5 Steps to Visual Dartboarding by Lisa Palmer

While a high school student, one of my most admired educators made reference to an H. G. Wells’ dictum: “no passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.” Fast forward to my first corporate leadership role where I learned the depth of this wisdom.

Charged with implementing a new enterprise system that impacted every business unit (BU), the equivalencies of political land mines surrounded me. Wanting to make each BU leader feel included in design decisions, I held sessions where I posed open-ended questions intended to collaboratively build a solution. After weeks of these deep discussions, little progress had been made. My error? I started from a blank sheet of paper.

After reflecting and regrouping, I altered my approach and built what I called a “visual dartboard”. This was literally a graphic of one proposed system design. Next, I reassembled the BU leaders and focused discussions around this graphic. It was an instant success! Leaders immediately took out their pens and began editing my design, robustly discussing their own ideas for altering it for improvement. Within a few hours, we had hammered out a design that everyone supported.

I’ve applied this visual dartboarding technique repeatedly throughout my career in simple to complex problem solving situations. Without exception, this approach has brought together stakeholders, shortened the solutioning phase, and led to strong business outcomes.

To leverage this technique, do the following:

1) Create a first draft of your plan (visual dartboard)

2) Mentally prepare for others to criticize / edit your draft – the lack of ego here is critical to your success!

3) Send out your visual dartboard as a meeting pre-read to allow stakeholders to reflect on their desired alterations

4) Assemble your stakeholders with clearly set expectations that their changes are anticipated and encouraged. Interactive workshop formatting of this step is the most effective.

5) Gather input, synthesize into Version 2, reassemble the team for edits/approval. Be prepared to iterate with an open and accepting demeanor.

I hope that you’ll be able to apply this technique to propel your career forward!

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