Take-A-Panel (Individual) Exercise to Share Everyone's Perspective

Posted on by Brandon Klein

“Take a Panel” is when participants are assigned to individually take a section of WorkWall – typically a 4’ by 8’ panel – to write and graphically depict their response to a question (or questions). It’s a mainstay of our process, because it’s effective, it gets participants physically active (not sitting and discussing), and it requires them to think through and organize their ideas in a way that can be readily reported to others and documented for later use. Typically, (in co-processing mode) each participant works the same assignment; following the individual work, participants are assigned teams, and each team then does a “walk-about” to visit each member’s panel and hear his or her report. Teams then discuss and create a synthesis of these presentations and prepare a team report, which is delivered to the large group. “Take A Panel” is often used at or near the beginning of a process, to clarify the existing understanding (or impressions about) “where we are” (Identity) and “what the problem is” (conditions and Vision). Often the assignment has two or more parts (to ensure a broad enough Scan). The scope of assignments varies, and can be as very broad, as in a from that Matt refers to as a “core dump” (a computer analogy, where everything is copied from core memory). An assignment of this type might be “write down everything you know, think, feel or what to see about (your organization/industry),” or “From your vantage point, write out your response to ‘what’s working’ and ‘what’s not working’.” Take A Panel assignments can also be narrow, for example, “identify the three most important actions that must be taken in the next 30 days to address this problem.”

To gather a wide range of ideas, perspectives and considerations. To scan the range of agreement and disagreement present within a group. To ensure each participant is given a forum to express her ideas and views. To get the basic ideas around an issue out on the table in an efficient way (it works much better than a typical group discussion). To give each participant time to clarify and express her views.

The timing is variable. This format is often is used for Scanning at the start of the design process; or after the initial phase of defining/creating the problem (in order to bring the Scan deeper and have more content coming from personal experience). It can readily be used during the Focus Phase as well, and during Act (for example, in terms of defining individual action plans in response to group work). Typical times are as follows: Board work: 20-45 minutes. Report to teams (with 5 to 6 participants per team): if 5 minutes per person, plus movement time, 40 minutes; if 8 minutes/person, 60 minutes. Team discussion and synthesis: 30 to 60 minutes. Team reports to large group: if 6 teams and 10 minutes per team, 60 minutes, plus discussion time (if applicable). In total, 2-1/2 hour minimum; 4 hours more common; and can be longer, with discussion following reports.

Strengths — Draws out the ideas of each participant. Provides a forum for each. Encourages participants to speak from their experience. Vastly more efficient than trying to hear everyone’s ideas in a large group setting. When people take to the assignment, it creates entrainment and cohesion as a group. Readily documented; provides an inventory of information that can be assessed and evaluated. Weaknesses — A lengthy process. In standard form, not everyone hears every report. Might not provide enough stretch; of itself, doesn’t break people out of their conventional patterns of thought. Specifications for Success —
1. This module is a major commitment of time; as always, make sure you’re positioned to get the results you need from it.
2. The instructions to participants generally should remind participants that this is a Scan process; generally, steer them away from taking and defending positions (or trying to “decide” early in the process) to proposing ideas and hearing the ideas of others.
3. Plan the logistics carefully; i.e., your directions to participants at each step, so they do the individual work, they find their team, they report to each other in the time required, they find their Break-Out area, et cetera. Also, plan out the staff time required for wall copying; this is often a lengthy process (e.g., taking 20 to 40 minutes per panel to copy).

SPACE REQUIREMENTS: Enough WorkWall panels for each participant, plus WorkWalls for teams for their Break-Out session, if possible.

FACILITATOR/STAFF ROLES: Digital Photo of every persons wall for record/journal keeping. Timekeeper to keep reports to the set times.

REPORTING: Usually Walk-About reports to teams, as described. See variations, below.

• Report each individual’s panel to entire group, as a Walk-About Report. Highly recommended for small groups (4 to 15); with caution with large groups since the space is often overly cramped and the reports lengthy (though if the quality of the reports are good, it can be worth it).
• In some cases, the second round of reports (teams to large group) can be omitted. The downside risk is that participants do not get “closure” on that cycle of work (and begin to distrust the process because of it).

Also see how to write a Take-A-Panel by Bill Burck