During the workshop

In the first part of this blog series, Part 1 Before the workshop, we focused on things that should be done before the workshop. In this blog, we’ll advise you how to work during the workshop.

These blog posts are a combination of what we learned from virtual meetings facilitation and our own findings when doing online workshops. Try out these tips and find your own way of doing virtual and online workshops.

Physical settings

Master your own working environment – We found out that even if your workshop is virtual, facilitating it works best if you and your co-facilitator physically sit in the same room. You can comment more easily to each other while facilitating (muting the mic or using post-it notes). If you are remote, use instant messages with your co-facilitator.

During the workshop, use a headset for clear audio, participate from a peaceful environment, and use instant messages.

Test the sound and screen sharing with someone before the meeting starts.

At the start

Be an Early Bird – You can request participants to join five to ten minutes earlier to the conferencing to test their ability to hear, speak and see; you can incorporate this test time into the start of the agenda. Anyway be sure to test your own sound and screen sharing with someone trusted outside your organisation, before the meeting starts and participants join you.

You can also help participants with possible technical problems, ensuring everyone can see and hear you. It is probably useful to also check your email and phone, because some people might email or phone you if they don’t manage to get in.

Remember that tense participant don’t contribute – One significant factor to consider when planning virtual workshops, or workshops in general, is psychosocial safety. Workshop participants need to feel sufficiently safe and confident to open their mouths, to ask questions, to present alternative views, to challenge (constructively), and so on. You, as a facilitator, are responsible for creating psychological safety in your workshop- A good idea is to allow a few minutes for informal discussion around a light or fun topic during these five to ten minutes at the start. You can ask (in the slide you show) people to say their name and say Hi! to the others, and to give them something to do while waiting for others to join. For example, you can request them to “choose the draw tool (Zoom) to draw your face and write your name to the slide you show”.

Ensure your participants know the rules of the workshop – When participants are joining a preset workshop format, with a structure and a timetable, repeat the rules for the online behavior and clarify your and your co-facilitator’s role in workshop. We usually request the following:

  • Mute your mic when you’re not speaking
  • Always say your first name when you speak
  • Participate 100% and respect all participants at all times
  • Be patient
  • If you must leave, announce this beforehand and tell when you’re going to be back.

If you have presentations, you can also ask participants to write their questions to the chat and inform that you will go through questions after the presentation.

Working together

Where does it all end? Begin with the end in mind – It’s very important that participant understand the purpose and objective of workshop: Why are we here? What we need to solve? If the objective of the workshop is unclear to all participants, they won’t won’t be committed. So this is your first task to solve – to clarify the objective and to get all participants committed to being active.

If you haven’t introduced the participants to the online co-working tool / board, do it now. We usually briefly review the most important tools they will use today in the workshop before going to the warm-up phase.

Warm-up’s mission is ice-breaking – You can request participants to write down expectations for the workshop in the chat. Or you can prepare a slide including pictures representing various moods or feelings and ask participants to choose one and tell something about their choice.

Timing matters – During the work consider sufficient timing for work assignments; not too short that your participants are not able to finish their assignment, and not too long that they start reading their email, etc. You can monitor the activity via the online board and lengthen/shorten the work time accordingly. Agree with your co-facilitator on how to modify the schedule on-the-fly and on how to communicate the need to speed up or to add extra time, while you are in separate groups.

TIP: A brief “bio-break” after the groupwork helps you have separate groups in their own conferencing sessions: people have time to exit their sub-meeting and join the main meeting. Display a presentation slide as screen share with the deadline for returning to the main meeting.

By sharing good decisions – After the main work, walk through the work assignment results with your participants. It’s important to share especially when there has been more than one group and board in the workshop. Walk through all groups and their individual boards. You can edit and refine the results, for example by combining duplicate post-it notes, during the joint going through session.

Use a “parking lot” for themes not directly connected to the assignment. Even when following a strict agenda, you often find yourself getting lost in detail discussion or being carried away. Thus, you can lose focus and go off track in your quest to reach your goal.

In the end

Keep participants engaged afterwards – Discuss the results together. You can have a small break during which you can formulate a summary of the workshop, what was done, and the results. You or your co-facilitator can make additions to the board, for example by writing down ideas and questions. Identify the small wins from your workshop. Realising the workshop outcomes and targets can keep participants energised and engaged afterwards, so make this a key part of your communication with them.

Make sure things happen after the workshop – Agree on the next steps if you can. You can also arrange this in a new virtual meeting. We’ll talk more about that in the next blog.

Fill expectations – Tell what happens next, how the results of the workshop will be used, and when and how the results from the workshops will be shared.

Get feedback while it’s fresh – Ask for feedback or impressions from the participants: if there are less than ten participants, you can have a comment round; if more than ten, ask them to write their feedback or just load an emoji into the chat.

Finally

Workshops can seem daunting and challenging if you haven’t had any or are a novice. Workshop skills, such as improvising around agendas or reading from people’s emotions, come with practice and with good planning.

In the next part of this blog series, Part 3 After the workshop, we focus things you should do after the workshop.

Outi Kotala

Outi Kotala

Outi has been providing user experience and service design for B2B, public sector and customer market services since the beginning of this millennium. She has designed usability and brought the user-centric approach to the development of online services and mobile apps as well as other digital platforms and digital tools, using different kinds of design thinking methods and prototyping tools. She has experience in doing design as part of the agile software development processes (SCRUM, SAFe, Kanban, Lean).

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Maria Di Piazza

Maria Di Piazza

Maria is an experienced expert with more than 15 years of experience in various roles in the ICT industry in the design, production and further development of services. Maria has a broad understanding of the entire life cycle of services and their production. She has the ability to outline the entities related to the life cycle of services and their sub-areas, as well as to outline the pain points of processes and services. She is able to embrace new things quickly and bring new perspectives to the client. Maria’s specialty is to act as an interpreter between the business, the organization and the staff, as well as between customer understanding, the customer and the implementation of the service. In doing this, she takes into account the needs of users, the customer organization and software production. Her interests include learning design and facilitation, the utilization of service design ideology in process development, the use of visual facilitation methods in design work, facilitation management, and organizational and business design.

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This is Part 1 of a three-part blog series that describes how to plan and run a workshop with a group assignment while using digital co-working tools. In other words, it’s a facilitated workshop, but done online where everyone participates from their own desk. We hope that we can convey new and useful ideas to you for organising and facilitating your own virtual workshops.

This blog is a combination of what we learned from virtual meetings facilitation and from our own findings when doing online workshops. Try out these tips and find your own optimal way of doing virtual and online workshops.

Before the workshop

In this first part of the blog series, we will open up the process of planning the workshop: what kind of resources you need, how much time should you reserve for planning and how you invite your participants to join.

Resourcing

Get the right co-worker mix – Notice that planning a virtual workshop demands somewhat more time, effort and people than for a normal workshop. You might be able to facilitate a physical workshop for even twenty participants on your own; however, for this we recommend having at least one co-facilitator in addition to yourself. One of you can be the “lead facilitator” while the “co-facilitator” supports the participants and follows the online chat.

Participants

Ensure an optimal number of participants – The optimal number of participants for a virtual workshop involving group assignments is from six to twenty participants. If there are more than twenty participants, you should opt for hosting a webinar, not a workshop or virtual meeting. Groupwork is best facilitated with a group no bigger than ten participants. Six to seven participants is the optimal number per group; in a group of this size, everyone gets to participate, and you have time to help those who have difficulties in participating (for example due to technical glitches or network connection issues). If your workshop has more than ten participants, consider dividing your participants into smaller groups for the online work assignments, for example by using break-out rooms.

Pre-work

Ensure participants are prepared – Invitations are one of the most important aspects of preparing your workshops. Firstly, ensure the participants are able to reserve the workshop appointment into their calendars. Even you haven’t yet fully planned the workshop agenda, you should already send the first calendar invitation sufficiently in advance to reserve the participants’ time for the workshop. Ensure the purpose of the workshop is stated clearly; state the objective of the session and clearly communicate the workshop expectations. For example:

  • I hope you can participate 100 %…
  • Use a headset for clear audio…
  • Participate from a peaceful environment…
  • Use of a mouse is recommended…

It’s also useful to add several instructions to the invitation that may save you a few grey hairs:

  • Please do not to forward this calendar invitation without the facilitator’s permission…
  • Please accept or decline this invitation…

Optionally, you can also assign some pre-work to participants before the actual workshop. One useful task is to introduce participants to the tools that will be used during the workshop. You can create a test board with a few small tasks, or invite your participants to try out the tools in a fifteen minute pre-meeting. In this test session, you can walk through the tools with your participants and at the same time usefully test the availability of network connections.

Planning

Do your homework – Virtual workshops need to be shorter and include more breaks than physical ones. The maximum time for one workshop is three hours, and you’ll need at least two breaks, possibly three, during that time. Do short “bio pauses” once an hour and one longer pause to allow participants to get coffee, check email, etc.

Avoid long monologues and presentations. Instead, split the presentation into smaller segments and insert discussion or groupwork between the presentation segments. Presenting and groupwork assignments should be no longer than two to ten minutes at a time. If you include discussion or use digital tools during groupwork (Mural, Miro etc.), ten to twenty minutes per session is the optimal time-span.

If your workshop participants exceed six to ten, divide your audience into smaller groups and into separate sessions during the workshop. For this, you need to plan breakout sessions and you need so-called “breakout rooms”. For example, Zoom and also Teams have a feature for dividing meetings into smaller sessions.

TIP: If you’re using some other conferencing tool without a breakout room option, you can prepare the calendar invitations for separate sessions beforehand and share them via the Skype/other conferencing tool’s chat. Or you can ask someone from the group to invite a separate conferencing session.

Remember that tense participants don’t contribute – One significant factor to consider when planning virtual workshops, or workshops in general, is psychosocial safety. Workshop participants need to feel sufficiently safe and confident to open their mouths, to ask questions, to present alternative views, to challenge (constructively), and so on. You, as a facilitator, are responsible for creating psychological safety in your workshop. A good idea is to begin with a few minutes of informal discussion using a light or fun topic before the actual workshop starts. Or you could arrange a short game at the beginning of the workshop, or encourage everyone to say something about their state of mind. Whatever method you use, the objective is the same: that every participant feels included and confident.

Plan, plan, plan – Plan for more than the day. Plan for what happens after workshop. Create the methods used list, other checklists, and time slots. Remember, the more detailed your plan, the more you’ll ensure that your workshop will run on schedule – and be successful.

Workshop tools and personal equipment

The environment matters too – Always test beforehand your personal equipment (headset, display, cables, instant message tool, etc.), workshop tools (Skype, Teams, Mural, Miro etc.) and online network connections. Have a plan B if something goes wrong (for example if you cannot share you screen). Your plan B might include an alternative conferencing tool link (for example switch from Skype to Zoom) or other co-working equipment. Sometimes you might need to enable some participant to join via telephone line. In this case, use the phone speaker and send the material and links to group assignment work beforehand.

Prepare any links for online boards and co-working tools beforehand and test them in different browsers (for example, MURAL doesn’t work optimally in Safari browsers). It’s good to warn your participants beforehand about all of the required tools for the workshop. For example, tell your participants that in addition to Skype, you’ll be using a digital whiteboard like Miro.

Finally

Thorough planning saves your nerves and gives you the confidence to work as a workshop leader or facilitator.

In the next part of this blog series, Part 2 During the workshop, we focus on things you should consider during the workshop or presentation.

Outi Kotala

Outi Kotala

Outi has been providing user experience and service design for B2B, public sector and customer market services since the beginning of this millennium. She has designed usability and brought the user-centric approach to the development of online services and mobile apps as well as other digital platforms and digital tools, using different kinds of design thinking methods and prototyping tools. She has experience in doing design as part of the agile software development processes (SCRUM, SAFe, Kanban, Lean).

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Maria Di Piazza

Maria Di Piazza

Maria is an experienced expert with more than 15 years of experience in various roles in the ICT industry in the design, production and further development of services. Maria has a broad understanding of the entire life cycle of services and their production. She has the ability to outline the entities related to the life cycle of services and their sub-areas, as well as to outline the pain points of processes and services. She is able to embrace new things quickly and bring new perspectives to the client. Maria’s specialty is to act as an interpreter between the business, the organization and the staff, as well as between customer understanding, the customer and the implementation of the service. In doing this, she takes into account the needs of users, the customer organization and software production. Her interests include learning design and facilitation, the utilization of service design ideology in process development, the use of visual facilitation methods in design work, facilitation management, and organizational and business design.

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Leading situational awareness

We are living in a time that requires us to make complex management decisions based on inadequate knowledge. Situational awareness enables us to find and take a direction into more comprehensive, factual, and proactive decision-making. It implies a holistic view described with the help of a computational and knowledge-based data models.

Now is the time to move gradually to co-management and co-creation ways of working. It is time to forget partial optimisation and create common purposeful goals beyond organisational silos. To move towards a common goal, where impact – not production – is the key. To capture the large initiatives, recognising the total impact of decisions, anticipating, and responding quickly to changes.

Does it sound like a utopia?

Perhaps, especially if you work in an organisation where decision-making is still done in the traditional way in each business unit, isolated from others. In which decisions have to be made based on the best guesses, because there is no knowledge about the overall effects, causes and consequences. Where no one has time to think about goals, because deciding on action is considered more important.

What are the benefits of a situational awareness snapshot?

When considering whether it is worth starting the exercise, remember that there are so many good, even excellent possible outcomes. There are at least four reasons why you should start:

  1. A common understanding of the situation creates the possibility to perceive what various actions mean for the whole and what their impact is on the overall goal.
  2. Creating a snapshot of the situation is based on the needs of the people and customers, rather than the needs of a single interest group.
  3. Through a snapshot, leadership shifts to creating situational awareness-based understanding, instead of refining technical information. The analysis of the accumulated knowledge becomes the starting point of the discussion, not the end result.
  4. It is no longer necessary to lead the whole with averages and approach the problems with universal solutions.

Situational snapshots can be created to support management at both strategic and operational levels. Different information is needed and used at different levels.

What is the likely future?

Many would certainly like to know what the future holds. There is no crystal ball, but by combining advanced analytics and system dynamics, you can make predictions about what the probable future scenarios are. Then a completely new twist can be found, for example, in resource planning or investments.

When importing products into the market or considering the service capacity and dimensioning of public service delivery, decisions no longer need to be made by gut feeling or glancing in the rear-view mirror. These can be done with proactive situational awareness snapshots.

Setting out over a low threshold

Co-operation and mobilisation are essential. Common goal-setting, agenda and co-management will only be learned by experiencing the benefits it offers – by creating the first model and the first image together.

Nobody knows what will come of it. Unknown challenges are solved by experimenting and learning. Together.

Petri Takala

Petri Takala

Petri Takala

Petri works at Gofore as a principal consultant in the field of data-supported leadership and management. He has an extensive experience in data-enabled decision-making practices and organizational systems design. He is an expert in customer-/ market-centric ecosystem management and the needed data-enabled platform services. Petri’s thinking is applied and taken into use widely in several areas of Finnish society, e.g. in AuroraAI, Finnish ethical AI-based service ecosystem development. Before joining Gofore Petri worked 15 years in Nokia as a senior analyst and development director, as well as the product lead in Efecte Plc.

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The use of artificial intelligence is not as difficult as imagined. You can get started with fairly raw data. The required workloads are also reasonable, although it requires an attitude that deviates from the norm.

In artificial intelligence projects, data is utilised differently than before, often in completely unprecedented ways. Starting with projects, no one can be sure what the end result will be, when it will be ready (or will it ever be finished), and what it costs.

This uncertainty slows down the use of artificial intelligence, especially in organisations that do not want to let go of the old ways of working, predetermined plans, business cases and fixed price offers. Now is the time to dare: The longer you wait, the more data accumulates in your organisation in vain.

1. You cannot define the outcome in the beginning

Problems that have not been solved before can often be solved with the help of artificial intelligence. I myself have been involved in solving problems which were not even known to exist at the start of the project.

So how do you know how to utilise AI? Who can tell you where you should apply it? From nowhere. Nobody. At least if you do not dare to start.

You will have to decide to start. You need to clear space for the exploration and exploitation of AI. You need to give your organisation an opportunity for something new and unspecified.

2. Keep an open mind for learning

In artificial intelligence projects, rather than technology, most important is the willingness and ability to create something new. An artificial intelligence project can begin to streamline an existing process, but there is much greater potential in new innovations. LED lights were not born out of making candles!

3. AI creates bridges over silos

A broad understanding of opportunities is needed because AI solutions should, under no circumstances, be utilised solely for traditional point-to-point profit centre development. This is exactly where the potential of AI lies. You can use it to combine source data from across the organisation – data that could not previously be combined. For this reason, it is very typical that the most valuable findings come as if by accident.

Don’t let the assumptions stop you

False assumptions can obstruct the path of artificial intelligence. Perhaps the most common of these are prejudices related to data protection and law, and the assumption that the quality of one’s own data is not enough.

Fairly raw data is enough to get started. Values, anonymisation, and pseudonymisation enable closed and secure applications in a closed environment. In an enclosed environment, anonymity does not break because unlimited data sharing is not possible. In many organisations, the settings are reasonably good.

Many processes have already been digitalised; data on important processes and customers can be found. Also, awareness of the potential of artificial intelligence is steadily spreading. Take the opportunity to provide your organisation with valuable personal experiences of what artificial intelligence really is and what can be realistically achieved with its help.

Begin today. You don’t gain anything by waiting!

Pasi Lehtimäki

Pasi Lehtimäki

Pasi Lehtimäki

Pasi has over 20 years of experience in analytics and different roles of software development, including many leadership positions. His focus is on helping customer organizations to understand the nature of AI/ML, what can be achiveved with it, how it changes the operational model of the organization. Pasi is passionate about creating customer oriented data & analytics solutions. More than 1,500 experts and managers have participated in Pasi's AI trainings.

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Content management systems provide a simple and fast way to develop a website. Typical CMS provides quick development and deployment with easy design capabilities. They come with end-to-end site management, and strive to be easy for non-technical users to manage, allowing high-end engagement with online content.

Key benefits

  • Create: create new pages, sections, menus, media etc.
  • Manage: easy to edit, format content, and manage the site
  • Implement: easy to implement ready code and template
  • Branding: consistent brand and standard navigation
  • Database driven: change once, update the entire website
  • Shared resources: access to modules, images, audio, video files etc.
  • Security & approval systems: different levels of access for approving content
  • Mobile ready: templates are mobile compatible
  • Search engine friendly: optimise your website for SEO compatibility

Three ways of UI/UX implementation for CMS

Good practices for CMS based Web Design and Development can be dived in three. These include Standard Templates, Custom Templates, and Headless CMS. How to choose between these?

Standard Template

Go for Standard Template approach when having less time and looking for quick development with minimum needs focusing on cost efficiency. Usually when getting your business started and aiming for simple and powerful design.

Pros & cons

  1. Ready designs available
  2. Follows the basic UI/UX guidelines
  3. Templates available with HTML/CSS
  4. CMS compatible
  5. Easy to implement and manage
  6. Template based sites often look alike

Key considerations

  • Do not change the layout or structure of the template
  • Template is styled to match the client’s branding
  • Changes are mainly in terms of colors and images

Development process for standard template done in five simple steps: 1) select template, 2) change branding and images, 3) add pages, navigation & content, 4) deploy the changes on server, 5) website ready.

Custom Template

Go for Custom Template when looking for a tad more unique design with CMS facility. Usually when looking to achieve more business with exceptional user experience when cost and time limitations are secondary.

Pros & cons

  1. Liberty to create design
  2. Add UI/UX value based on scope of customisation
  3. Knowledge of the framework is required
  4. The design should be easy to integrate
  5. CSS plays a major role
  6. Can achieve unique designs
  7. Consumes more effort

Key considerations

  • Designers need to be aware about the framework functionalities before starting the design
  • Maintaining consistency in design, same section on different pages should look same
  • Customising plug-in requires studying and development in order to be integrated and managed later

Development process for custom template in seven steps: 1) create custom design (as per framework compatibility), 2) select default template (modify CSS and template), 3) customize template, 4) template integration, 5) add pages, navigation & content, 6) deploy the changes on server, 7) website ready.

Headless CMS

Go for Headless CMS as future proof evergreen solution to support omni-channel architecture. Allows you to focus on your business while specialised team is working on your system. Easier, faster, and more flexible to develop on. Easier to learn and use. Cost less in the long run. Leads to better software architecture. More scalable.

Pros & cons

  1. Time efficiency i.e. no need to rebuild the whole system in future, existing content can be sent to any destination system via APIs
  2. Freedom and flexibility i.e. single content can be reused and combined with several different presentations, promoting agile way of working and iterating faster
  3. Secure & scalability since the backend and frontend are separated, if the backend CMS platform has any performance issues or, simply, needs maintenance, it won’t create any downtime the website

Key considerations

  • Content first architecture approach with potential content delivery to any client or device via APIs
  • CMS is used as backend fo manage and store content
  • Clear separation of concern between creating, delivering, displaying content

Simplified development process for headless CMS as the development of content and website can be done in isolation and in parallel: 1) create website with your own look and feel, 2) connect the website to headless CMS, 3) website ready.

Go for standard template when getting business started, look into custom template when scaling your business, or go for headless CMS as a future proof solution.

What does our developers say

Check below for some comments and war stories from our developer crew in recent use of CMS.

“Friends don’t let friends run WordPress, especially not as a headless CMS.”
– WordPress

“I’ve started to use Netlify CMS in a personal project and it works so well that I’d like to use it at work also”.
– Netlify CMS

“Contentful is SaaS provided headless CMS that has been working mostly ok. Facing some bugs in their APIs in complex special cases.”
“Entire SaaS was down a while in 2019, and caused some gray hair for the customer as the content suddenly disappeared.”
“Wasn’t Contentful meant to be used more like a data storage with hooks for changes allowing the implementation of some pretty heavy caching like static caching on top of it.”
“It has worked well and seemed relatively easy to adopt for devs as well.”
– Contentful

“Good experiences but hasn’t been used as a headless CMS.”
“Community version has its limitations.”
– Magnolia

“Have been using Strapi in a personal project, it’s open source, still in beta but totally usable.”
– Strapi

“Not headless but interesting. Uses event sourcing to manage change set merges and publishing reviews.”
– Neos

Choose your perfect match?

Happy to help if you would like to hear more or we could help you even further.

Juhana Harmanen
Capability Owner of Web Development,
Technology Consultant

PS. With headless CMS approach you can benefit from using a Design System, check Why you should definitely have a Design System in place already.

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

juhanaharmanen

Juhana Harmanen

Juhana is a Capability Owner of Web Development multitasking as a Technology Consultant in key projects. He strives to renew and nurture Gofore’s capabilities in Web Development to match the current and future needs of our clients, and to grow new scalable businesses. He finds his passion in entrepreneurial orientation and leading new ventures. Juhana loves being outdoors and has in his past spent twelve short summers as a wilderness guide in Lapland. Recently his free time has been filled with spending time with his children and family or in house renovation projects one after another.

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I am a true believer in the power of team retrospectives (aka retros) – regular feedback simply helps to make things better, and to embrace what already is good.

Based on my experience, the main asset of a retro is to make people seen and heard. This breaks down assumptions and builds trust. When having retros as a routine, you definitely make things much less complicated because you bring up issues before they grow to be a huge monster. With retros, there is less guessing and more harmony, and people are empowered by being able to directly impact their daily work. Things don’t escalate because they are spoken up and are investigated regularly.

But I have not always perceived those only in a positive way. Retros need to be a continuous routine for the team and “easy to access”, not a thing that is organised only at the end of the project to reflect on what went wrong. A retro’s power is to glue a team together, not to be the tool to discover failures. If retros are conducted only when the need is to “learn from what went wrong”, they start to have a negative aura around them. That is my personal experience too – “Let’s have a retro for this sometime soon” has been an indication for me that things are not well, and it’s not nice waiting for the session. Especially when the issues could have been tackled much earlier in a more organic and more positive way.

Smart people want to make things work, together

But as an approach, convening a retro is also a great methodology to utilise, for example, in cases where we notice there is some tension between team members. In such cases, a well facilitated retro makes everybody heard, and as the goal is to find ways together on how to improve the situation, it tends to be an inclusive and successful way of figuring things out. Smart people want to make things work. These kinds of retros put a lot of emphasis on the facilitator, so it is good to choose the right person for this. Team members need to feel safe in order to be open and honest. The facilitator has a big influence on ensuring the environment for this and for the routine of having retros with a low-threshold – it should be hassle-free. Actions and other to-be-done things must be transparent and agreed together. Otherwise people might end up still pondering the roots and causes of issues after the retro.

Finding new business opportunities

Retros also speeds up finding new business opportunities and leads to experiments. I coached a team that started a routine of bi-weekly team retros and soon it became a successful vanguard for the rest of the organisation. They regularly expanded a team retro into a project retro, and while already having built trust and transparency, they were able innovate and growth hack as a kind of a side dish to a team retro. And as they had become a really self-organised team, it was easy for them to also run experiments on their projects and to add value to their client.

Retros help to cultivate the organisation’s culture. In every organisation and in every team, there is always room for improvement. Investing one hour regularly to bring people together, to discuss how could we do better, prevents making the same mistakes over and over again. When teams inspect their own work regularly and agree to change their behaviour in order to improve, they become more self-organised and self-directed. Teams being able to be open about the good, the bad and the ugly, creates transparency and trust. Organisational culture needs to be built on those.

Who can do it?

It is not only development teams that benefit from retros. Since retros are a powerful tool to cultivate organisational culture, management should do them too! Demonstrate how you want your company to tackle issues! Also, multidisciplinary teams should be brought together regularly; inviting other teams to join every now and then creates transparency and a sense of belonging for everyone within the organisation.

Who then can facilitate the retro? Take turns! You might first have a more experienced person to facilitate them, to get the routine up and running, but then start having rotating turns. By doing this, you uncover fresh perspectives and learn various ways to run a retro. Also, people again gain a sense of ownership for their own progress.

So, what can you do to improve your team and to add value for your customers?

  1. Book a regular slot in your team’s calendar to have the retro. Start with one hour but remember that retros get quicker as the routine repeats! 15 minutes is better than nothing!
  2. Google a suitable format for team retros, there are plenty to choose from. An easy way to start is by asking 1) what should we keep, 2) what should we do more of and 3) what should be do less.
  3. Start doing it.
  4. Remember to memo and share your learnings!
  5. For the management team also!

Also remember to utilise retros as soon as you notice that some people might need to clear the air between them! React quickly – don’t wait, highlight the goal of finding ways to improve together, and ask a kind and wise facilitator to host the retro in a safe and inclusive environment!

And the power of retros? Having retros makes people seen and heard. By doing so, people solve issues and improve things. This helps to cultivate resilient and innovative organisations, characteristics crucial for success, especially today.

Mirkka Länsisalo
Digital transformation coach

mirkkalansisalo

Mirkka Länsisalo

Mirkka is seasoned organisation designer at Gofore. Her passion is to cultivate future-capable and agile innovation cultures together with clients. She has long background on creating successful digital services, businesses and organisation cultures in Finland and abroad.

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Work like a mom at Gofore

What is it like to work at Gofore and be a parent? As an organisation Gofore supports work-life balance. This said, all employees can enjoy their free and family time and also achieve their career goals. We see our organisation as a community of human beings, not as a machine. Gofore exists to make a positive impact, not only financially, but also to employees, their families, customers and all stakeholders.

Sometimes being a parent seems pretty hectic, so we asked a few parents about their work-life balance. These are stories from Goforean mothers about their everyday life (however, in the midst of the corona pandemic and remote work) with their children.

 

I hear a happy ”mommy”!

Children's train track Kid smiling at a mirror Kid on a bikeride

“These past few weeks haven’t been easy – being a mother, a cook, a nurse, a kindergarten teacher, a driver, a friend and everything in between at the same time. I have been doing full workdays and then night shifts with the toddler. I miss interactions with other adults.

That being said, it has also been wonderful. I can see my son during the day and every time he hears me come in (I’m working in our garage) I hear a happy ”mommy!” For him, being so small and not really knowing how to play with other children, this has probably been great! He gets to hang out with his daddy during the day and mommy in the afternoon. As much as I’d like this to be over and done with, I also wouldn’t change one moment of it.”

Iina Korpivaara, Talent Management Specialist

 

 

“This is what our daily lives look like in remote work. Children romp around in the kitchen with their mopeds and hobby horses, they bring their stuffed animals to daycare and go to “the office”. Soon they come back and say that “it was a tough day”, take the plush and leave for a new round. Repeat this sequence of events in your mind at least ten times. My loved ones.”

Outi Määttä, Business Lead, Industry

 

 

“This is me and my daughter having a morning snuggle, or as we call it, “a shnuggle”. She always wakes up before me and comes into my bed for a cuddle. Sometimes I continue dozing while she wriggles around restlessly, other times we might discuss big things like: is it ok to have chocolate bars for breakfast, what is a fortune teller and do wishing stars exist (like we did this morning).

Remote work has allow for a more peaceful start to the day instead of the usual manic rush, so we can shnuggle a bit longer. Morning shnuggle has been our routine since forever and one of my favourite things about motherhood.”

Tiia Hietala, Events and Cloud Business Accelerator

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all amazing moms – enjoy the day with your loved ones!

Gofore Oyj

Gofore Oyj

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How to do virtual onboarding?

When spontaneous interactions are missing – how do you build your network and start feeling like a part of the culture?

Face-to-face onboarding has been a cornerstone for our onboarding process. Since the pandemia prohibited group gatherings and social contact, we needed to adapt. In this blog we share our ideas and experiences about the first weeks of our first online onboarding experience. This is just a piece in a bigger picture, as we see employee engagement as an active process that happens over the first year.

The responsibility of a new employee’s onboarding process is divided into two roles: a People Person is the legal superior and is responsible for of all employment-related matter. A Culture Coach takes care of the induction and facilitates the fit to culture. These roles are additional responsibilities and employees in these roles also work as consultants.

We both work as Culture Coaches in Helsinki but our major responsibilities are in marketing and communications. The main reason we both applied for the role was the fact we wanted to contribute on our culture and communality by creating a warm atmosphere for new Goforeans, and also just to getting to know our new colleagues in Helsinki. Along with us there is a team of Culture Coaches who all are inspiring, joyful and just great to work with.

The goal of the first day is to provide the knowledge on how to continue on the following day

There is the step that isn’t possible done remotely: new employees should pick up their laptops from the office. The reason behind this doesn’t have anything to do e.g. with shipping – just the first sign in to the main systems have to be done in our internal network.

When we organised the first online onboarding, the employees arrived one by one, so all human contacts were minimized. At the office the employee got their laptop, mobile phone and a backpack to carry everything back home.

Usually on the first day, the new employees are taken for a company paid, group lunch. To keep up the good practice employees were given an option to pick up food from a local restaurant to enjoy at home during the induction video call.

The induction was held via a video call, using Teams. With the new employees, People Person and Culture Coaches were present. Naturally, we started the call with introductions and getting to know each other. The rest of the afternoon was divided into two sections: how to use the important daily tools and what is the Gofore culture. After the induction session, the new employee should be ready to start their daily work.

During the first week keep in touch and take time to learn new routines

During this remote working time we make sure that the new employees have all the working equipment they need. All employees can borrow desks, monitors or chairs from the office, and Gofore offers transportation. Gofore offers multiple different options on work-life balance support like a possibility to work part-time (read more in Finnish).

We schedule daily virtual calls to the new employees. During the first weeks, the new employee’s morning starts with a coffee break call with other new employees, Culture Coaches and People Persons. This gives an opportunity to ask questions, meet new people and build relationships. The call does not have to have a clear agenda – the time can be reserved for a casual chat.

In addition to group calls the new employees can be matched with other experts. During the first days, new employees get to know their People Persons but they can also have casual calls with sales, resourcing, recruiting and other experts. These calls replace some of the informal conversations that a person usually has at the office.

After a few weeks, we asked feedback on the coffee break calls. They were well-liked and seen as a great habit to continue.

During the first month take small steps and grow understanding the culture and terms of doing 

Usually during the first weeks project work starts and calendars fill up quite quickly. After the first week, our onboarding process is divided in weekly sessions, so the new employee has time to adapt to their new schedule, routines and culture. The themes of the onboarding sessions are based on research – last year we asked our new employees what information they thought was beneficial for them. The five themes are:

  • Tea time with a founder who tells the story of Gofore.
  • Math, money and sales help to understand how our sales work and how you can participate.
  • Professional development offers ways of creating personal career path.
  • Working as a consultant tells our philosophy and ways of working with customers.
  • Internal & external communications helps to find your voice and communicate in our network.
  • Daily decision making gives guidelines on how to make decisions in a self-driven organisation.

The virtual sessions were planned to be educational but also interactive. The presenters are usually from the administration and top experts on their field. This helps the new employees grow their network inside the company. After the onboarding sessions, new employees can keep participating in different trainings as they see fit in their schedule and personal development.

How could we do better? 

We ask feedback from during and after the onboarding. The process is updated constantly to match the changing environment and needs.  We would love to hear your thoughts on our onboarding process – how you have organised it during these extraordinary times?

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Elina Hulkkonen

Elina is a marketing and project management expert, who can create strategies, concepts, development plans and engaging content. She has an eye for aesthetics and is a talented designer. Elina is passionate about service design and organisational culture renewal, and believes that open communication and empathy are the keys to great a customer and employee experience. In addition to her other responsibilities, she promotes more open and equal community at Gofore as a culture coach.

Nina Etelävuori

Nina Etelävuori

Nina is a marketing and communications expert who has worked for Gofore five years with different responsibilities such as project management, employer branding, campaign concepting & leading and content creation (visual, audiovisual and written). Besides her various role in communications & marketing, she is contributing to the best possible employee experience as a culture coach.

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