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"Thursday Thinking"

©2019 by Weaving Futures. 

  • Carolyn Stuart

Preparing for what might happen next

This week I was working with the senior leadership team at Mercury Bay Area School and we decided to use our time together to work on scenario planning for COVID-19 as it continues to play out across the country. We used tools and strategies from the design thinking methodology to underpin our work.

With the school’s blessing I am sharing the process we used. Whilst this process was used by the senior leadership team of a school it is applicable to any organisation that needs to do scenario planning in the light of COVID-19.

Step 1:

We attached a large piece of paper to the wall and gathered together some Post It Notes.

We used one side of the poster to record on blue Post It Notes “What do we know?”

We used the other side and yellow Post It Notes to detail “What questions do we have?

The Post It Notes allowed us to easily rewrite, and rework our ideas and questions in response to our dialogue.

Step 2:

We arranged our questions by themes and the following overarching scenarios emerged:

  1. What will we do if insufficient staff are available to work at school?

  2. What does ‘shut the school’ look like?

  3. What opportunities does COVID-19 offer?

We decided to focus our energies on coming up with solutions for the first two overarching scenarios.

Step 3:

We split into two groups to delve into each scenario. The first thing we did was to Uncover Opportunities using a lean canvas which helped us think about what the people involved needed and what professional knowledge we brought to the situation. This professional knowledge drew on local knowledge, and experiential knowledge of times when the school has previously had to take action in response to emergencies. We then came up with opportunities using the sentence starters: What might..? and How might..? We used these opportunities to identify an action goal.

Step 4

We used a Value Map, which is another lean canvas, to validate our action goal with regards to how desirable the goal was, how likely it was to work in this community and how difficult it would be to achieve. John, the principal also commented that the thinking which went

into the Value Map was going to be really useful to him as he began to craft communiques out to his community.

Step 5

Each group brainstormed solutions for their Action Goal. We used a modified process for this, taking the time to discuss and expand on the ideas of others, rather than using a ‘quick-fire-lots-of-ideas’ approach. We did this because we were looking for a robust solution rather than something highly innovative.

Step 6

We took the best solutions and created prototypes of them. The purpose of the prototypes was to help us further refine our ideas and to help us explain our ideas to others. The prototypes were simply sketches and diagrams on A3 pieces of paper. We shared the prototypes within the group to get feedback and to refine our solutions.

Step 7

As often happens in co-design, all the solutions complemented each other and so our final step was to bring all of our solutions into one place. We decided to use Julia Atkins’ three circle model which has Values and Beliefs in the centre, Principles in the next circle and Practices in the final circle.

In the photo below the yellow Post It Notes are the Values and Beliefs around the COVID-19 solutions. For example self and family coming before learning. The Purple Post It Notes are the principles that will underpin the COVID-19 actions which the school will take. Finally the Blue Post It Notes were the practices that the school was going to implement as the situation unfolded.

John the principal also discussed with us his belief that at this time we need Leadership and Management, but that we also need Directorship - people in authority directing us as to what we needed to do. We talked about how rarely Directorship is part of a leader’s role but how at this time of immense uncertainty it is an important, if at times uncomfortable, role for leaders.

Special thanks to John and the Senior Leadership Team from Mercury Bay Area School for allowing me to share their story.

If you would like A3 templates of the Lean Canvas tools mentioned in this post then email me at [email protected] and I’ll send them to you.

Kia kaha

Til next time


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