W is for… Workshop

If you’ve been in IT for more than ten minutes, you’ll have been to a workshop. Back in the eighties, they were all the rage, along with all the buzzword bingo terms, like brainstorming, facilitators, synergism, leveragability, etc. (note, if you’re looking these up…)

Nowadays, some people still insist on getting everyone together for a ‘workshop’, at every available opportunity, to ensure everyone is ‘on the same page’, ‘singing off the same sheet’, etc. The trouble with 95% of the these workshops is that the people running them don’t actually know how to run a workshop and it ends up being one of two things – a happy-clappy back-slapping session about how good everyone is because no one wants to be controversial, or an all out bitching session about everyone and everything in the company. Neither of these actually achieve anything and the true sign of having attended one of these is that the closing comments of the ‘facilitator’ will most likely be “I’ll send an invite to the follow-up workshop/wash-up/break-out groups, when I get back to my desk.

Here’s a couple of definitions:
A workshop is a method used to collate practical input from multiple contributing parties to achieve an end-goal, using appropriate tools and techniques to achieve this objective.

A workshop is not:

  • a platform to allow you to tell people about something – that’s a presentation
  • a mechnism to show people how the system (will) works – that’s a demonstration
  • a place for a team to discuss things – that’s a meeting
  • a method to teach people how to do/use something – that’s a training course
  • an end-of-season stationery-cupboard frenzy, using as many flip charts, markers, yellow stickies and coloured dots as possible.

Most of them will be a waste of time and achieve pretty much nothing, so if you have to go to them you will have to make the best of them. This is where a good-guy can excel; by demonstrating his grasp of what’s going on and using it to ensure the best positioning for his project, even if the workshop has nothing in the slightest to do with his project.

Most of the time however, the best thing about a workshop will be the free lunch.

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