Using Mural and the LDJ for workshopping in the ‘new normal’

Very effective for idea generation… does not replicate what folks are used to… easy to pick up and user friendly… engaging, offers freedom to participate, reduces ‘workshop pressure'

— Jeremy Britton, USM Rollout Team

By Michael Sinnott, UCD Agile

We are always looking for good tools to use to help working in the ‘new normal’ and this piece is about a way of working together – the Lightning Decision Jam – and the technology that makes it – Mural.

Key point 

If you have been involved in any work in UCD Agile’s Belfield home in the Ardmore Annex you will know we make great use of the writable walls.  They are great for teams and groups working together in project sessions, training, thinking, remit mapping, planning, workshopping, document review, session planning etc. etc.

Mural

Mural (https://www.mural.co/) is what we use instead in the ‘new normal’ – what they call “a digital workspace for visual collaboration”. 

Think a big white wall with the scope for lots of PostIts, with templates for different kinds of session together, with the possibility of many people working on it at the same time.  It runs in the browser, lets the organiser control the session, has a clock timer and has functionality to let you vote. 

The best way to get a feel for it is to use it, and to use it for a conversation you were planning to have anyway – working something out, thinking something through, using one of the Lean tools… or just trying to capture your emerging thoughts on something.

We use it with Zoom for communication but with those active working in their own browsers.

From Jeremy Britton:  “Very effective for idea generation… does not replicate what folks are used to… easy to pick up and user friendly… engaging, offers freedom to participate, reduces ‘workshop pressure’” on those who suffer PostIt angst (author’s words).

In Agile we are using it on a trial licence but will convert to paid.  UCD does not have a site license.

We have used it for training sessions, workshops, document preparation, thinking space, brainstorming… anywhere you would use a white board and some PostIts.

Lightning Decision Jam 

A Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ) is a short session that you can use whenever a group of people needs to make decisions, solve problems or discuss challenges.  The ‘jam’ is the ‘jam’ of a ‘jam session’, the ‘decision’ is ending with concrete actions to be taken, and the ‘lightning’ is that the session is short.

Check https://ajsmart.com/ldj (and Google away!) for more on the LDJ.

The key here is ‘lightning’ – the antidote to death by analysis and endless circular conversations.  The LDJ looks to go quickly from ‘what we are looking to deal with’ to ‘what we will do now’, and works with the agile iteration idea in which you plan and do stuff, learn from the experience, and use that learning if you need to iterate.  Get doing.

The LDJ sequence it follows is:

  • Start with the positives
  • Present problems/challenges
  • Select problems to solve
  • Reframe the selected problem as a challenge to solve – ‘how might we…’
  • Produce potential solutions
  • Prioritise solutions to focus on
  • Decide what to execute
  • Make solutions actionable

How long?  50 minutes!

People work together in the Mural workspace one of the group has setup to support the flow of the session.  Lots of PostIts, lots of silence, lots of ordering and clustering.  Mural has a timer you can use when you need it, and it has a voting mechanism you can use for selecting the problem to solve and for prioritising the solution to focus on. 

There’s a Mural template at https://www.mural.co/templates/ldj

You need one of your group to be the moderator/timekeeper, ensuring the flow.

The first time we used this in Agile – learning by doing – it took five of us nearly two hours on the topic we’d chosen.  The USM team did a session with 39 folks (!) in 50 minutes. 

In both cases the session got to actionable solutions which were then executed.

Try Mural.  Try the LDJ.

Michael

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1 Response

  1. Mike Casey says:

    Hi Michael, thanks for that introduction to Mural. Have you tried any other ‘digital whiteboards’, e.g. Microsoft Whiteboard? There’s a profusion of new tools available, it would be great to have some comparisons.

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