When and How to Plan a Product Workshop - DO OK

When and How to Plan a Product Workshop

As software developers, working closely with product designers, project managers, and startup founders is integral to defining the values and goals of various companies and products. Collaboration is key in a product or design team, where the focus is on creating superior products to deliver enhanced value to customers.

Understanding the nuances of planning and executing a product workshop is essential for every founder, manager, designer, and developer involved in conceptualizing or designing a new product. Product workshops are a pivotal part of product development, serving as a platform for ideation, alignment, and strategic planning.

In this article, we will explore the concept of product workshops, delving into their significance in the product development process. We'll discuss how to effectively plan and conduct these workshops, and also identify scenarios where running a product development workshop is beneficial or, conversely, might not be necessary. This understanding will not only streamline the development process but also ensure that the end product aligns closely with the intended goals and customer needs.

Understanding the Online Workshop - Part 2

This article is part 2 in a five-part series about online discovery, product, and design workshops. Click the links below to go back or skip ahead to the next article.



What is a product workshop?


A product workshop is narrowed by definition to the development of a single product or service. Discovery workshops can be focused on an entire company or even a broad range of products, but product development workshops are far more targeted. All those wonderful value-driven, big-picture ideas you came up with during the discovery phase can now be carried over and mapped onto a specific product.

Depending on what stage of product development you are in, these workshops could even be a continuation of the discovery phase. They can be quick, taking just a few sessions, or go on for weeks, such as with the Google Venture Design Sprint, one of many alternative design processes which, according to GV, is: “a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers.”

Whatever form they take, workshops or design sprints should be planned to last as long as necessary to achieve a minimum viable product (MVP).


Workshops help build employee and customer loyalty


Zappos core values

Source: Zapposinsights.com


The online shoes and clothing retailer Zappos.com is well known for being an amazing place to work (only 13% of employees leave Zappos voluntarily each year, according to Forbes), and having a level of customer retention (over 75%) that any business would envy. Its customers are known for coming back after their first purchase and making even larger purchases the next time! 

This is no accident. Former CEO Tony Hsieh, in his book “Delivering Happiness”, explains how the company spent an entire year workshopping its values and discovering how to apply them to its e-commerce services. This culminated in the overarching ethos of “Delivering Wow” which the company applies to every customer interaction.

Zappos was started in 1999 and earned approximately $1.6 million in sales revenue in its first year (Footwear News). By 2015, Zappos was logging over $2 billion in revenues annually, and the company has since been bought out by Amazon. Using workshops to understand your internal values and customers’ emotional needs can pay off big time.


How to plan a product workshop

When to plan a product workshop 

There are many compelling reasons to conduct product workshops. In the initial stages of product or UX design, witnessing the emergence of the first wireframes, mockups, and prototypes can be exhilarating. The entire product team becomes engaged in the process and is motivated to contribute to the introduction of the new product to the market. However, there are also circumstances in which the internal dynamics of the team necessitate additional workshops.

Contact our business analyst now!

For example, if your team is struggling with a decision, hosting a workshop could resolve any impasses caused by constraints in time and resources, or by differing opinions. Team members, like developers or project managers, often prioritize different aspects of products at various stages. Therefore, product workshops can be instrumental in clarifying the way forward when the path is uncertain. Unaligned stakeholders can divert the team’s focus from the original purpose or problem. Additionally, more dominant personalities might overshadow quieter or less confident team members, hindering the contribution of valuable insights. Conducting a product workshop can unite everyone's understanding and ensure the product aligns with the agreed-upon values of stakeholders and customers.

When should you not run a workshop?


Under Agile software development and other modern, fast-paced project management philosophies, it can be tempting to try and solve every problem with a workshop and a flurry of colorful post-it notes. However, there are times when a workshop might do more harm than good. As a project manager, those are times to sit back, assess the situation, and decide how best to move forward. Here are a few examples:

A simple meeting or discussion is equally productive

Sometimes the most productive use of your team’s time is just sitting down to talk over a key point, issue, or obstacle. You might not need a full workshop if the point in question is better served by using a simple moderated discussion, with an agenda and time limit.

Stakeholders are unready or unwilling to make decisions

During workshops, all stakeholders need to be active, vocal, and open-minded to make good forward progress. If a participant can’t or won’t decide on something, that can derail the entire process. Make sure key stakeholders are ready and willing to contribute.

A deeper, more nuanced understanding is needed

We’ve all been in meetings where the leader asks everyone in the room to read a complex document, piece of data, or research which takes time to absorb and react to. Distribute information like this ahead of time so team members can come to workshops prepared.


How to prepare for a product workshop

How to prepare for a product workshop 


While the supplies you need for a workshop are pretty basic (post-it notes, pens, notebooks, water, and/or snacks for longer sessions), the goals, participants, and activities require careful thought on the part of the organizer. Here are the basic steps you should follow as a workshop lead to prepare for a successful session: 


  1. Define a goal and output for the workshop. Be clear about what you want to achieve, and what the tangible artefacts produced during the session will be. This might be to explain the production process to stakeholders, to better understand the business needs, risks and dependencies of the product, or to create user journeys and map product functions onto different pain points or user stories.which reflects stakeholder and customer values, condensed into one readable pyramid. This will be the primary source for writing your competitive advantage.

  2. Decide on workshop participants. You might be leading the workshop, or you might want to assign a dedicated session lead who is good at organizing & leading meetings, and keeping attendees on task. Then you need to invite participants, who will be determined by the specific goals of the product workshop. This can be product managers, engineers or UX designers, stakeholders from other departments like sales or customer service, and even customers themselves. Limit sessions to 4-8 participants.

  3. Gather needed materials. This includes all the physical materials like pens, post-its, notebooks or loose sheets of paper, as well as the physical space with adequate room to accommodate everyone and all the activities you have planned. There should be a large whiteboard for sticky notes and dry erase markers, and a computer with or without a projector, if someone will be typing notes or displaying media.

  4. Run the workshop! This part might seem obvious, but making sure that key stakeholders and the workshop lead are present and following the stated goals & agenda of the workshop are critical. Without careful adherence to protocol, your product workshop can easily go off the rails without accomplishing what you set out to achieve.


Best practices for running workshops


We will give you a step-by-step guide to running a discovery or product design workshop in the next article in this series, How to Run Product Development Workshops. But before we get there, it helps plan your workshop to think about the kinds of activities that will be the most useful. These include activities that help you understand and decide, activities that help you empathize, and those that help you diverge and explore new ideas.


At DO OK, we have developed a custom activity set that helps you address all of the above focus areas. For example, the Value-driven Pyramid helps empathize by visualizing stakeholder and customer values, and the Value-driven Backlog helps map those values onto actual product functions. Event Storming helps you understand user persona and pain points, and create user stories to make decisions about product features. Mapping assumptions and pre-supposed risks allow stakeholders to explore each other’s opinions and ideas that they may never have considered.


Know when to plan a product workshop and how to succeed


There is no fixed set of activities that apply to all workshops because every product workshop and session will have different goals and desired outcomes. But by adhering to methodologies discussed in our previous article (What is a Discovery Workshop), such as the Value-driven Workshop Method, Lean Consulting, Event Storming, and the Story Points method, you can design all kinds of productive activities that encourage participation and lead to positive, informative results.


Check out soon the next article in our series, How to Run Product Design Workshops, for a step-by-step guide to running a successful product workshop.

DO OK is part of the top 7% global software engineering vendors on Pangea
We are proud to announce that DO OK is now a verified ...
25.11.2022, min read
Anca Papainog
Read more
Time to market is more critical than in-house engineering
What is near-sourcing? How to start a development project fast without in-house enginee...
22.03.2022, min read
Dmitrij Żatuchin
Read more
DO OK Recognized as One of Estonia’s Most Reviewed IT Services Companies by The Manifest
Our team is among the few companies that were listed as the most reviewed IT services i...
06.12.2021, min read
Mihail Yarashuk
Read more

Our website has cookies. more info

EU Flag