Future Thinking: Write the headlines
If someone didn’t say “if you don’t know where you’re going you’ll get there every time” then they should have done.
As agile methodologies have become more widely adopted so has the idea of having a definition of done.
Achieving that level of clarity early on is useful. You know what you need to do and can agree on it with a stakeholder. This reduces the surprises and keeps the focus. You can think about everything you’re doing and evaluate if it will take you towards achieving that goal.
The “Write the headlines” approach comes before this. It enables you to take a futuristic look and identify the things you want to achieve in the longer term. In my experience, it is more useful than just writing goals as you get people to express why something is important. You’re also able to start to think about how others might perceive the outcome, what will matter to your customer. This shift in thinking is to a place where bigger ideas can start to form.
First, define the scope of the discussion. This may be a team, a project, a product or something else. Ideally, it will be something you can draw a box around and that you want to change.
Next, decide the time frame for the change to take effect. This may be 6 months, it could be 2 years. You want to aim to be thinking beyond the launch and in the period where the benefit of adoption is starting to be felt.
Individually, get people to write down the headlines they would like to see being written about the thing in scope. You may want to add variation here. Have headlines from media sources that will like what you do. Think about it from a trade or industry publication perspective. Depending on your business it may be appropriate to think about the social media posts you would want to see.
As a group get people to explain why they have come up with the headline they have. At this stage, you are starting to capture two things — the things that people want to celebrate and the risks of things they see going wrong. Remember, all models are wrong they just help you be less wrong. The conversation that takes place is often more useful than the activity itself.
As a group select a couple of positive and a couple of negative headlines that you agree are the most important things to achieve or avoid.
You can then start to work out what it is you need to do to maximise the success of that happening.
Finally, it is useful to go back to the individuals who have contributed and get them to express the sentiment behind the headline. Uncover the emotions that people are expressing and bring those out. This will give you an idea of how people feel, or want to feel, about the change. This is a big input to your change management approach.
Why do this?
This approach gets people to think not about how the problem will be solved but what matters.
You uncover aspects of what people think, what people feel and what people will do. This is vital to achieving real change.