Using SenseMaker® – engaging stakeholders in the results

Published by Tony Quinlan on

After a good six years of SenseMaker® projects, one of the consistent things has been the difficulty in feeding back results to stakeholders in ways that help them make better decisions.  (I’m not a fan of big reports – partly because I think they tend to make great doorstops and bin-fillers, but mostly because I’m a lazy report-writer.)

These days I go for interactive sessions (earlier this year we did a great session with one client that combined SenseMaker results, building the Cynefin framework and then Cognitive Edge techniques like safe-to-fail probe design and Ritual Dissent – a great and enlightening day all round!).  There are two things I’ve learned that are useful:

    1. As stakeholders arrive to see the results, they must fill in a paper version of the form.
      This is important because it makes them think about what each triangle means and it triggers them back into that space if it’s been a while since they filled it in.  (Funnily enough, everyone has always done it online, but “it was a while ago” – best to be sure and make them do it again there and then.)In the early days, there were too many occasions when we didn’t do this, but would just start presenting back data on triads. The first question was usually “What is this telling me?” – you don’t get that question if they’ve just filled it in.
    2. Before they see a triad populated with data, they see an empty one and are asked to make an assessment of where they expect the data will be.
      This works best in groups, each person making a physical mark or placing a dot on a triad. It gets assumptions out in the open – it’s too easy for people to make an unvoiced assessment, then change it when the data appears – “oh, of course, I should have realised”. And then they miss the fact that they’ve adjusted their assumptions…
      For example:

Empty triad for stakeholders to assess

Same triad, populated with data

Same triad, populated with data

(and before you ask, those are a particular triad that we use to nudge people on how to use a triad)