or you risk giving undue benefit to one participant over another.

  • Busy, busy, busy: When booking the workshop, don’t just block out 9 hours. Separate the day incredibly clearly by section, participants, time, and goals. By having different groups of people in different sessions, you keep the teams engaged for their part, and ensure you don’t go over their time.
  • Thanks, we can read: Workshops are for conversations and back-and-forth discussions, not sitting back and listening to PowerPoint presentations. If there are parts of a workshop that need less dialogue, get the presenter to submit the material by email for participants’ advance reading, and free up the actual presentation time for more fruitful conversation.
  • Breaks are for breaks and for breaks: Breaks should be scheduled, and used just for that. Letting people present during breaks in order to get more time is not helpful or fair to the people in the room. You’re asking your team to participate, and put their phones and laptops away, with an understanding that they’ll get time during breaks to catch up on business. By taking away their breaks, they’ll be distracted, and irritated, during the sessions.

“Workshop done! Let’s grab a drink.”

Follow-up afterwards is just as important as the workshop itself. It’s critical to have someone tracking actions, questions, and follow-up activities post-workshop to close off any open items.

  • I was supposed to do what?: It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how often actions aren’t tracked properly. When an action is assigned during a workshop, it must be tracked with an action, date, and responsible party, at a minimum. At the end of the day, all actions should be read out or distributed (depending on the volume) to ensure all parties know and understand their marching orders.
  • And then what happens?: Suppliers are humans too, (most of them), and too often they’re kept in the dark. If your workshop includes suppliers, having a clear timeline of the game plan coming out of meeting will help ease their frustration, and reduce the number of phone calls you get from them on weekends asking the same questions. Build a calendar with anticipated dates so suppliers can see when you’re planning the next round of workshops, follow up calls, individual sessions, etc.
  • I give you an “A” for effort: Workshop evaluations are always important, and not just on a potential solution but also on the process, participation, and ways to make the next one better. Make sure you capture and relay concerns and positive feedback to both the facilitators and the presenters to help them meet your expectations.

Do you have any workshop horror stories to share with our readers? My last tales-of-horror entry on SOWs may provide some inspiration. If you have any other topics you’d be interested in reading about, don’t be shy; we can all use a humorous break!

Tales of Horror: SOW Edition | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Blog

Everyone involved in the deal-inking end of an outsourcing engagement has a love/hate relationship with SOWs. They’re necessary, of course. But, do their creation and iteration need to be painful? They don’t, but buyers and service providers tend to make them more difficult than they need to be.

Here are some of my SOW development tips to make everyone’s life a little easier.

No one knows what Risk Management is

Not even George Costanza from the Seinfeld television show. (If you’re a Seinfeld fan, you’ll catch the joke.) This is why it’s imperative to write clear definitions in any SOW you create.

  • E.K.W.A.Y.R.T (Not Everyone Knows What Acronym You’re Referring Too) – Every company loves their acronyms, but no matter how obvious you think they are, spell them out. You’d be surprised how many people you’re confusing
  • Where’s Waldo – In the definition of terms, simply writing, “as defined in the document” tells people nothing. Tell them where (e.g. “As defined in section 4.1”) and you’ll save readers a lot of searching
  • Change Management – Ask five people how they define Change Management and you’ll get some very different answers. Even if you think a term is industry standard, define it. You’ll save yourself a lot of arguments in the future on what was in-scope versus out-of-scope.

Redlines Redlining is Aan artArtartArt

I have an image of service providers sitting around a table, drinking Cognac, and laughing about how many redlines they will put into a document. If this is a real thing, please stop. It makes everyone but you sad.

  • Very Sneaky Service Providers– If you redline a document, and then ”accidentally” turn track changes off when changing part of the wording in your favor, people will catch it, and it won’t look good for you. Don’t do it
  • Jigsaw Puzzles – I love jigsaw puzzles, but having a service provider rearrange an entire document just for fun makes me cringe. Yes, we know you’re a provider, which means you think you walk on water, but organization can be done later. Focus on the content
  • Vulcan Logic – Always have an independent source re-read an entire document before submitting it to a buyer/service provider. Dividing a document among four different people then duct taping it back together doesn’t work. There are always contradictions, and it makes documents unclear and illogical. Star Trek’s Spock would not be impressed

Nay one und’rstands what ye are writing

We get it. You were an English major and studied Shakespeare, but the people who are going to live and breathe the contract likely weren’t and didn’t.

  • Shift+F7 – Using a thesaurus was great when submitting English papers in high school, but in a SOW, the simplest words often work best
  • Lawyers get paid by the word – Stay away from terms in a SOW that imply something is to be done. Use firm language like “will” and “must.” Don’t worry about what the lawyers will do after. Focus on making sure responsibilities are clear so the attorneys understand the concept, and then let them make their millions
  • Copy-Paste – Let’s be honest…we all re-use content. Copying and pasting great IP is great, if it flows. But it often doesn’t. It’s worth taking the time to rewrite a section, or very carefully reviewing your paste job, to make sure your document flows correctly.

Having anxiety attacks just thinking about working on your next SOW? These tips may be just the natural remedy you’ve been searching for.


Photo credit: Flickr