Post-Its. More than ‘While You Were Out’
I think I should buy shares in 3M - the people who invented Post It Notes.
I seem to use them all the time when running workshops - they’re a great tool to use for rearranging complex information, to try and make sense of a problem. One of the main techniques I use is called an Affinity Diagram. Ted Eytan on DailyKaizen posted this about Affinity Diagrams last week:
Last friday, we pursued the next step in our planning around an important initiative for us (which I described earlier,
and is different than Lee’s work on the Model Line), and ended up
producing this affinity diagram in real time. It is intended to show
all the possible things we can do to obtain the outcomes we want for
our members. some colleagues pre-thought their opportunities. I wrote
mine on the fly after listening to what we had done in the previous
year and what our success was with each. I received permission to
display this image here, which in and of itself required a little bit
If you’re interested in trying this, here’s what you do:
- Give an audience for a presentation on the subject you’re investigating a book of Post-Its each.
- During the presentation, everyone writes down their thoughts / suggestions / comments on their Post-Its. One item per Post It.
- At the end, everyone sticks their notes on the wall, and takes time to read everyone else’s. NO DISCUSSION is allowed at this point.
- Everyone then spends five minutes together, re-arranging the Post-Its, so that they group together similar items. Again, NO DISCUSSION.
- You’ll end up with some notes that keep being moved from one group to another and back again. Once this seems to be about all that’s happening, allow discussion and negotiation on what goes where.
- Agree on names for the groups of notes, and label them. Re-arrange the location of whole groups so that related aspects are near to eachother.
- Groups with more notes in them tend to be more important / have more ‘easy wins’ in them.
With a group of ten peole taking part in this kind of activity, it’s easy to get over a hundred individual comments / suggestions, which can be easily categorised to create a prioritised action plan.
It’s also highly visual, and a great tool for communicating with other groups. Best of all, this activity can be done in around 45 minutes, so its extremely quick for the value it produces.