People in a room

The Devil's AdvocateI once heard it said that no-one ever had a great thought in a big room. Apparently there’s something about the room size diffusing one’s focus or looming over people’s imagination and stifling originality. I’m not sure about the science of this, but we’ve been doing a number of Value Stream Mapping (VSM) workshops within our organisation lately and have found ourselves paying close attention to the rooms we use and how we set them up.

As it turns out, these workshops, covering several different operational areas, have been successful, but we have used two different rooms and one of them definitely felt a little less conducive to the VSM process. It’s made me think about what it is we’re actually trying to achieve when we get people into a room.

With VSM, I think there are two main things. One logical. One emotional. Process mapping itself is quite a mechanical process, at heart. You are looking for the essence of cause-effect relationships and how these flow – that’s the logic. But you are also trying to get people to be honest about the problems they’re having and to engage with a programme of change – that’s the emotion. You need to set-up your room to do both, to make it easy for your people to do both. And we’re finding there’s a bit of finesse required.

This is just a short article, so I’m not going to go through a list of do’s and don’ts here or pretend that if you get the room right you don’t also have to get your session plan right or your own behaviour right etc. But here’s one or two things you might want to think about and try out for yourself……

  • Windows and natural light are good. I think it helps people feel a bit more open and receptive.
  • One table with everyone around it is good, rather than people split around the room. This seems to create a sense of common purpose, underlying unity.
  • Use different wall spaces for the emotion work and the logic work. Keeping these separate helps you control focus….. so use one wall for listing issues, problems, what works and what doesn’t, use another wall for pure process mapping.
  • Finally….. try not to have a room with too many doors coming into it. I really don’t know what this is about, but we had a room recently that had four entrance doors and it just messed up the Zen somehow.

Good luck with your workshops.