Liberating Structures offer you a set of approaches you can use to address almost any challenge. Think of Liberating Structures as your toolbox for facilitating decision-making participation. Below are Murals created by Voltage Control for the top 10 Liberating Structures activities we use most often — and we’ll provide an overview of each one.
Where do you start with Liberating Structures? Begin with the goal, the mission, the problem you want to solve. Our Liberating Structures templates tend to follow a pattern of individual work, small group collaboration, and larger group sharing. Clustering and voting are staples, but keep in mind that each of the Murals below targets a specific need. Choose carefully and iterate at speed.
Purpose to Practice
Clarify how your team can organize themselves to adapt creatively and scale up for success. Starting with purpose and ending in practice, you'll add stickies to each category, cluster and sort them, and then vote one step at a time. After each step, ask, "What can we revise about previous steps based on what we now know?” Consider a What, So What, Now What after completing Purpose to Practice.
Determine where your most important activities fit within the larger context among other activities as you plot projects across the ecocycle continuum of Renewal, Maturity, Creative Destruction, and Birth. Achieve clarity on resources and identify where investments are being placed across an organization with a broad portfolio. Ideally, activities are of a similar scale and share a domain.
What I Need From You
Surface essential needs across functional groups and teams in your organization that need to work well together, i.e. sales, marketing, engineering, legal, operations, etc. This activity will help accept or reject requests for support. Each function makes a list of their top needs from each of the other functions, written in the form: "What I need from you is _____", then reduces the list to the top two needs.
10x10 Writing rapidly engages everyone in generating ideas for next steps, increases your understanding of the present context, or reflects on ideas, opportunities, or challenges.
What, So What, Now What
This activity builds a shared understanding of how people develop different perspectives, ideas, and rationales for actions and decisions. Enable trust and reduce fear by learning together. This helps to identify communication breakdowns and it also assists participants in sorting data and interpretation.
Generative Relationships Star
Increase the degree that a team can become more self-managing and autonomous. Promote moving toward a common understanding of the way participants share patterns of interaction. Identify who is doing what and how they approach delivery.
Test the viability of current strategies and build capacity to respond quickly to future challenges. This activity will not produce a plan to be implemented, but rather it will build resilience. It allows a team to shape a system and to prepare teams to respond to disruptions. The activity also enables teams to predict future scenarios and act in a distributed fashion.
Agreement and Certainty Matrix
The goal of this activity is to sort challenges into four categories: simple, complicated, complex, and chaotic. Challenges that are duplicated by multiple individuals should be consolidated. Explore items that appear to fit into more than one category and highlight the range and the nature of the challenges facing people in the organization.
Encourage anti-patterns to unlock value and question the status-quo. Do not identify net-new behaviors. Instead, focus on the worst-case scenario associated with the way your team functions, your product, project, or service offering.
In a series of three quick round-robin “consultations,” individuals ask for help and get advice immediately from two peers. Peer-to-peer coaching helps with discovering everyday solutions, revealing patterns, and refining prototypes. This is a simple and effective way for people to support one another without a formal management structure.