Workshop Templates

 

When you’re in charge of the meeting. Flex with these templates.

driving forces brainstorm template example board

Driving Forces Brainstorm Board

Often we want to dive in and start brainstorming solutions to an existing problem. However, it might make more sense to initially figure out what’s driving or causing that problem. In brainstorming terms, this process is called a Drivers Analysis.

The first step of a Drivers Analysis is no different than any other brainstorm session: identify the problem.

Once you’ve done that, rather than focusing on coming up with solutions, try to work out the reason this problem exists. It can be helpful to ask the group questions that address who, what, when, where, why and how. For instance, if sales are down, you might ask, “What are our competitors doing more effectively?” Or, “How have we changed our sales processes lately?”

As brainstorm participants offer their answers to these questions, you will see possible solutions coming to light. Continuing with the example above, you might realize that your company cut back on advertising around the same time your competitors released a popular new commercial on social media. It quickly becomes clear that reassessing your company’s advertising strategy is a solution to the problem.

sprint plan template board example

Sprint Planning Board

Here’s what creating a Sprint Planning Board can do for your team:  

  1. Visualize a wide variety of user stories across multiple sprints and potentially multiple teams (as in with Scaled Agile). 
  2. Maximize current team capabilities and capacity in order to deliver more valuable work to customers.

Cardsmith provides an ideal way to map out user stories across sprints because you can visualize dependencies between stories and easily arrange stories in a sequence that meets customer needs and fits the constraints of the team. To help manage capacity and plan appropriately sized sprints, a story point or swag field can be added up by row, column and cell using the Grid Totals function. Connectors are added using the “Link to” item on the card menu while in board view (card is not open).

The Sprint Planning process uses story points in order to size features or chunks of work into relative sizing. Overtime the team, and via sprint retrospectives, the team will learn how many story points they can reliably finish in a single sprint.

Pro Tip:  if you add fields to a card and want to always have those fields on new cards select Set Default Card from the card menu (see the lower right menu on this card) 

cardsmith master dashboard example

Dashboard Linking Board

Did you know you can link Cardsmith Boards together in a Master Dashboard?  

Every board, and every card for that matter, has a unique URL that can be used to link to and open another board.  

This board is an example of how one might use the text or link fields in Cardsmith to link a lot of different boards together. 

For example, if you have a project where there is a stakeholder register, a project milestone board, a project to company strategy board, and a kanban board, you can bring those all together for the convenience of your team and stakeholders.  

rlc framework flow diagram

RLCf Flow Diagram Board

The Flow of a Rapid Learning Cycles Kickoff Event:

This template shows the flow of an event to establish the Rapid Learning Cycles framework for a program.  

Rapid Learning Cycles is a framework for project management that leverages Agile practices for teams that are working in areas of high uncertainty — and high cost of change.  It’s the best fit for areas like physical product development, pharmaceutical research, advanced R & D, strategy deployment, complex IT rollouts and early-stage infrastructure programs.

These types of projects all operate in areas where three core assumptions behind Agile Software Development are not true:

  • Work cannot be easily broken down into User Stories of short duration.
  • Work packages are not independent of each other — instead, project leaders have to manage complex dependency chains.
  • Team resources are not interchangeable. You can’t have a Mechanical Engineer do the work of a Firmware Engineer and vice versa. Even within disciplines, engineers have strong specialization.

These projects experience delays when decisions made earlier in the project have to be revisited later — triggering rework loops, project delays and cost overruns. In the worst cases, they can’t be fixed at all, leading the project to fail to deliver promised results.

For these types of projects, the way to go faster is to make decisions at the right time, with the right people and the best available knowledge. When they do that, they eliminate the root causes behind revisited decisions.

Teams commit early to the goal — the project’s Core Hypothesis, pull learning forward and push decisions all the way to the Last Responsible Moment so that the team has more time to learn, and dynamic situations have more time to settle out.  

They learn to identify which decisions should be made as early as possible and which decisions are Key Decisions — High Impact / High Unknown decisions.  By definition, these decisions have Knowledge Gaps.  By closing Knowledge Gaps, teams build the knowledge needed to make better decisions.

The central element of Rapid Learning Cycles is the learning cycle. This short, focused period of work seeks to answer questions (Knowledge Gaps) the team has about an aspect of their program so that they can make better Key Decisions. During a learning cycle, team members close Knowledge Gaps, and then at the end of a learning cycle, they share what they’ve learned with their teams, then decide what to learn next in a Learning Cycle event. Teams and stakeholders make Key Decisions at Integration Events.

This series of Cardsmith boards support a Kickoff Event to establish Rapid Learning Cycles for a team.

Learn More:

The Path Through the Wilderness:

The Elements of Project Management for Rapid Learning Cycles by Katherine Radeka

About the Rapid Learning Cycles Framework

The Rapid Learning Cycles framework accelerates innovation by helping teams make decisions at the right time with the right people and the best available knowledge. The framework was developed by Katherine Radeka and first fully explained in her book, The Shortest Distance Between You and Your New Product: How Innovators Use RLCs to Get Their Best Ideas to Market Faster. You can learn more about the framework at the Rapid Learning Cycles Institute.

rlc decision matrix

RLCf Key Decisions Board

Key Decision Matrix:

Key decisions are High Impact / High Unknown decisions.

A Key Decision is a significant decision that has high impact on a product’s ultimate success, and that the team does not have the knowledge to make with confidence. We handle these decisions carefully because they make or break the program. 

By definition, Key Decisions have significant Knowledge Gaps that the team needs to close in order to make the decision without guesswork.

Instructions for use of this Template:

  1. In Free-Form View, brainstorm the potential Key Decisions. Put each Key Decision on its own sticky note.
  2. Group related Key Decisions together and combine any that are so close that they could be duplicates into a single Key Decision.
  3. Switch to Grid View.
  4. Sort your Key Decisions into the grid.
  5. Assign an owner to each Key Decision that is both High Impact and High Unknown.
  6. Copy only these Key Decisions to a Key Decision Flow Board.

Learn more:

Decisions That Stick — Why Innovators Need Rapid Learning Cycles by Katherine Radeka 

 

About the Rapid Learning Cycles Framework

The Rapid Learning Cycles framework accelerates innovation by helping teams make decisions at the right time with the right people and the best available knowledge. The framework was developed by Katherine Radeka and first fully explained in her book, The Shortest Distance Between You and Your New Product: How Innovators Use RLCs to Get Their Best Ideas to Market Faster. You can learn more about the framework at the Rapid Learning Cycles Institute.

rlc plan decision template

RLCf Learning Cycles Plan and Key Decision Flow Board

Learning Cycles Plan and Key Decision Flow Templates:

We combined these templates because they use two different views but get shared with the same people. They are also both key management documents that get created during the Kickoff Event, and then maintained as the team’s plans evolve.

Key Decision Flow:

The Key Decision Flow uses the FREEFORM view to develop the sequence of Key Decisions for the current phase of work.  At the end, the team has an understanding of how knowledge flows from one decision to another until the team reaches the endpoint for this phase.

Learning Cycles Plan:

This is a visual plan with a timescale, built with the GRID view.  It shows a team’s Learning Cycles and Integration Events.  On this plan, Learning Cycles represent periods of time, showing when the Learning Cycle starts and ends.  Integration Events represent points in time when Key Decisions will be taken.  Integration Events are always at the end of a Learning Cycle.

Instructions for use of this Template:

Prior to the Kickoff Event:

Create a copy of this template. Rename it “Key Decision Flow”.

Share this template with your team members.

Switch this board into the Freeform view.

Create a copy of the “Key Decision Flow” you created.  When you do, select the option to “Share the new board with the same people.”  Rename this board “Learning Cycles Plan.”

  • Switch this board to Grid view.
  • Prepopulate the Row Labels with either individual team members, functional groups, subsystems or subteams.

In the Kickoff Event Part 1: Build the Key Decision Flow.

  • Copy ONLY the Key Decisions from the upper right-hand quadrant of the Key Decisions board.
  • Place the Key Decisions in a logical sequence.
  • Along the way, look for opportunities to:
  1. Push Key Decisions later, all the way to the Last Responsible Moment.
  2. Add any missing Key Decisions.
  3. Combine any Key Decisions that are essentially the same.
  4. Delete any that don’t make sense.
  5. Add provisional Key Decisions if that allows you to make a final Key Decision at a later Last Responsible Moment.
  6. Copy this sequence of Key Decisions into your Knowledge Gaps board.

In the Kickoff Event Part 2: Build the Learning Cycles Plan step-by-step.  All cards get copied from the Knowledge Gaps board into this one.  It’s best to do this one category at a time.

  • Decide how long your Learning Cycles will be and how many Integration Events you will have. 
  • Use this to fill in the column headers with “Learning Cycle #_”  and “Integration Event #_” – you can start by evenly spacing Integration Events across your plan.
  • Put Key Decisions into Integration Events.
  • Validate your Key Decision flow:
    • Are Key Decisions in the right Integration Event?  Can they be pushed even later?
    • Do any Integration Events have no Key Decisions?  You can remove those.
    • Do you need to add any Integration Events to accommodate the Last Responsible Moments for Key Decisions?
    • Is the spacing right?  Do you need to rearrange the Learning Cycles to get the right amount of time between each Integration Event?  Remember that Learning Cycles are always the same duration, but Integration Events don’t have to be evenly spaced.
  • Load in your high priority Knowledge Gaps:
  • Do Now
  • Do Next
  • Prioritize
  • Optimize the plan with only these Knowledge Gaps.
  • Add in your remaining Knowledge Gaps — only to the extent that you have time:
    • Do If Time –> Place in the Do Not Do column if you don’t have time.
    • Do Not Do –> Place directly in the Do Not Do column.
  • Add the dates to the column headers.

Learn More from Katherine Radeka:

Why Teams Need Deadlines to Pull Innovation

Rapid Learning Cycle Events Don’t Move: Three Ways the Rapid Learning Cycles Framework Reinforces Project Timeline

About the Rapid Learning Cycles Framework

The Rapid Learning Cycles framework accelerates innovation by helping teams make decisions at the right time with the right people and the best available knowledge. The framework was developed by Katherine Radeka and first fully explained in her book, The Shortest Distance Between You and Your New Product: How Innovators Use RLCs to Get Their Best Ideas to Market Faster. You can learn more about the framework at the Rapid Learning Cycles Institute.

rlc knowledge gaps template

RLCf Knowledge Gaps Board

A Knowledge Gap is something you need to know. It may be something you need to know in order to close a Key Decision, something needed to deliver on a feature or performance gain, or something necessary to ensure that the product is safe and reliable enough.

Teams always have more Knowledge Gaps than they can close. Much of the “art” of leading a Rapid Learning Cycles program is learning to prioritize — which Knowledge Gaps to close early, which ones to defer and which ones to consciously leave open.

By definition, every Key Decision has at least one Knowledge Gap to close before the decision can be made. When the team creates the first-pass list of Knowledge Gaps, they turn to their map of Key Decisions to identify the Knowledge Gaps related to those decisions. Then the team goes further out to look for other Knowledge Gaps, some of which may take precedence over Knowledge Gaps related to Key Decisions.

The team’s first list of Knowledge Gaps will probably be long and overwhelming. The team will immediately whittle the list down to something manageable by establishing priorities. Teams can move into learning a lot faster if they work together to establish the Knowledge Gaps they will close first.

Learn more from Katherine Radeka:

Knowledge Gaps: The “Known Unknowns” In Your Innovation Program

Three Types of Knowledge Gaps to Close Learning Activities to Establish Facts, Develop Alternatives and Find Limits 

About the Rapid Learning Cycles Framework

The Rapid Learning Cycles framework accelerates innovation by helping teams make decisions at the right time with the right people and the best available knowledge. The framework was developed by Katherine Radeka and first fully explained in her book, The Shortest Distance Between You and Your New Product: How Innovators Use RLCs to Get Their Best Ideas to Market Faster. You can learn more about the framework at the Rapid Learning Cycles Institute.

rlc core hypothesis template

RLCf Core Hypothesis Board

In the context of the Rapid Learning Cycles framework, the Core Hypothesis is a short description of the product vision that the team develops during one of their first meetings together. The team develops it together so that all team members are aligned about the product’s most important objectives.

Every product idea has a hypothesis at the center that encapsulates the organization’s vision for the product. We call it the Core Hypothesis because it is unproven until the company has released a profitable product.

The Core Hypothesis has three dimensions:

  1. Customer: What customer value does the product deliver, and how does the customer interact with the product to realize that value?
  2. Technology: What core technologies will be used to deliver the value?
  3. Business: What is the business model? How will you turn this into a profitable business?

The Core Hypothesis will point the team toward some of the most important early learning they can do — develop better knowledge about the concept’s soundness as a product. The team will either validate the assumptions embedded in the Core Hypothesis or demonstrate that the product concept has some fundamental flaws before the company wastes much time and money on it.

Either of these outcomes is a win for the team and for the company. An early “no-go” decision spares precious R&D time for better programs.

The faster you can confirm the Core Hypothesis, the faster you can get your new product into customers’ hands.

Instructions for use of this Template:

  1. In Grid View, your team members can add their ideas for technical, customer and business elements of the Core Hypothesis into the Ideas row.
  2. The Project Leader uses these ideas to facilitate a discussion and captures the outcomes in the top row.

This will lead to a Core Hypothesis in this form: The (product name) uses (the technology) to deliver (the customer value) so that we get (the business value).

Learn more:

What to Do If Your Group Struggles to Find Its Core Hypothesis by Katherine Radeka

About the Rapid Learning Cycles Framework

The Rapid Learning Cycles framework accelerates innovation by helping teams make decisions at the right time with the right people and the best available knowledge. The framework was developed by Katherine Radeka and first fully explained in her book, The Shortest Distance Between You and Your New Product: How Innovators Use RLCs to Get Their Best Ideas to Market Faster. You can learn more about the framework at the Rapid Learning Cycles Institute.

rlc assumptions risks template

RLCf Assumptions and Risks Board

This template is intended for use by teams that are using the Rapid Learning Cycles framework in very early development.

It leverages the Business Model Canvas from Alex Oosterwalder, but adds additional areas of assumptions and risks faced by technology projects and startups.

These assumptions and risks often surface potential High Impact / High Unknown Key Decisions and potential Knowledge Gaps.

Instructions for use of this Template:

  1. Using the column headers as prompts, enter Assumptions and Risks for this phase of your program. You’ll see a placeholder for your Core Hypothesis cards — you can copy these from the Final Statement row of your Core Hypothesis board.
  2. Discuss the assumptions and risks that this exercise surfaced. Where did you find potential Key Decisions?
  3. Color these potential Key Decisions green, and then copy your potential Key Decisions to the Key Decisions board.

Learn more:

Too Many Key Decisions or Knowledge Gaps? Find Your NUDs to Find Your Focus by Katherine Radeka

About the Rapid Learning Cycles Framework:

The Rapid Learning Cycles framework accelerates innovation by helping teams make decisions at the right time with the right people and the best available knowledge. The framework was developed by Katherine Radeka and first fully explained in her book, The Shortest Distance Between You and Your New Product: How Innovators Use RLCs to Get Their Best Ideas to Market Faster. You can learn more about the framework at the Rapid Learning Cycles Institute.