Introduction to the Work Product
Bryan S. Coffman
November 24, 1996
Overview of the Products of a DesignShop Event
A DesignShop® process, or any event governed by the Ten
Step Knowledge Management Process for that matter, may produce four
broad types of documents:
- an advance document of text and information maps, called the Read
- a chronicle of the DesignShop event produced for use by crew and participants
while the event is occurring, called the Real Time Journal,
- the polished chronicle of the DesignShop event produced shortly following
the event, called the Journal,
- one or several summary, synthesis or evolutionary documents of text
and information maps produced after the event, called Work
The purpose of the Read Ahead is to prepare the participants and Crew
for the upcoming event both from an informational and and emotional point
of view. The purpose of the Real Time Journal is to provide instant access
to ideas generated during the event which can be folded into the work
of the event in real time by participants and crew in a spontaneous, distributed,
asynchronous manner. Now that we have electronic database access to the
Journal at breakout areas, the Real Time Journal will be of marginal value
(although it has been of great value in the past). The Journal itself
serves as a lasting record of the event. Its new incarnation as a database
makes it the most useable and valuable of its species we've ever produced.
Varieties of Work Products
Work products come in three general varieties: summary, synthesis and
Most clients ask for the summary variety because they're not used to
receiving any other type of work product from a traditional meeting. Unfortunately,
the summary attempts the impossible--to present a condensed overview of
the DesignShop event, usually by selecting a small percentage of the content
of the Journal and publishing it as a separate piece. It's much like reading
an abridged novel or Cliff Notes in school. It's fine if the point is
to chase a passing grade, but completely misses the mark concerning education
or literature; in the end, it's a waste of life.
So it is with the "Executive Summary." The document degrades
the participants, its creators, and its audience. In Latin, the word executare
means "to follow completely," something the summary cannot do.
The correct place for summaries is in the Journal as the annotated table
of contents, sidebars, and introductions to modules for the purpose of
setting the context--features that are integral portions of the document.
Instead of struggling in vain to capture an old event, the Work Product's
purpose is to document a new or different event. Whether it is produced
during or after the DesignShop event, the Work Product is the record of
another collaborative design process.
If we consider this carefully, it should clear up some misconceptions
about the role of Work Product vs. Journal. Even though our Work Products
in the past were crafted with more attention to graphics, layout, and
design, this is so by convention rather than intent. The Journal can be
as carefully crafted as the crew prefers and as time permits. Portions
of it may be taken to a higher standard of design or present a more unique
construction. Even though the Journal is necessarily a comprehensive chronological
record, it need not be presented in that form--particularly now that it
is a collection of date/time stamped records in a database. If we can
focus more intent, skill, training and discipline in the initial capture,
we'll have all the time we need to produce whatever form of Journal we
The Journal documents the work of the participants in a DesignShop event.
The Work Product documents the work of a team of crew and participants
whose main focus happens to be the DesignShop event. The only other difference
between the Journal and the Work Product is our habit of assigning a chronological
form to the design of the Journal and a synthesis form to the design of
the Work Product. The focus of the flow of the Journal is time, while
the Work Product focuses on a planned succession of topics. I don't necessarily
advocate changing this distinction, but I do encourage active awareness
of the choice.
Evolutionary Work Products
A synthesis Work Product limits its content to a manipulation of information
contained in the Journal--presenting complex ideas more clearly than perhaps
they were presented during the DesignShop process itself, or choosing
to elevate some ideas from the event over others--to provide contrast
and composition to the painting, so to speak. Its purpose is not
to simplify, but to present the complicated and obtuse in a way that is
merely very complex--so that it may be understood, but not watered down.
An evolutionary Work Product goes beyond the information of the DesignShop
event, and most likely the comfort level of the participants. It introduces
new, controversial concepts and relates them to the concepts from the
event. It may paint a picture showing how certain themes raised during
the DesignShop process lead to unexpected conclusions. It may weave in
topics from the new physics, from Eastern, Western or Native American
spirituality, from the frontiers of molecular biology, from the thinking
in great literature, or from the fields of chaos and complexity. The purpose
is to arrest thought with the intent of shattering boundaries and gaining
new perspectives so that the work of the participants might be taken another
order of magnitude of comprehension. In Star Trek terms, it's warp drive--folding
space to travel rapidly between two remote points.
The Journal is also warp drive! Again, there is a misconception
concerning the relative "glamour" of the Work Product versus
the Journal. The intent of the entire DesignShop process is to move the
client by an order of magnitude. The Journal records this movement, so
that in the future the phenomenon may be referred to and not denied. The
evolutionary Work Product seeks to add an order of magnitude "kicker"
on top of this effort. But transformation and rapid movement along the
line of transition management is the focus of both types of products.
When are the different types of Work Products appropriate? The following
table shows a quick summary.
||Almost never appropriate as a Work Product. To paraphrase
Isaac Asimov, "The summary is the last resort of the incompetent."
In some few instances, a DesignShop event may have boiled itself
down to a few key points, and these may be extracted and published
separately if they will be of value to the participants. They will
almost never be of value to anyone outside of the DesignShop event,
If the participants left the DesignShop event with the answer
but not knowing they had the answer.
If the participants are asking for a summary document to use
for briefing or communication purposes. Remember that a Work Product
is a documentation of another process--in this case the process
of thinking through how to best present a synthesis of complications
as a complex whole.
If a number of critical models should be redrawn and annotated
as a portfolio. This should be done with as high an art as is
available from the crew, employing all of the techniques that
a painter would: color, form, composition, contrast, a love for
If a collection of models should be reshaped into a single model
and annotated to present a holistic view of the problem and the
If a master model should be developed within which all of the
other information from the DesignShop process can reside in a
structured way. ANDMaps and a deeply annotated table of contents
If the participants did not push themselves far enough in their
thinking while designing the problem and the solution.
If there is outside information that will provide the key to
make certain elements of the problem or solution fit together
and create an understandable context. Frequently, a paradox or
dichotomy exists because of an unseen explanation that resolves
the apparent conflict.
If outside information can be used as a modeling framework within
which the client's work can better reside. In the past, we've
used models from the MG Taylor Modeling
Language or other models like James G. Miller's Livings Systems
model as frames.
If the work of the participants needs to be challenged in a way
that will ultimately strengthen it. This reason, however risky,
lies at the heart of the process of Transition Management, although
it must be approached with great strategy to be effective.
Creating a Work Product.
Creating Work Products While Maintaining
Post DesignShop KreW Integrity
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