Lessons Learned

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  • #4932

    Hello community,

    I am taking some time to share my experience of a workshop I completed just about 1 week and a half ago.

    In a nutshell, this workshop did not go as planned. I was too ambitious with timing. I was only able to complete 2 out of the three exercises. Here’s what happened.

    The workshop was scheduled from 10 am to 3:45-4:00 pm – As participants arrived, I was informed that 3 participants had to leave by 3:20pm. To add to this, we started 5 min late since 2 participants advised me that they were running late because of a previous meeting.

    The project sponsor took more time than I had planned for the intros and context; which made me start the skills building exercise almost 30 mins too late. To catch up on time lost, I cut short the skills building exercise – that was a big mistake! The consequences were felt throughout the rest of the workshop – since I had to take extra time to fill in the gaps resulting from not having gone through the complete skills building – the participants did not feel this but I sure did.
    I knew then that there was no way I was going to be able to do the last part of the exercise. So I did my best to complete the first part before lunch… instead of having lunch at 12pm, we had it at 12:45pm. That was another mistake as participants were running out of steam. I gave them a bio break, but that was not enough.
    We began the second part (individual and shared building) at 1:15pm. This exercise alone took the rest of the time and was completed with 2/3 of the participants.
    Going into this workshop, I knew I was going to have a challenge with the participants considering they were all highly ranked executives (most were VP’s and Senior VP’s). The challenge was to make them focus on their model and not the individual telling the story. It was somewhat difficult to contain the conversation to just the model. This took time! Had I done the skills building completely, this may not have been too much of a challenge.
    Thank God I had someone assist me with taking pictures and videos!
    Building on my previous LSP workshop experience, which went very well, I decided to use the same LEGO bricks. The participants had their own Starter kit and I complemented this with a set I had built at the time the Landscape kit was not available. A big mistake… the participants were brick hungry! They used up so many bricks that I actually ran out of little figurines and some bricks that participants were all after. I should have bought the Landscape kit.
    This should haver been a full one day workshop! For me this was a great experience of what not to do and how to better plan. We could say that the lessons learned are:
    -Allocate more buffer into the workshop.
    -With a group of 12 participants allocate a good 60 min for skills building not 30-40. This really sets the stage and avoids any pitfalls for the rest of the workshop exercises.
    -With 12 participants, it is a good idea to have some assistance for taking notes or pictures or videos.
    -Give them more breaks and don’t delay lunch… they need the energy – especially considering that this is their first time and it does require them to work a different part of their brain they are not accustomed to, thus using more energy.
    -Provide more bricks… or buy the Landscape kit.

    The funny part of all this is that the project sponsor and many participants seemed to have enjoyed very much the experience and the outcome. Obviously this was their first time with LSP.

    Well hope this helps for beginners like me…


    Eli De Friend

    Hi Gabriel,

    Thanks for posting your experiences. Everyone should read your story.

    I’m surprised that you recommend an hour skill-building. I’m sure I was told in training that it should be 2 hours!

    Handling the talkative ones is just part of the job of being a facilitator. Doing the skills building right won’t get your participants obeying mindlessly to your every command.

    Having sufficient resources is always a bonus, but finally the objective is for people to apply meaning through a tangible medium. A single brick can mean a lot if you want it to. I often use a red brick to symbolise the red cross and therefore health, security and safety; a yellow brick to symbolise sunshine and energy; a single green brick can depict the environment and therefore sustainability. Do you get my drift?

    Still, all of your learning points are good refreshers for all of us.




    Hi Eli,

    thanks for your comments, they are all so very valuable. I’ll make sure to take into account your suggestions for my next workshop.

    Thanks again Eli…

    Marko Rillo

    Gabriel – thanks for your open description of your success and lessons learned. This is always the challenge for a facilitator – how to be well prepared, but still be ready to be flexible to changes during the session.

    While you seem to be very critical about the process I would focus to what you have said – the client was happy about the outcome. This is the most important thing that matters. :)

    A couple of points for reflection.


    I would not exactly agree with what Eli has suggested that skills building would have to be for 2 hours. It could depend on the session design and what do you consider “skills building”. Eli – can you please elaborate and describe how you have done it so far? Would be great to learn!

    I have experienced that given that the bricks are there for the day then people are able to improve their building and storytelling skills throughout the day. They get better and better with all iterations and new building tasks. Hence – with small groups I rarely go beyond 15 minutes with dedicated skills building section and so far it feels enough just to get people going and having them understand the basic rules of the LSP methodology.

    If you are short of time then one way out is to combine skills building section with your content. E.g. “Do the duck with 4 bricks … and introduce yourself using your duck to the rest or your group!” or “Build the tallest tower, and … explain your personal identity with the tower that you just built”.


    While you can always say to people – if you can’t build it with bricks – build it with words, I fully agree with you. Starter Kits can be enough 2-3 hours, but not for much more. Looking at the bright side – it perhaps saved you in terms of your schedule. If the participants might have had more bricks then they could have run over time given your constraints? :)

    All in all – this is a very nice case study. Many thanks for sharing it with us.

    Luc Cipers

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

    I was reading your post during the lunch break of a 1-day LSP workshop I conducted yesterday. The goal was to streghten the team, help ‘m to deal with changes and ‘rejuvenate’. I took almost 90′ for intro & skills building ans the workshop was a great success!

    Next one is sheduled April, 9th and I’m really looking forward to it.

    All the best,

    P.S. I had a big group (15p), but had several techniques to manage that and it worked like charm.

    Eli De Friend

    Hi Marko,
    To be honest, I never do the full two hours, but to give you an idea about how the time can be allocated.

    Instructions 1 minute + building 3 minutes + debrief 2 minutes + deconstructing models 1 minute = 8 minutes

    Instructions 2 minutes, building 10 minutes, explaining 10 minutes, debrief 2 minutes + deconstructing models 1 minute = 25 minutes

    Instructions 2 minutes, building 10 minutes, explaining 10 minutes, debrief 2 minutes + deconstructing models 1 minute = 25 minutes

    Instructions 2 minutes, building 5 minutes, explaining 10 minutes, debrief 2 minutes + deconstructing models 1 minute = 20 minutes

    So this gets you to about 80 minutes, assuming everything is running smoothly. If you choose to use the Go-Kart exercise, which is great for Story-telling and Imagination, you can easily take up to 45 minutes, if not an hour.

    In actual fact, Joyce and I normally use a hybrid metaphor-story and a hybrid story-imagination which shaves off a full exercise, but then we tend to add in a little bit of context/history/theory background to LSP before, throughout or after depending on the participants.

    In Mauritius, I had a bunch of senior academics, most holding PhDs and a couple of Professors and we completely skipped the skills building and simply ran an individual build followed by a shared vision. All I needed was to tell them that they could do it because they were so much smarter than ordinary people and briefly gave them example of giving meaning using metaphor. It worked fine, and they enjoyed it, but I would never recommend that approach to anyone. I could get away with it because of the context and because we were already in the middle of the workshop, everyone was motivated to progress and committed to achieving results.

    You can’t always guarantee having such a dedicated group of capable participants.


    I think that skills building is an absolute must but from what I have learned, the time allocated for it depends highly on the number of participants and the type of participants, as well as, as Marko stated, the session design. I also think that as I build experience, I will become better at time management.

    Marko I like your suggestion about the duck and the tower building… I think I will try this next time.

    Eli, thanks for braking down the time for each skills building block. It is very helpful.

    Wiro Kuipers

    Thanks all, for sharing you’re experiences, a must read for all facilitators – imho.

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