I believe in work as a place of joy, where people can be themselves in order to do their best work. This user manual workshop is great in two ways:
A personal user manual is a great way to discover what you need to do your best work. You’ll learn a little bit about yourself every time you do it
By facilitating the user manual workshop with your team, you provide them with the opportunity to get to know each other and foster psychological safety
The concept is simple. Everyone writes a user manual about themselves and then you share your manual with the team.
⇢ 5 min: explain how it works
⇢ 10 min: silent writing
⇢ 45 min: participants share their manual
Every person writes their name on top of their manual. Then onto the actual manual. Stress that people should only add as much as they feel comfortable. Give people about 10 mins time to silently complete each section for themselves. Then switch to sharing: Don’t call out on people to share, ask for volunteers instead. Prepare yourself to share your answers, if no one volunteers
I like to ask participants to store their own manuals in a place that’s convenient for them. Afterwards, I usually delete the workshop templates, as they contain personal information that I don’t want to store.
Check with a trusted partner (your manager, team members..) if the workshop and questions are appropriate for the context & situation. Does your team feel psychologically safe to open up about themselves? This workshop assumes a certain level of trust between people
Customise the questions to your context and give participants the template in advance so that they can provide feedback on the questions. That way, you ensure everyone is comfortable with what’s being asked
Ensure to start with something lightweight like “I’m in for a chat about...” so that people can open up a little. Also end on a high note, for example by asking participants to share a fun fact others might not yet know
I ran this workshop on several occasions, including at the VMware internal design conference Shape. People gave great feedback:
“Great workshop, gave me some time to understand myself better.”
“Nice way to feel connected with my teammates during a pandemic.”
Thanks to fellow VMware Tanzu Labs thought-leaders for sharing your ideas and providing feedback and resources: Andrew Zusman, Cynthia Conklin, Carolyn Haines, Alexander Tran, Nasreen Nazir, Lauren Manuel