Anatomy of a DesignShop® Process:
Designing Pan Value Chain Support Systems

from Chip Saltsman's E-mail dated November 23, 1996
with commentary by Bryan Coffman

(published 12/6/96)

Editor's Note: The Facilitator's original notes are in black, normal text; Bryan's commentary and explanations are indented maroon text.

Because of the scope of this article, a glossary page was created and many of the links in the article refer to definitions in the glossary. This should assist readers who are not very familiar with MG Taylor processes and terminology.

Names of clients have been changed or eliminated to maintain fiduciary responsibility.


  1. The Purpose of the DesignShop® Event
  2. Outcomes
  3. The Design
  4. Analysis: What Went Right
  5. Analysis: What Needs Improvement
  6. Matt Taylor's Conversation With the Sponsor Team Following the Event


The Purpose of the DesignShop® Event

This summarizes the facilitator's experiences from the Client's DesignShop Event held in the fall of this year. We had a total of 83 participants (5 from the Engagement Team, 58 from the Client, 20 from the Client's distribution system). Thirteen people from the Client and the engagement team worked as a Breakout Capture Team, and close to 25 other knowledge workers supported the event. Matt Taylor and I facilitated; we had two Process Facilitators who did an outstanding job.

The Client's company has been phenomenally successful in creating value for its shareholders. The Client's Value Chain System includes their distributors, who outnumber the Client's size by ten-to-one. The Client sells to their independent distributors who sell to the Customers, who in turn sell to the Consumers who use the product.

The actual Client of the DesignShop event was a team whose mission is to facilitate the implementation of a project to manage and distribute information across the entire value chain to more rapidly seize opportunities and to radically improve efficiencies, thereby creating additional markets, and capturing more existing market share. The project involves the design of new systems and the incorporation of legacy systems. It is in part a technological venture, and part a cultural venture: the mechanics of sharing information and the politics of it as well. The participants included members of the project team and others from the entire value chain.


I feel that the DesignShop process was a success, but that we didn't get all the lift we could have because several Rules of Engagement were broken.

The client (project team) did get what they were looking for:

  • A clearer sense of what the project will deliver for the value chain system
  • An approach for making that happen
  • A set of guiding principles
  • A definition of success
  • Competitive advantages and guidance/context for the design teams to use
  • Highlighted areas of unanswered or unaddressed questions
  • Better defined scope
  • Quick hits
  • Models to understand the complexity they are dealing with
  • Key leadership buy-in

Note that it's often the case in DesignShop events that the client does not get what they're "looking for". By this we mean that when group genius is unleashed in an open system of ideas, the results are usually surprising and unpredictable, yet extremely valuable. DesignShop events are never designed as an elaborate exercise to force participants to buy-in to a preconceived solution. DesignShop procesess are also not closed system events in the sense that there is an agenda of topics and that the parameters of the content are closely controlled from the beginning. DesignShop processes employ both positive and negative feedback (in the cybernetic sense).

Section 3: The Design

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