How executives at Thoughtworks plan and prioritize while remote: Mural Imagine recap

Written by 
Nicole Smith
November 12, 2020
How executives at Thoughtworks plan and prioritize while remote: Mural Imagine recap
Written by 
Nicole Smith
November 12, 2020

MURAL Imagine recap: Executive planning at Thoughtworks

This season on MURAL Imagine, we're bringing you live sessions and workshops to shine a spotlight on companies that have embraced change in 2020. One of these changemakers is Thoughtworks, a global software consultancy focused on solving complex problems with technology.

James Pickett
is a principal in the advisory services group at Thoughtworks and a skilled facilitator. James joined MURAL’s Hailey Temple for a live session about how Thoughtworks’ leadership team adapted their strategic planning sessions for a remote world. It’s no secret that attempting to replicate in-person events remotely requires some creativity and the right tools, and James shared what he learned from the experience.

Watch the video recap below, or read on to learn how James and the Thoughtworks team planned and prioritized for 2021. Then, borrow their template to replicate their success with your team.

Executive offsite goes online

Every year, Thoughtworks’ Extended Global Leadership team (EGLT) gathers for their annual planning offsite. For one week, the team of 27 leaders from around the globe comes together for a face-to-face to reflect on the year, plan for the upcoming one, and prioritize strategic initiatives as a team.

Of course, the global pandemic made this impossible in 2020. As a co-facilitator of the event, James was tasked with adapting it for a remote team.

James explained, “The ability to collaborate and build community within [the] leadership team is [a] key aspect of that face-to-face.”

So, the question was: How could the EGLT conduct their “offsite” online without losing the collaborative magic that comes from face-to-face workshops? This is where MURAL came in. MURAL is a digital workspace for visual collaboration, allowing teams to work together from anywhere. Nearly half of Thoughtworks’ 7,500+ employees already used MURAL for client engagements, brainstorming, and more, so it was a clear solution to the challenge.

But it wasn’t as simple as just moving online. “We have folks spread out across so many geographies and different time zones,” James said. “Getting everyone together for a sustained period of time [was] not feasible.” He knew that he would have to rethink the structure of the event.

To accommodate this, Thoughtworks split the event into five three-hour sessions over a period of three weeks. James explained that this approach enabled the entire EGLT to join at a reasonable hour, collaborate in real time, and complete the exercises they’d typically cover in a face-to-face.

Using MURAL to facilitate collaboration

Some sessions were, by design, more one-directional and could be accomplished with a Google Slides presentation. But the more collaborative sessions — the ones designed for solving problems as a team — happened in MURAL.

The key output of the executive offsite is a prioritized list of initiatives for the upcoming year. During the event, the Thoughtworks leadership team completes a series of activities and exercises to arrive at this final artifact. Let’s look at how they used MURAL to accomplish this.

Prework: Voting and prioritization

In order to identify the most important initiatives, participants were asked to review business cases for 16 initiatives, or hypotheses, and prioritize them by voting in MURAL. This asynchronous pre-work got everyone thinking about the initiatives so the time together was more engaging and effective.

Breakout sessions while remote

After each individual prioritized the 2021 initiatives on their own time, everyone got together for a group prioritization session. They broke the team out into small groups, each with a designated group leader, and used Zoom and MURAL to facilitate 25-minute breakout sessions. Each group collaborated in a different section of the mural and on a different Zoom call to define the order of implementation for the top priorities from exercise one. As they did, James and his co-facilitator bounced between calls to support each group.

Regrouping and synthesizing

When the 25 minutes were up, they reconvened, and each group shared their top six priorities. “You could naturally see some patterns,” James explained. “There were two [top] priorities almost uniformly across all the groups.” Beyond those two, the groups’ prioritizations differed, which prompted important discussions among the team. Based on these conversations, they ended up consolidating some initiatives, defining priorities for the upcoming year, and adding valuable but less critical initiatives to their backlog.

9 keys to successful executive planning while remote

Because this was the first time James had facilitated a virtual executive planning session, he learned in real time what worked well and what could use some adjustments. Here are some lessons he shared during the MURAL Imagine session.

1. Assign prework and provide context

The more work participants can do asynchronously, the more effective your time together will be. James noted that members of the leadership team requested more prework to get them aligned and prepared on their own time.

2.  Utilize warmups and energizers

When you’re remote, you need to be intentional about creating space for connection and getting everyone in the right headspace. For example, James kicked off one session by having everyone share a unique thing about themselves that others may not know.

Get tips and templates for 20+ warmups and energizers.

3. Get folks comfortable with the tools

Not only was the asynchronous prioritization exercise a way to get everyone thinking about the topics at hand, but it was also a valuable way to familiarize them with MURAL ahead of time and make sure they had access.

4. Assign roles

Of course, you’ll need a facilitator, but consider what other roles you’ll need during your workshop. For James, this meant assigning group leads. You might also assign a moderator, a scribe, and so on.

5. Facilitate new connections

James put it this way: “We don't have the ability to go face-to-face. We don't have the ability to ... sit down and have dinner and drinks, or anything like that. But you can still create scenarios where individuals that may not interact with each other on a regular basis [have] an opportunity to collaborate. So we did think about that as we organized the teams into the preset groups.”

6. Timebox all activities

“Time was a constraint because we didn't have two days fully booked for this activity,” said James. “What we found — and this isn't necessarily unique to this exercise — [is] that you're able to get to a decision within that time frame.”

Did you know you can timebox activities using the timer in MURAL? Learn more.

7. Ask for real-time feedback

James included a space for retrospective feedback in each mural to learn what was working and what wasn’t. Then, he and his co-facilitator could implement that feedback in the next session.

8. Create a single source of truth

In-person workshops are notorious for being difficult to document. To eliminate the chaos of disparate sticky notes, photos of sticky notes, typed notes, and so on, the Thoughtworks team used MURAL as a single source of truth. They updated the mural as they went, which made it easy for them to see all the information in one place and synthesize it on the fly.

“When you're looking at everything in one place ... I found that to be particularly helpful and useful as we got to the place of being able to synthesize this information together and come to a common agreement.”

💡 James Pickett, Principal, Advisory Services | Thoughtworks

9. Keep the momentum going

Of course, the final session wasn’t the end of the story. James shared, “This wasn't the absolute final step in the process, but it was an important first step to get the executive leadership team aligned generally aligned around the areas of focus that would require more iteration.” Because the team used MURAL to capture every step of the process, they were prepared to share and explain not just the output, but also the thought process, to the other stakeholders involved.

Get Thoughtworks’ Prioritization Workshop Template

Want to replicate Thoughtworks’ success with your own team? Use this MURAL template to guide your next planning and prioritization workshop. In it, you’ll find four exercises to help your team plan and prioritize for the upcoming quarter or year.

Join Thoughtworks in the MURAL Consultant Network

Thoughtworks is a member of the MURAL Consultant Network. With a community of over 7,000 consultants, the network provides a suite of specialized services designed to elevate consultant-to-client creative collaboration. Learn more and apply here

Session transcript

Hailey Temple: [00:00:00]Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening. Wherever you're calling in from, welcome to MURAL Imagine. I'm Haley temple, and I will be your guide through today's session.

So we kicked off MURAL Imagine earlier this year to bring together people like you from around the world who are sharing ideas and fostering discussion to understand how we see work and imagining work differently. We're thrilled to welcome you back for Season 2 of MURAL Imagine for new stories, and inspiration, and workshops.

Whether you're an expert in facilitation or your simply committed to solving complex problems using visual and digital collaboration, MURAL Imagine is your space to connect, to understand, share, and grow. Our first guest who I'm so excited to introduce is James Pickett. And James is a Principal in the Advisory Services Group at Thoughtworks, which is a global software company and consultancy focused on solving complex problems with technology.

James has a problem that might sound familiar to you. He and his team were used to getting together face-to-face to prioritize and identify what they want to solve and address for the year. But with COVID and lots of other challenges, 2020 had brought some other plans. So they wanted to still have this opportunity to connect and prioritize some of these initiatives while, and still get some of that FaceTime. So they turn to MURAL and a [00:02:00] combination of other tools and technologies to make that happen. So James, welcome to MURAL Imagine. Thank you so much for joining us.

James Pickett: [00:02:08] Yeah. Thanks Haley. Thanks for having me. 

Hailey Temple: [00:02:10] So tell us a little bit about Thoughtworks, what you guys do and some of the work you do is incredible. What has been your relationship basically with technology, with MURAL so far? 

James Pickett: [00:02:22] Yeah. So, as you mentioned Haley, we're, we're a global software consultancy. And, one of the things that we, you know, MURAL has been fairly heavily, adopted, as you can see from the side over, you know, over the, over half of the different folks across our organization. We're over 7,500 employees. So, you know, ????Approximately adoption of, around half of the team. And what's interesting is, many of our, our client facing software delivery teams, they use MURAL for various visualizations. They use it for, you know, spaces for collaboration.

But one of the things that we, and we'll talk more about this scenario in a bit, but our leadership teams historically have not been, have users of MURAL. for a variety of reasons, but, so when we found ourselves in a situation for our leadership face to face, we recognize that  MURAL was a, one of the platforms that we would be able to leverage, to facilitate that session.

Hailey Temple: [00:03:14] Love it. That's great. And, and it's great to hear that so many  people at, ThoughtWorkers, I think, as you referred to them, right? You call yourselves, right? Or using MURAL. and I'm sure the team, the audience here has questions. And I want to remind everybody, if you do have questions for James, and about MURAL, and about working through anything that we're sharing today, feel free to add it to the Q and A. And we will have 10 minutes at the end of our session to answer some of these questions and have James share, some more insights and ideas. So, go ahead and add those in as we go. But, so James back to you. You talked about user for design and development. Now, you're introducing it to your executive team. So tell me a little about the [00:04:00] team, the way they, they were working before this and, and what did a face-to-face session meeting look like?

James Pickett: [00:04:05] Yeah, yeah, absolutely happy to do that. So, from a context setting standpoint, our executive global leadership team includes over, 27 people in over, 10, 11, 11 countries actually. And generally speaking, right? Just like a lot of leadership teams, right? They would get together every fall, typically in a September timeframe where we, do some, backward looking reflections, forward forward-looking planning.

And because we have such a globally dispersed team, we typically have everyone come to one location. it's called our outrageous call it a "face-to-face" and we come into that one location and the idea is it, you know, over a two-day or three-day period, two and a half days maybe, the team works together.

We go through, as anyone would do through planning, reflection, covering different topics. collaboration is obviously the, just the building community within the context of that leadership team is important. So that was a have been for many years, a really key aspect of helping the leadership team really come together, work together as a team.

And, you know, last year, for example, we held this session in Chile. And as you might, like I mentioned before, it was a, in a, in a hotel face-to-face session, social activities, workshops, et cetera, that enabled us to, plan for the following year and reflect on the prior year. 

Hailey Temple: [00:05:26] That's awesome. And it looks like a beautiful spot too. That's something you would not mind I'm sure going back to.

James Pickett: [00:05:33] Absolutely.

Hailey Temple: [00:05:33] But what does the leadership, I mean, other than of course getting the group to focus on business goals and prioritize, what are some of those values of face-to-face and either, but you felt, or that you've heard people say or? 

James Pickett: [00:05:50] Yeah, yeah, some of the value certainly is, now granted this team certainly collaborates over over the course of the year, but the ability to focus is [00:06:00] really one of the main things.

Right? You get everyone in a common place. You can kind of shut off some of the temporarily to the, to the greatest extent you could shut off some of the I'll call them distractions, although they're really just business activities that distract you from the, the activities you need to drive at hand.

And that's why within the context of that, face-to-face having the team being with a focus on critical strategic planning, for, for the upcoming year. And then certainly the, the ability to collaborate and build community within the context of that leadership team is another key aspect of that face-to-face. 

Hailey Temple: [00:06:33] I love that. Yeah. A lot of people I've I realized a lot of doing offsites too. It's an opportunity to get to know one another as people, and you want to build that trust. And that community mentioned that's so important for a leadership team to be able to work together, especially in a global, a global company like that.

James Pickett: [00:06:51] That's right. That's right.

Hailey Temple: [00:06:52] Okay. So yeah, 2020 happened. 

James Pickett: [00:06:55] Exactly. Exactly.

Hailey Temple: [00:06:56] And, and what, what was the, tell me about like some of the decisions and the conversation that happened around well, I mean, so travel is canceled for when it's a, when did you guys, I guess basically say, yeah, this is not going to happen in person. And what were some of those?

James Pickett: [00:07:13] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Great, great question. So, you know, contextually, right? We, we realized everyone kind of travel, came to a really screeching all in March, but what's interesting is, and I think this will be interesting context because we are a global organization. We actually, maybe before some other organizations saw, okay, because we have operations in China, we need to be, so how was it back in China?

And it was just, you know, not a really far leap to realize that it would eventually, impact others, you know, across the, across the globe. So the idea was we knew we already had the face-to-face plan, a session planned in September. We, it's, it's kind of a staple. So as we went through the spring, we didn't change the, the, the nee- and the need for it did not change.

And we didn't change the [00:08:00] general timeframe, but we really, we, we fundamentally realized we needed to change how we would do it. So the idea of being face-to-face in one room all at one time was, was, was not going to happen. So what we did was we took the session because we have folks spread off across so many geographies and different time zones getting every day, everyone together for a sustained period of time, not feasible.

But what we did was we, we took the session and split it into essentially five, five, three-hour event, that, you know, as much we could accommodate time zone constraints that make not make it too, overbearing in terms of calls in the middle of the night. But we took those, took the session and really re-planned what we would normally cover, but replanned it in a way that, we, it would be, it would be done virtually over a series of days, five sessions over, three weeks that enabled us to engage with one another and cover many activities that we would, we would generally cover.

Hailey Temple: [00:08:57] Got it. That's great. So this multi-day in-person session now spread out across different continents across a longer time frame in a way, but also these kind of shorter, like power working sessions in a way. So,

That's right. That's exactly right.

And so, and what, let me think about the technologies and the what's in your toolkit, these capabilities that make it possible.

I mean, MURAL of course being one of them, but what were some of the, the technologies that you used otherwise too? 

James Pickett: [00:09:28] Yeah, I mean, generally right if you're presenting, you know, information, right? I mean, we're, we're pretty heavily used:  Google slides, was probably the other; and then I, and then probably MURAL; obviously Zoom.  It's one of our mechanism that we use as we, as we are today.

And, and then MURAL, became the other platforms specifically for a session that I know we'll, we'll talk about here in a bit. 

Hailey Temple: [00:09:49] Yeah. So take us through what, what you guys, how did it start? I know you mentioned that especially this team, this Executive Team [00:10:00] may not be confident or might not have been familiar using MURAL, especially if we're thinking about design and development teams. Maybe use it day-to-day and it becomes comfortable and a habit. So, what was that process? And then how did you introduce this, on this off site, online offsite to your team and your executive team?

James Pickett: [00:10:22] Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Great, great question. so yeah, like, as you said that our Executive Leadership Team, right they're not necessarily, you know, doing visualization, building processes, information within the context of MURAL. They're obviously their teams are, but they, they at best may be consuming the output. but had not really, to great extent now, again, it's 27 people. So you had some degree of asymmetry in terms of familiarity with the using MURAL, but generally speaking, this wasn't kind of a Power-user group, as you mentioned.

So the idea was how do we introduce this mechanism within the context of one of our sessions. And one of the benefits of being face-to-face, it obviously facilitates the collaborations I talked before. We had one session where we knew we needed collaboration because we needed to actually help work the team through a prioritization exercise around, around a particular topic.

So with that, we knew, okay, let's figure out what's the best way to facilitate that. And we did that by initially, you know, with the idea of recognizing that MURAL was a good tool to be able to help facilitate this. And we initially introduced the team to, a process of voting on some of their, on, on some of the, some of the prioritization sessions that we needed to work through on some of the, the ideas that were surfaced by the team.

And I know we're going to talk about that in a little bit more, but the introduction of it was really getting them before the session, introduced to at least getting into the tool and in a very lightweight way. We preset some information and I'll talk about that in a bit more, but we got them [00:12:00] initially introduced prior to that particular session at least ensure that they had access, they could navigate because they obviously weren't a learned Power-users of the application.

Hailey Temple: [00:12:10] Right. Absolutely. Yeah. Let's take a look at the walk through the template and that's so awesome that we were able to take this, your method and templatize it and, and now, and for the team here, the group here, we'll be able to share this template with everybody to use it in your own work as well.

That's the beauty of being able to templatize these methods, but, you mentioned the first activity is a voting session. So walk me a little bit through how that worked and yeah, just let's talk first, how it worked and then kind of the why. 

James Pickett: [00:12:44] Absolutely, absolutely. So what we had the team do was,  what they were actually reviewing, what were a series of business cases or hypothesis, and what we wanted to, we provided them more detailed information as you mentioned, another tool that was just essentially a set of slides, where they would review the business case, review the impact, review the details, asynchronously. So they would review that offline. And then we directed them to come into the MURAL board that we created. And not as visually appealing as the one that template that you have here, but we had become into the MURAL board and, dot vote on the ideas and they were doing this asynchronously, independently.

So like any sort of dot-voting process that means we need to folks on the call  and sure if facilitated in the past, we gave him 12, 12 votes. You can disperse them in any way that they deem appropriate. and they would just simply select the ones that they felt were the highest priority based upon their review of the business cases and their perspective individually, as it relates to, that particular hypothesis.

Hailey Temple: [00:13:52] And you touched on this a little bit, but I'm curious why, why do asynchronous? I heard some facilitators they like [00:14:00] to bring people in and have kind of a pre-working session where they introduce the tools and stuff beforehand, but what's the value of that asynchronous time. 

James Pickett: [00:14:10] Great, great question, Hailey. So there are two, two things, at least from our perspective in this context. One, it was very logistically an opportunity for them to kind of get familiar with, with MURAL, right? Of being in it and navigating it around, if someone had access issues, we resolved it. So it was a very tactical reason in that, in that context, prior to what we would then ask them to do in the session synchronously, in terms of, within the context of the, within, within the MURAL board. The other aspect was because of time, right? We, we talked about, we didn't have this total time for this particular session was an hour and a half. And so the ability to be able to, introduce them to the business cases, cold; expect them to kind of do the prioritization as a group, which I'll talk about more. It just, we felt that we needed to give them some runway to get familiar with the content, get familiar with the scenarios, do their own individual prioritization so that when they got together it would make that session go, much more, much, much more, much more efficiently. So it was really more a function of time strategically and then probably very tactically just to make sure everyone could access MURAL and do it lightweight introduction to the tool that they may not be as familiar. 

Hailey Temple: [00:15:24] Yeah. That's smart. That's a great tip. And we are showing how voting works in MURAL here. We walked through it. I think it's important to note too, that the voting mechanism in MURAL is, it's anonymous and it's also hidden. So for example, you, if I'm casting a vote and you're casting a vote, we can't see what one another voted for. It's really, it's not b-- this. We're trying to remove the bias as much as possible so that, when the final results come in, you don't know who voted for what or, and [00:16:00] it's, but it's just kind of a good way to, I think, for, as you said, like reduce the amount of, time on the call in real time, and then also just give people a chance to reflect, and think, and practice. So that's awesome. 

And so, coming out of this voting session,what, what did you have and how did you use that for what I'm guessing is the in-person sessions or next?? 

James Pickett: [00:16:24] Yeah, that's right. That's right. So after we, everyone did their voting and so me and the other co-facilitator, we, we obviously took it. Yeah. I had an opportunity to look through it, digest it so that we can essentially obviously contextually understand contextualize.

Okay. How did everyone vote? What, you know what what's, where's the current appetite, just so that we had some context prior to bringing them into the session. So then we progressed to a group activity that was going to be done synchronously. And what's interesting and I know you'll unhide that particular panel, this was particularly key for us.

You talked about an audience that's not as comfortable with using a MURAL. The idea was when they went in and dot-voting, nothing else was visible. Right? We had everything so that it was pretty self-explanatory what, where they would be doing the voting without putting everything, you know, associated with the template, making it available, from the start. So that was, that was just, just the way to make it. 

Hailey Temple: [00:17:22] Yeah, it can be overwhelming coming into that, into MURAL with all that content. So, the hide and reveal is immense and it's in, so you use the outline for this to make this work? 

James Pickett: [00:17:36] Yes. Yes, that's right. That's right. That's right. That's right. 

Hailey Temple: [00:17:39] Ok.

James Pickett: [00:17:39] So once, once we got the group into the actual session, we then I'm at this point in the, in the session, obviously there were other things happening, but at this, for this particular session, we divided the group into, into five, five, five groups.

We, had, identified a group lead, prior to the session. So we kind of gave them a heads up so that [00:18:00] they were aware of that particular ask. and the idea was now that they've done their individual prioritization,  asynchronously, let's come to your group. And the idea wasn't just to take the top five or six, the idea was, hey, all of these ideas are still valid ideas.

You obviously can see how the team has or individually rated them. but now, now you as a group spend some time collaborating. And, do your own next level of, of, of prioritization. So this is a great opportunity for someone, if they're very passionate about a particular one to make their case to someone else, why they chose that particular area and why it should continue to remain a top priority.

So with the idea, though, we wanted to take those 16 ideas and get everyone to come back with give me your top, your top three, and then your next three, just so that we at least, you know, had them do that individually. And when you did this, they were broken out into separate, Zoom rooms, right? And you know, everybody was familiar with doing different rooms and Zoom. So we broke them out into separate Zoom rooms that working through their prioritization, having conversations about the, about the business cases, collaborating with one another, deter doing a, another level of prioritization.

And, you know, we gave him maybe,  you know, 20, 20, 20, 30 minutes or so to do that. And then obviously you have to know that they would come back out and report out to the rest of the group, what their, how their group, organized information. 

Hailey Temple: [00:19:28] Gotcha. So just to make sure I understand too, it's you had the individual space to reflect, and now you're giving, you're giving people an opportunity now to come together and have these smaller breakout discussions. Where the breakout groups that you did in Zoom across different parts of the organization or was it the, each group was an individual team? Or?

James Pickett: [00:19:52] No. Great. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Great, great question. the idea was we wanted to make this as cross-functional cross, [00:20:00] geographical as possible, right? So we, we actually, we, you know, me and the other co-facilitator we did predefined what those teams were. And we were intentional about that because you know, some of the things that we were considering, isn't you, we don't, we didn't want any of the prioritization to be biased toward any particular geography based upon their, their unique requirements. So, we wanted to one create the opportunity to, not have any sort of regional bias.

We also wanted to give people an opportunity to maybe interact with folks they may not interact with as regularly, right? We don't have the ability to go face-to-face. We don't have the ability to, you know, sit down, and have dinner, and drinks, or anything like that. And, but, but you can still create scenarios where individuals that may not interact with each other on a regular basis to give them an opportunity to collaborate. So we did think about that as we, organized the teams into the preset groups. 

Hailey Temple: [00:20:53] All that and what about, so you, you also said you had group leaders that you introduced. So you had, in terms of your, your team making this happen, it was you as a, one of the facilitators. You said you had a co-facilitator and then group leads.

So what was the, I think we talk about facilitation and kind of who does what roles, like what role did that co-facilitator play for you to help you and the team succeed and then what are the group leaders do? And what were some of the expectations you set there? 

James Pickett: [00:21:27] Yeah. Great question. So the co-facilitator and I, we, we really, you know, it wasn't one leading the other, not, we really did.

You know, set the, you know, essentially designed the session, set up the board appropriately, and during this portion of the session, we actually would bounce between Zoom rooms just to make sure that they were making their way through the process. And really the, the leaders that we identified in these sessions, right?

They were, you know, it's kind of first among equals, right? We didn't really, they w they, we, they were essentially accountable to, you know, make sure they stay on time, make [00:22:00] sure they're adhering to the, the, the ask of having their top, top three next three. And, being the one, you know, accountable to report back out to the group.

But, you know, so they, they, they were, you know, peers in terms of being part of the leadership team. so there wasn't any special, you know, any special designation that we asked them to do just simply, you know, lead their teams. And, and, and certainly they obviously are everyone on this team is more than capable of facilitating and working through various various topics.

So they were, we gave them a heads up that, that we would want to ask them to, to that. they were, they were perfectly fine in serving in that role. 

Hailey Temple: [00:22:35] Yeah, that's great. It's designating those, it's the great facilitator tip too, that you're showing like a good practice of designating roles and giving people responsibility in those smaller groups so that when you put them in breakouts, it's not just a, all right, so who's, who's running this show, but I'm giving you a, somebody

James Pickett: [00:22:54] Right.

Hailey Temple: [00:22:54] Accountable for the success, and I'm bringing that back. So, and  also  I'm curious about the, sometimes a lot of questions that we get around about doing breakouts in MURAL  and using a video conference tool is like, do I use a different MURAL for the breakout group? Or do I keep everyone in the senior role? So it looks like you kept everybody in the same MURAL. And you, there's these little dotted lines kind of for the team. So talk me through, like, why did you to keep everyone in one mural and then like, what was your, how did you tell them to use mural in their breakouts?

James Pickett: [00:23:28] Yeah. Yeah. That's a great question, because we actually did me and my co-facilitator, we talked about that and, and the idea was. you know, we want it to make it as legit, as easy as possible, right? To, to, to not have to navigate between multiple, murals or multiple screens. And that was one of the benefits of using MURAL ,right? 

You have a, you have a lot of, you're not bound by the, you know, if I say the four corners of a.slide, right? You can kind of just, you know, it's not infinite space, but it's sufficient space for us to be able to [00:24:00] navigate around and, and, and leverage it. And we VisGrouping, we had that preset prior to them coming into the session.

So, you know, if you were a group two, there wasn't any is pretty obvious where he would go in identify your, your, your, your prioritization of the hypothesis, in this session. So we wanted everyone in one mural to make it logistically. easier. and just with just, we, we also, but what we did preset, the structure, we obviously didn't put in the stickies and the, in the, the prioritize items. But we had the preset structure so that people can go into that portion of the, of the, of the board and, you know, use that as a collaboration space.

Hailey Temple: [00:24:39] Yeah. That makes sense and everyone has looks like each group has a little island in a way, or a little individual working space, which is great. okay. That's, that's helpful to get some of that context of you had these breakout groups. everyone has individual working space. You assign these group leaders for each team to keep them accountable. So you said, remind me how many you had 25 to 30 minutes or 20? 

James Pickett: [00:25:03] I think I have about 20, 25 minutes during the session, yeah.

Hailey Temple: [00:25:06] Great. Okay. So after the breakouts and you bring everyone back together into the main group, how, how does this executive team go about deciding what? 

James Pickett: [00:25:18] Yeah. So it's interesting because the step would be and this, we would do this very similar, very similar if you were in a, any face-to-face or an in-person session, right? So if everyone works in different corner, think of the metaphor of everyone, whereas working in different corners of the room: they have their flip chart, they have their stickies, they're writing up, their writing information, and then at the end, they come together and they report back out to the rest of the group. So more or less that's essentially the experience that we created through the, the, the, you know, that the panel we just showed. so at this point, everyone just simply came back and reported their essentially top three, next three, right? And what was interesting as that group, as each group leader shared their, [00:26:00] group prioritization, then me and the co-facilitator in this particular instance, that happened to be me as they were reporting out, you could naturally see some patterns, right? And it was interesting because the way it netted out of there were two that were more or less top priority, top two priorities, almost uniformly across all the groups. 

So that was, was, you know, pretty, pretty obvious with the top two were the next kind of three, four, five, six ,you had a little bit of, some differences and it was some interesting areas where the team said, wait, how, how about we combine these two? And, and, and so there was a bit of a reconfiguration of some of the ideas, which was, which was good. It was good to get that feedback because that gave us a way of thinking about how we would prioritize, prioritize those areas. And then there was a series of ideas that maybe only one group, you know, prioritized as their, as their, as their third item, or maybe everyone put it into their next three.

And then we put that into, our backlog, if you will. So that, those were the items that elevated upon the level of importance, but maybe not to the same degree as the items that are prior to us here.  And as you can see the items in the lime green, those are the ones that kind of surf this surface as the, as the groups, areas of focus and top priorities. And then we had kind of the next area in terms of, items that we added to our backlog. 

Hailey Temple: [00:27:23] Nice. So, it sounds awesome if that's kind of, when everything comes together and you have those top two, it's like, okay, that's, that's really nice that it fills up that way. And then you mentioned that the, the, the following ones, you had to have some discussion with the group now, realizing you have a really cool, unique challenge of cross-cultural cross, across different parts of organization. How do you manage that discussion in a virtual space with a big group? Because, I mean, with some people feeling maybe shy to talk aloud or worry about [00:28:00] talking over one another, how do you, what do you, what, what advice do you give to manage that? 

James Pickett: [00:28:03] Yeah, it's interesting you say that because, and, and you re also timebox this activity, right? So I think that you can go through everything and just come to an absolute final decision in that time period. maybe maybe a bit of a bridge too far, however, it, but it takes conversations after the session, right. So it's good that we at least got aligned around all of the key topics. If someone identified one of the items that were, that was in the backlog and wasn't part of the group prioritization, then, then there's conversations after the, after the session to say, "you know what I, I, I understand how the group prioritize that, but that particular item is really critical to my portion of the business." And then you start to have a conversation around how to best address it, support it, maybe not through the context of the teams that are driving, the, you know, the high priority items, but to ensure that they are at least properly addressed in some way. So, you know, I don't know that there's a, there's a, there's a, there's a secret technique, but the idea is that, you know, we, we very much are ones that we, you know, you have an idea, but you continue to iterate as you, as you learn an idea  and we would have to do this initial prioritization.

We then have to share with the rest of the others in the organization, and you will get additional feedback that may have you maybe tweak your order a bit. So, again, this wasn't the absolute final step in the process, but it was an important. First step to get the executive leadership team aligned generally aligned around the areas of focus that would require more iteration.

Hailey Temple: [00:29:32] Yeah, you're, you're bubbling up things that maybe people didn't realize are as important to them or as important to a certain team as they would have. So then you start to this, it sounds like this, this face-to-face virtual face-to-face becomes a main focal point to then have branching conversations that probably happen. And that would have happened in, in a physically face-to-face off site. Anyway. 

James Pickett: [00:29:59] Absolutely. [00:30:00] Absolutely. I mean, oftentimes the topics that we're covering, we, you know, tend to look at them. Is this a decision-making conversation? Is it alignment? Is it an update? Is it a discussion? You know, and outside of the absolute decision making conversations, a lot of them is just, they are just simply one step in a multiple step process that requires, you know, a further conversation, further endorsement before we get to the actual point of, making that decision. 

Hailey Temple: [00:30:24] Hmm. That's awesome. And you, you mentioned timeboxing and I want to make sure for anyone in the audience who does not, isn't familiar with that, they call it. No, that's okay. That's why we're here, we're explaining everything in it all out. So, how do you define timeboxing and how did you, how did you do it in this meeting? 

James Pickett: [00:30:42] Yeah. I mean, for us, I mean, with a lot of these topics, we, so just very simply just essentially giving the team a defined amount of time to drive to this prioritization because fundamentally right, you get to some degree, the work will fill the time and some of the activities with additional conversation that give additional dialogue.

But when time is, is one of the constraints then, you know, what we found and, in a lot of instances, this isn't necessarily unique to this exercise, but you find that you're able to, you get to that decision within that timeframe. As long as the team understands that constraint and it just helped us, you know, work through a session where obviously we had was time was a constraint, just because again, we didn't have, you know, two, two and a half days fully booked for this activity. And I think when you are given that constraint, that was more equally important to make sure that we gave people enough information as a pre-req, because it's not reasonable that they expect people to consume information for the very first time and then kind of then tell them it's Timeboxed to come to a decision that that may not be a reasonable ask. But giving them enough time to review it independently, time boxing, this particular exercise, we found to be, relatively efficient.

Hailey Temple: [00:31:57] Yeah, that's a great, I mean, that's like another great case for the [00:32:00] asynchronous work too, is you're giving people time to digest and, and think through these concepts and then maybe have some thoughts formed when they're coming into the conversation. But then the active time when they're together is a time when they can either advocate for a certain point or, "Oh, see, now I see your perspective" basically.

And, so you're creating those opportunities and how do you, and this is a kind of just good MURAL, a facilitation super powers moment. How did you, if you don't mind talking us through doing that in your MURAL or if you didn't use mural that's okay too. But how do you TimeBox in these virtual meetings?

James Pickett: [00:32:40] Yeah, we, in this one we didn't happen to, to, to use MURAL, right? although I learned that there is a feature that allows us to do that, but we, we just simply had a timer, write the code to a facilitator and article facilitator. We were, we essentially were the ones driving the Timebox. And we would tell, communicate the folks during, particularly during the breakout session that we would, hey, you have this amount of time.

This is the, the time that we planned to return. So it was more, you know, us facilitating them to the time versus having a timer in the session. 

Hailey Temple: [00:33:09] Yeah. And that's a good tip. I mean, in the breakouts, you also want to give people and say, Hey you have X five minutes or something, know, get those decisions going and make sure the team lead knows who's gonna be what you're going to be reporting out and things like that.

So, yeah. And actually, if you don't mind, just Justin, who is our fearless, MURAL leader today.  Can you show us how to use the timer in MURAL? There you go. So this is, this is a facilitation super power. And basically what you can do is set a timer and everybody who's in this mural sees it and will, and you'll hear it in about two minutes, but we have this little tone.

It kind of sounds like the "Fasten your seatbelt sign in on the airplanes." But, Oh, I can't, I didn't hear it, but maybe you guys heard it. It kind of sounds like [00:34:00] that. So it's kinda reminder, like, okay, time's up. Let's come back together. All right. So it sounds like at the end of this session or the end of these working sessions, you and how long did it take to get to this hypothesis?

Like, did you, you said, you said at 90 minute, 90 minute working sessions and stuff. Was hypothesis something you had on the first working session, the third working session, like when did it, when in the journey, did you get to this decision?

James Pickett: [00:34:28] Up to the, to the, to the, the, the final prioritization or the original hypothesis?

Oh, the final.

Hailey Temple: [00:34:34] The final prioritization.

James Pickett: [00:34:35] Final prioritizaton that we poured out synthesis was maybe 15 minutes, you know, you know, maybe, you know, 15, 20 minutes I would say. If five groups, each group had maybe four minutes or so to report back out. And I think the importance in how we were able to get through it in that time period is everyone had obviously already read the, you know, the, the, the, the, the business case slash hypotheses. So when you, if you were presenting forward a recommendation, it's not like you had to go into great detail as to what that hypothesis was or what the business case was because everyone else has obviously already read it.

Now you're just really explaining your rank order versus trying to and your reasoning behind it as a group, versus trying to explain the, the case or hypothesis itself. 

Hailey Temple: [00:35:20] Okay. That's awesome. and throughout this whole experience I'm curious. I mean, thinking about the fact that the team is used to, and maybe enjoyed doing these face-to-face sessions to have these conversations and prioritize, how, how did the group, the executive team feel about doing this virtually? And, I guess even, how did you, how do you, how did you figure that out too? How do you know how they felt? 

James Pickett: [00:35:46] That's great, great question. Both, both great questions. And I think that really dovetails into kind of a, the next panel. Normally, one of the things that we do generally, and it's pretty common for any workshop that we're holding any internal meetings, any face-to-face. We generally [00:36:00] have a wall, where we want to do, you know, almost real time, retro-like feedback.

So we didn't have the ability to do that rather see not all in one room. you know, so the idea was how do you do that throughout the five different sessions split over several weeks.? So the idea was we just simply had another panel in the, the, the mural board that just simply was very simple place for feedback, you know, very quick, keep doing, stop doing, do more of, and, and we just simply asked from the very first, session that we ran, to say, Hey, if you have feedback, you know, please put it on the board at the end of each session. And certainly prior to the following one, we would, me and the co-facilitator would take a look and see how we can. , essentially during the session, how do we, make adjustments so that we're continuing to meet the needs of the, the audience? So I think these were some of the just, and we had some interesting feedbacks on, around, you know. We need more breaks. Some of it was around, Hey, we want to make sure a certain items are, are, are leveraged more as pre-reads.

So it was, it was a useful mechanism for us to get that real time feedback and you know, not wait until the end of the last session to get feedback, but we can get feedback at the end of each session so that we can make some course corrections, even before all of the sessions were complete. so I, you know, and you asked, how did the team feel?

I think the  certainly felt that, "hey, this was considering the situation were we able to, you know, we're able to kind of get through the necessary planning that, we needed to get through for sure. And the reflection in the prior year. Certainly, you know, I still think it's really difficult to replicate the interpersonal relationship components virtually. That's just  you know, my perspective, you know, human beings, you know, we, we, we, you know, interacting with one another is, is, is a part of being human, in, in a, in a personal way. So those, that was the one thing that I think kind of the social aspect of getting to know your, your colleagues.

Obviously, it's a little [00:38:00] difficult to do that in very structured three-hour session. So, do I think we'll go back to face-to-face. I think I saw that question in there somewhere. I, I think we, we would. but, I think we recognize that we at least found a way that in this context, we were able to still get the business of the planning done, virtually.

Hailey Temple: [00:38:19] Nice. That's awesome. And, and it's really being able to respond and ask for that feedback and be flexible is an important part of a meeting too, right? I mean, if people are in these 90-minute sessions, you wanna make the most of their time and respond. do you have an example of one of those you mentioned like breaks and another one was bringing a certain topic up?  How did you incorporate this feedback for the next upcoming session.

James Pickett: [00:38:44] Yeah. Great. Great question. So certainly to break is that's probably one of the right, one of the common and one of the easier ones, right? So that after the end of the first session, it's three hours, that's still a long time over a Zoom session, three hours straight.

So if the fee, so before the next session, we just a co-facilitator and I just simply looked at how can we create space to give people, a bit, a few, a few more breaks in the context of the session itself. In some instances, there were some feedback that around, because I mentioned it, it spread over several weeks, maybe the first week there's the idea was, hey, some of this information would be more valuable if we had it as a preread. so that before the next session we said, okay, let's make sure we bring, we have more pre-reads prior to the session. So that the time together is most valuable from a collaboration standpoint versus, you know, kind of a one-way, you know, port--, conveying information. So, you know, we, we, we got feedback like that and we look for ways to, improve that. And, and from session to session. 

Hailey Temple: [00:39:45] That's great. And then it's nice you know, I, I imagine a lot of people, those people who are facilitating these meetings, don't realize that yeah, the time in the meeting is you're kind of on and you're with the group, but you do need these moments with your co-facilitator and [00:40:00] debrief and okay, well, what do we need to change for the next session I'm wanting to do accommodate given the feedback we're getting.

So that's a bit of flexibility and that opportunity to connect is important when you're building and factoring that into your remote meetings. My last question before we forget to jump into Q and a. So if those of you who are in the audience have questions for James or for me about MURAL,  about running meetings like this executive meetings retreats, please feel free to put them in the Q and a, and we'll bring them up in the last couple of minutes and answer some of those questions.

A lot of about 10 minutes or so, maybe more for Q and A. but what if you were, if you had somebody else on your team going to run an executive off site, face-to-face virtually, what are maybe three things that you would recommend they consider think about? And if they're going to do this? 

James Pickett: [00:40:55] Yeah, I would get a couple of things.

I would say if we're, when you're, the prepping the entire event from end to end, I think was really helpful for me and my co-facilitator. So I know in some instances we have, you know, you can use it as kind of organic it's real time. You're, you know, as you're using the space to collaborate, but this one, we knew where we wanted to get in the end.

So the idea, we kind of start with the end in mind and work our way back into how do we, how do we plan to that? So that was an important piece in that. We knew where we wanted to end, and it was just a matter of how do we get there as efficiently as possible. So I don't know. No, that's, that's, you know, necessarily new news, but I think that was particularly helpful when you're working virtually, because what I, what, what you find particularly virtually and Timebox. Oftentimes you go in and you facilitate a session in person. You get some feedback and you can completely adjust, on the fly where in this instance we didn't have that same degree of flexibility. the, the way we were, we were structuring the sessions. So I would say first thing is certainly, you know, essentially planned all the way through. The second thing I would say, you know, [00:42:00] certainly having that.

This, as we mentioned here, this feedback, well, that was really helpful because as we, as we went through this session, as I mentioned, it was five different sessions split over several weeks. Obviously, between, and it was typically a Tuesday, Wednesday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then the following week, Wednesday, so that we could make minor changes between, you know, a Tuesday and a Wednesday, right?

You don't have a ton of time to make a change in a 24-hour period. But as we went from one week to the next, we, we are able to make more substantial changes. So when, if the feedback wa you know, we can make more breaks. Okay. We can, we can to that pretty effectively. But if the idea is how do we need to create and make sure people have more preread so that we can come into the session better prepared.

That typically takes a little bit more time because you have to pull that information together and make it available to the, to the participants, for the following week. So those sorts of changes we can make from one week to the next versus from day to day, would be the next thing. And I, and I would say, and this is in a context of, you know, specifically with MURAL.

My experience is that, you know, although this team was not familiar with, the tool as the executive team, like I said, not as familiar with using it. it, you know, they were able to generally get fairly comfortable with it, relatively quickly. So I think, you know, my, my senses, you know, going in trying to just give them some usage???, you know, preset things, so that folks aren't, and I think the templates are great, right?

The templates are crate, give you an opportunity to kind of bound the structure, has helped with, adoption even with, even within the context of our leadership team. 

Hailey Temple: [00:43:30] Oh, that's awesome. Thanks. That's that's helpful. And I think it's what I'm hearing too, is as someone facilitating online sessions like this, you have to think about this between moments, because multiday workshops, you do have between moments.

They're not as, they're not as obvious, but now you get the opportunity to plan those moments and make them valuable and useful for people.  So James, you mentioned you'll probably, you know, hopefully travel. brans are lifted, so the team can get together face- to-face next year [00:44:00] in person, maybe in some other awesome location. But from a vr--, from the doing the virtual face-to-face, what would you say were some of the benefits for your team?

We touched on a couple of them, but I'm just recapping. Why was this valuable? 

James Pickett: [00:44:14] I think you know, it'd be beyond doing the business of the planning, obviously that was the that's the core, whether you're face-to-face or virtual. But I think in this context of the speed, you know, particularly in, in for this particular workshop, being able to get through the level of prioritization that we were able to get to through in basically an hour and a half, even kind of our, our, the member of the team that was the sponsor of this effort was, was really, you know, pleased and, and, and, and, and probably a little surprised that we were able to get to that place in that period of time.

So being able to collaborate in this, in this context, albeit, virtually, you know, was a huge, huge, value added. And I think in terms of the synthesis, kind of at the end, right? That was very, very, very helpful. So, as I mentioned, as each group was recruit presenting back, it was helpful to be able to really synthesize that real time on the screen, capture it.

Everyone could see how that was, how that was tracking. And, you know, I know many of us on the call facilitated various sessions. You're doing that on a flip chart or whiteboard or what have you, but it was interesting. And I, I don't, I don't know if this is. You know, scientifically proven, but I think something about having all the information in one place, you can see it all at the same time, actually, in my perspective, helped us with the synthesis and getting consensus because you can certainly see all the information.

It was more easily to get to the places and to see the patterns, right? When you're looking at everything in one place, which is difficult to do with flip chart paper all over the room. But with it all in one screen, I found that to be. Particularly helpful and useful as we got to the place of being able to synthesize this information together and come to a common agreement.

Hailey Temple: [00:45:53] Especially since it's over a long time. I mean not long, but in terms of, you know, when you think about a [00:46:00] multiple day in-person session, being able to kind of refresh or refresh your memory is great. And then even now being able to use that as a reference document where everyone says, this is kind of the source of truth, where this, these are the things we prioritize and we agree on and we have this to look back to and refer to, whereas in- person, you know, you, I don't know if you've experienced this, but trying to like take pictures of everything.

James Pickett: [00:46:25] Absolutely.

Right. You're recreating it in some sort of electronable, electronic, shareable artifact where doing that while you do it, just cuts down a whole ton of time. So absolutely yeah. 

Hailey Temple: [00:46:36] Typed way too many sticky notes into PowerPoint presentations in my, in my day. 

James Pickett: [00:46:41] Absolutely.

Hailey Temple: [00:46:42] Yeah. That's awesome. So, wonderful the, to hear that the team was able to accomplish this too. And I know Thoughtworks, you guys is a consultancy are pushing the boundaries of technology and thinking about different ways to use technology like MURAL. So what's, what's next for, for MURAL and Thoughtworks. And where do you see it going? 

James Pickett: [00:47:03] Yeah, I think, I mean, from a before, I mean, certainly right. It's, it's, it's heavily used within the context of our, our, software delivery teams in the work that they do, you know, a product folks or, you know, various others, they use it for various things for visualization and collaboration of, of different concepts. What I, what I found interesting in and particularly in a context of working with our leadership team. There have been other use cases, right?

That we have seen additional adoption with, within that group. It still a journey you know. It's still a journey with the group, but yeah, certainly, you know, there've been times when we need to collaborate around a particular process, we've been able to use mural, mural, templates and things for that.

We've been able to use it even when we want it to what we just, what I just shared. And we talked about, you know, going to the next level of the organization, you know, specifically our Chief Talent Officers shared it with, different, heads of, different heads within countries. So using the [00:48:00] same mechanism, using the same tool, you know, that was interesting to see that, that, that we essentially still leveraged the leverage model for that.

And with that, with, again, Next level of, leadership audience. So I think it's just, I think now using it in the context of this face-to-face has, you know, made it a, a tool that I've seen us just in a very short time, start to use in other context just in terms of our, our kind of more, business as usual collaboration as a global team.

Hailey Temple: [00:48:29] That's great. Well, congratulations on you know, accomplishing this with your executive team and bringing them together and making space for those conversations. So I, and I think, I imagine our team, our audience here has some questions and are they're eager to get answered. And if there's anything like, yes. Anything MURAL-related I think, I mean, from your experience, is there anything you feel confident answering? Of course, like feel free to answer it. And of course I am happy to jump in and answer, so let's see. first one is how did you convince leaders who might not use MURAL often to use it for this session? What's your pitch, really? To an executive who might be, we talked about like onboarding and some like simple tasks, but is there kind of like a, you know, like another tool? Really? 

James Pickett: [00:49:21] Yeah. I think the idea quite honestly, was everyone understood, right? We were in a, you know, a highly unique unplanned activity. So the idea of going beyond your comfort zone, generally, we already had a, essentially a willing audience  where?? In community recognizing that, "hey, we can't be face-to-face no, we're not going to do this, you know, on flip on flip charts and yes, we have to leave, you know, the slides that everyone's accustomed to consuming."

So I think we already had a willing audience and then just giving everyone that opportunity to go into the tool before the session. So that any discomfort they could at least make some steps [00:50:00] towards to make some steps in terms of increasing their comfort level independently and not, you know, you know, obviously being put on the spot with trying to navigate the tool, during the collaborative session.

So I think the situation itself lended itself to a greater adoption. And I think the idea of giving them an opportunity to go in, in advance independently, was another, it was another element to that that helped our cause. 

Hailey Temple: [00:50:22] Nice. Yeah, that's great. So we talked about, we touched a little bit on, you said you imagine next year, hopefully things pending, you'll travel.

Are you still planning to use neural for these types of workshops and no pressure to say yes, but like how do you see it? Yeah. I imagine that.

James Pickett: [00:50:41] Yeah. It's interesting you say that. I mean, so short answer is, I don't know, but I can say, but in turn the context of the face-to-face., you know, I,  hard to say, but in the context of using it for like the only time this team collaborates, isn't just once a year, right?

They're collaborating, you know, weekly on instances daily. so, but having, you know, we, we, I have seen us use mural more. for, for different ways of collaborating through our normal day-to-day operations. So I would say, you know, face to face to be determined and how would we used, but certainly in terms of adoption through, day-to-day BAU, ecto, or business as usual activity, as an opportunity there for sure.

And, and I've seen that start to take hold even, even now. 

Hailey Temple: Nice. That's awesome. So it's a way to your point, like continue this bridge and conversations that are going to happen. Okay. Let me see, there's something thing in particular. Oh, so this James Thomas had a question. how long did you leave the voting such an active for?

It sounds like. So when you did the asynchronous voting, it was for an extended period. And without that being facilitated, right. So, How did that work? 

James Pickett: Yeah, we, we left the voting open for a couple of days, actually. so, and yes, it was not facilitated and I I've already shared this [00:52:00] with our friends at mural, but you know, this is a learning for us as its own, you know, as, as co-facilitators we did not.

We realized after the fact that we needed to not give everybody we needed to adjust this setting in terms of who had the ability to end the session. Essentially, everyone can't be a facilitator. They had to come in more as a, as a, as a, as a user. so we had, at a little bit of an oops when someone finished their voting, right.

Natural thing is like, I'm done voting, voting. So they hit the in voting session. Well, That ended the session for everyone. So, lesson learned for us, right. That, okay. We can give everyone that was attending other than me and my co facility in the co-facilitator no one else we made it so that no one else could end the voting session and everyone else we're we're giving a different setting, so that, that would not happen. But yeah, we left it open for, you know, a couple of days. and, yeah, they went in and voted in asynchronously. 

Hailey Temple: Great. Yeah. That's I mean, and we appreciate that. That's really helpful. And I've noticed that too, with voting you'd be very explicit and there are ways to set the permissions to right. Only you can end the voting session and no one else can, but, yeah, those are definitely like you, you and I are learning about the magic of facilitating online meetings together with murals.

So that's awesome. let's see. Do you have any tips? And I love the audience to answer some of this too, but you talked a lot about the need for social connection and opportunity. And I know this meeting was very focused on, on the, the work and getting the work done and making lists of that time. But, Do you have any recommendations for like social activities you can do online?

James Pickett: Yeah, it's interesting. So I'm, I'll say what we did specifically in this session. I mean, there's probably an infinite number, but we actually, you know, had folks, we actually opened the session like 30 minutes before. 30 minutes after to just give some time for the teams to interact and collaborate outside of the context [00:54:00] of the session itself.

So that was a, you know, some people took advantage of it. Some, you know, if it's too late, obviously time zone wise. So, you know, we would lose a good bit, but we, we gave them space. We communicated that in advance and that was kind of that unstructured. structured unstructured time. So we had a window before the session would start and teams, they were able to, interact with one another, prior to the session.

And then we obviously had different, different types of icebreakers and, and, and what we call energizers right at the beginning of each session. Just to, again, you're going to be on a call for three hours. How do we make sure folks, you know, are energized and, and, and, and give them an opportunity to collaborate a bit.

Hailey Temple: Nice. What was one of the energizers you used? I was looking for. 

James Pickett: Oh, yeah. Yeah. You know, it was interesting. One of them was, you know, kind of give an idea that you have something that, you know, explain something that no one on the team, you a unique thing about yourself that people don't know that that may not know.

So that became very interesting as people went around and shared that, we, we, we talked about since we were in a, you know, Pandemic right. And where we're at all virtual learnings. Like, so what, what things do you, are you surprised that you do miss and what things are you surprised that you don't miss?

So just ways to create some sort of collaboration, amongst the team and some, some sort of energy. And I've seen it. I see it. I see a note in here, like from someone with a virtual coffee before the sessions. Absolutely. These are all the things that just create some, some degree of in-person interaction that is, you know, just makes the session, a little bit more personal.

Hailey Temple: Nice. Yeah, we have Michelle. Yeah. She said the virtual session. Claudia recommended like a team scrapbook of memorable moments of 2020. That's a really nice one. Yeah. Julia Julie's question. I really like because, Oh actually. Okay. I seen Justin here making a note and I'll tell, tell the team about like, as we have time for one more question, you, you're [00:56:00] in new sessions with people for three hours.

And I think a lot of concern is like engagement and keeping people paying attention. How do you prove, I don't know what your thoughts are like preventing multitasking or like leveraging multitasking. How do you see. Multitasking and like keeping focus in meetings like this. 

James Pickett: Yeah. I mean, that's, that's hard, right? I mean, I think one of the key, and this is without, with just general meeting, not just this face to face, but having the camera on, right. It kind of prevents you from, completely checking out. So that's helpful. And it also creates the, the, the engagement. That that'd be one. I think the other is. You know, having the chat going that that is another space for people to be able to create and collaborate with with one another.

So, yeah, I think those are just some things that we use and, and also, you know, making sure if you hear someone throughout a session, not really communicating through chat or, verbally. Just, you know, Hey, you know, it's an interesting concept and you call on that person and just to try to engage them.

So, you know, probably not, not, not anything earth shattering there, but it is an ongoing challenge, but you know, something that quite honestly, right. We're all having to learn to operate in the, in this, in this kind of new normal. 

Hailey Temple: Yeah, a little things that do make an impact. That's nice. Like all details.

Wonderful. Well, thank you, James so much for joining us today and for sharing this story too, it's like a unique, really cool, unique challenge. And, being able to bring this group as a global group together at thought works and using your all as part of it, or we feel really happy part of that journey with you and.

I also want to give everybody on the audience a huge thank you for joining us today. And we're coming together for our first of the MURAL Imagine a series and season this for the next month. So next we have Emem Adjah with us with me next week, who is the global head of monetization at Spotify. And she'll be sharing how Spotify [00:58:00] collaborate visually to bring imagination, to thinking about setting goals and their objectives and key results.

So. If you would love to join us, to hear from more inspiring speakers and get some inspiration from them like James, you can register at, and you can also get this template that James walked us through and use it in your own work. And I think we're going to drop the link to that template into the chat, but in the next couple of days, you'll get a recap.

You'll get a link to that template again. So stay tuned and tune in for our next session. And thank you again so much, James. Really awesome to have you here. 

James Pickett: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it. Thanks everyone. Have a great rest of your day, everyone. 

Hailey Temple: Yay. Celebrate my favorite. I was waiting for some confetti.

James Pickett: That's awesome. Take care. 

Hailey Temple: Bye.

About the authors

About the authors

Nicole Smith

Nicole Smith

Team Lead — Customer Marketing
Team Lead — Customer Marketing @ MURAL. Previously @ Salesforce. Passionate about integrated programs, customer lifecycle, advocacy marketing, community building, and rescue dogs.

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