Why should a decision take a month’s worth of meetings when it can take 1 hour?

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I reveal to you the beauty of a Lightning Decision Jam.

I love efficiency, but I’m also naturally curious which causes an internal fight for a thoughtfully made fast decision. I’m still working toward a consistent “make progress, not perfection” attitude and have found a pretty sweet process for a small group to do just that.

In this moment I can envision a speedboat gliding on top of the water after it finally reaches a fast pace, but as soon as it slows down- it quickly sinks back to square one.

When you’re sunk down in the water, your ability to react with agility is a lot less in your control. But when gliding on the top of the water the boat is nimble and able to pivot almost effortlessly.

The mindset of the boat driver is also in a nimble or sunken state depending on the speed of the boat, right? Speeding on top of the water, the driver is more focused on the end-goal, while keeping potential obstacles and boundaries locked-in within their peripheral vision and only having to make slight adjustments to keep things moving nicely. Meanwhile, the driver in the sunken boat is focused more on the immediate dangers- like a large wake coming at an unfortunate angle, or thinking about passengers that might be considering jumping off while they think it’s safe to do so — and the driver is constantly having to make drastic changes to adjust accordingly.

Soaring on top of the water in a speedboat is sorta what it feels like in a Lightning Decision Jam …while going round and round in soul-sucking meetings to make a single decision feels more like staying sunk in the water.

During a Lightning Decision Jam, a group is able to quickly:

  • Agree on the 1 problem we’d like to solve, today.

  • Share out all of the clear solutions that could get us where we need to go (with post-it note visual sharing technology, of course)

  • Agree on the single solution that will take the least amount of effort and the most amount of impact to get us started moving toward the right solution

  • All while being able to steer clear of unnecessary obstacles because we’re operating at such high speed.

There’s no time for slowing down allowing people to get stuck in dirty details, there’s only 1-hour to come up with 1 good-enough solution… one that the whole team is on board with and everyone even walks away with actionable tasks! What’s not to love?

Well, I guess if you don’t like shushing unnecessary dialogue in between each dedicated activity, or if you have to worry more about internal hierarchical red-tape junk that usually gets in the way… I suppose it could be hard to do on your own team. But fortunately there are people willing to help! ;)

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Last week my business partner and I facilitated a decision jam session. I was surprised to learn that although the group I led clearly wanted to slow down to really deliberate the solution options, they actually found it to be very refreshing and good decision-making hygiene to just select the options that felt the most right, right now, and agreeing on the one to try first.

It was great to look back after the hour was over and hear participants essentially say, “yeah- we can start there and easily pivot later if needed, but it feels great to have finally picked a smart place to start.”

In the spirit of being vulnerable and transparent, here are some things that happened for us this session that didn’t go so perfectly (and therefore we’ll learn from):

  • When it was time to vote on solutions, one of the participants thought it would be a good idea to add an empty post-it note placeholder for cluster voting. Proudly he said, “Here! Now you can just put your vote on one of these single sticky notes if you want to pick this entire group of solutions” without understanding the next step of the process, which was to take the most voted on single sticky note and add it to the Impact/Effort grid. This caused a little back-peddling to fix things up before moving on properly.
  • My co-facilitator and I had intentions for both of us to moderate the 2 teams through the dedicated exercises, but unforeseen circumstances pulled us apart, requiring us to manage each team individually while trying to also push all participants through the chronological prompts. It still worked out, but not as seamlessly as we designed.
  • People like to talk, and this is an exercise that requires minimal talking. Outside of sharing the headlines written on post-it notes at the designated times, everybody really needs to keep to themselves. In fact, this is one of the magical pieces of a Lightning Decision Jam that makes it work! That being said, I would really emphasize this point more before we get started next time to help make sure everyone agrees to stay silent unless otherwise requested.
  • If you are working on a “make progress, not perfection” attitude for you/your team, I hope you can give the Lightning Decision Jam process a try to help get you there.

You can also reach out to me personally: chrystalgualtieri@gmail.com.

LDJ Credit: Here’s a link to the post inspiring us to use the Lightning Decision Jam process, for a full rundown of how it works, step by step: https://medium.muz.li/a-super-simple-exercise-for-solving-almost-any-product-design-challenge-f9e6c0019d7d