Design Workshops

Oct 17, 2012

What is the purpose of a design workshop? Some think the purpose is to produce some document or other artifact. In truth, the purpose of a design workshop is to develop a common understanding and to communicate ideas among those attending. The artifact is secondary to creating a common understanding and vocabulary.


Scrum does not talk about how the team knows how to build things. Some team assume that because the Scrum Primer is silent on this, it means there can be no design. Au contraire! Design workshops spring up as needed as part of the solution to a Product Backlog Item (PBI). Occasionally, as part of story splitting, a team may use a design workshop to think through how a story may work in order to gain better understanding. That understanding translates into the estimation for the subsequent PBIs in the Product Backlog.

What is required for a design workshop? A problem and a design space. Massive whiteboards are great. The larger, the better since you want everyone to be able to see what is happening and be able to approach the board and contribute. Small drawing spaces and electronic tools kill the interactive nature of design workshops, and the degrade from collaborative to lecturing by a few and boredom by many.

Agile Principle #6: “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”