Visual Thinking and Learning 3.0 working together at Walmart.com

- Learning

by João Reis

As usual, three Scrum Masters and I were drinking a coffee and talking about our daily grind at Walmart.com, when a common problem emerged during our dialogue: How to improve our grooming meetings?

In my opinion the grooming meeting is the most important factor in a Sprint. Do it well and your team will know exactly what they have to do, with a low level of uncertainty. However, if the meeting isn’t organized properly, it can cause misunderstanding and your Sprint can be flawed.

As good Scrum Masters, we decided to continue the conversation in a different way. I proposed to try the Learning Canvas – a Learning 3.0 tool, together with a Visual Thinking Practice created by Pati Dobrowolski: The Big Picture Wall Map.

I could talk about Product Grooming Meetings forever, but I’ll try to describe just the mix of practices that we used, as this is the main purpose of this post.

So, let’s go!

The Learning Canvas

The Learning Canvas is an awesome tool created that promotes learning using an emergent approach.

Using a canvas, the asker exposes a specific problem and its symptoms to a team or a group of people who are interested in solving the problem. Afterwards, he explains what he expects as the outcome when the problem is solved. The group begins by sharing their experiences, what they have lived and what makes sense as a problem solution. Everybody is invited to think out of the box and to propose ideas that the asker could try. At this moment, anyone can propose anything despite of their experience. Finally, the asker decides the best solution based on what has been shared.

The Canvas is just one part of a great concept for emergent learning. There’s so much more to discover! So, after reading this post, please visit Learning 3.0 where you’ll find incredible things! Have fun!

The Big Picture Wall Map

Visual Thinking Practice Pati Dobrowolski

Anybody who knows me understands that for ten themes that I’m in, nine are about visual thinking! Since I was a kid, I have loved to draw! This subject really excites me and I’m always trying to use it in my daily grind.

One day, searching my passion on Google, I found Pati Dobrowolski talking about a visual tool that helps us go from a problematic situation, to an ideal one; whilst establishing some bold steps to get there. The method is very simple and you can get there in just four steps:

  1. Divide a sheet of paper in a half with a line
  2. On the left side, draw the current reality that is bothering you
  3. On the right side, draw the desired new reality, how the things will be when you solve what is bothering you
  4. Draw three ‘big arrows as bridges between the actual situation and the future situation, and write in each one a bold step that you think will help you to get from one side to the other.

How we arrange things to get them “dancing” together

In a reserved room, I put a Learning Canvas on the wall and distributed some sheets of paper for a group of Scrum Masters who came along to discuss our grooming meetings.

Here’s a step-by-step account of what we did:

  1. We divided a sheet of paper in a half with a line
  2. On the left side, we wrote “Current Situation”
  3. In 5 minutes each one drew the actual situation of their grooming meetings on the left side
  4. The SMs explained their drawings, and as the facilitator, I supported the discussion, sustaining questions and extracting the symptoms by writing them on post-its
  5. We all stopped in front of the Learning Canvas to verify if all symptoms written on the post-its made sense to the group
  6. On the right side, we wrote “Desired new  Situation”
  7. In 5 minutes each one drew the desired situation of their grooming meetings on the right side
  8. The SMs explained their drawings and as a facilitator, I supported again the discussion, sustaining questions and extracting the expected results by writing them on post-its
  9. We all stopped in front of the Learning Canvas to verify if all expected results written on the post-its made sense to the group
  10. In 5 minutes, each participant was encouraged to share good and bad experiences about their grooming meetings. We wrote those experiences on some post-its and fixed them to the Learning Canvas
  11. After 5 minutes of sharing experiences, each participant was encouraged to share out-of-box ideas about Grooming Meetings. We wrote those ideas on post-its and fixed them on the Learning Canvas
  12. Each participant should write the “Three Bold Steps” to go from the actual situation to the desired situation (the bridges that I mentioned before)! To do that, they must consider experiences and ideas shared in the steps before
  13. Finally, we had a discussion around the bold steps, which each one elected to try, and fixed the drawings on the Learning Canvas
  14. Conclusions

Visual Thinking helped us to be pragmatic in identifying symptoms and expected results. Sometimes we tend to be wordy when discussing these things, some of us like to talk, and don’t pay attention to the others. To draw first is an exercise in thinking before speaking, and observing a drawing made by another person is a good exercise to perceive different point of views. The strict time boxes helped us to stay focused.

Joao Reis Walmart Learning Canvas for Scrum meeting

We had no “formal asker”, so the whole group took on the role. It’s a cool idea when you’re in situations where the “Try” part of Learning Canvas can’t be a homogeneous sequence of steps, because there are a lot of different realities.

Even if the problem discussed: how to improve our grooming meetings, is something that affects everyone. Each participant has a particular focus in his daily grind and the big picture wall map supported us to visualize that, and to accept more than one way to try.

To mix practices is a cool and necessary thing. We have a lot of good ideas blooming around the world, so, why not to put them together to see if they positively affect team discussions?

That’s just a brief description about a Learning 3.0 Experience that was very helpful to us in Walmart.com. I hope it was useful to you!

A special thanks to: Melissa Itimura, Ana Marysa, Rafael Buzon and Eduardo Tardin for the great help!

Let me know your perceptions, thoughts and experiences in the comments below.


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