[QCon 2019] Liberating Structures

Greg Myers from Capital One

For other QCon blog posts, see QCon live blog table of contents


  • Few meetings include engagement
  • Many tech managers consider meetings for their staff
  • Can help with white elephants – the things we don’t normally talk about
  • There are 33 defined liberating structures http://www.liberatingstructures.com
  • Retain more info because face to fact and involved
  • Planning poker is a diversity initiative. It’s about the discussion, not the #

Liberating Structure #1

  • Write down a worthy but elusive goal. Share with a neighbor.
  • Energy went up
  • Repeat with a new neighbor
  • Goal gets clearer with iteration
  • Liberating: permission to talk to someone don’t Know
  • Structured: rules, time constraints
  • Write on paper:: introverts can express self. Extroverts have time to think

Liberating Structure #2

  • Write down why hard to make progress on worthy but elusive goal
  • Troika Consulting
  • Explain problem. Ask clarifying questions
  • Turn around and listen as other two talk about problem
  • Shake hands at end and say thank you
  • Then let it go

Liberating Structure #3

  • 15% solution. What’s one thing you could do ow, totally within your control that would get you closer to your goal. We didn’t do this exercise so there was time for questions.

Liberating Structure #4

  • 1-2-4-all
  • Everyone writes a question
  • Partner to improve question
  • Merge groups (we ran out of time so didn’t get that far)
  • Asked partner who heard a good question and got some. Showed energy higher and more questions

Meeting Elements

  • Invitation – Common negative “invitations” are “listen to me” and “tell me what I want to hear”
  • How space is arranged – want to signal and reinforce activity
  • How participation is distributed – how invite. Want to belong and not just be tolerated
  • Sequence of steps and time allocation – think about what whole group needs

My impression

I like that he started with two liberating structures. I would have liked to experience more. I thought there was actually going to be a Q&A when he asked if we’d rather ask questions. That said, this session did motivate me to buy the book (because I have re time to read offline). It was a good session, but I wanted more!

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