Part 1 - The Set Up
Divide the team into subgroups using any strategy that makes sense to you. Ideally, each group should have a minimum of three participants and a maximum of six. Assign each team a working area and provide its members with a flipchart and markers.
Introduce the process by presenting the following content in your own words:
In a few minutes you will develop a shared vision for your team. If you have ever done visioning exercises before, you may find this approach to be different from what you are used to. If you have not done visioning exercises before, this should be a relatively painless process for you.
Before I explain the process, let us spend a few moments thinking about all the likely changes that could take place in the world during the next 5 years.
Ask the group to speculate about changes in different categories such as world processes, shopping habits, and communication systems. Invite participants to share their ideas by calling out potential changes.
Part 2 - Letter Writing
After 5 minutes of sharing potential futures, inform participants that they are now going to create a vision of the their teams' future by writing letters back from the future!
Ask each team to think of someone who is with the organization today but who may not be with the organization five years from now. Inform the team that it will be writing the letter to this person.
Remind teams that a good letter has an opening, a body, and a close. Write some prompt questions such as these on the flipchart:
- What specifically has the team accomplished?
- What did it take to reach these accomplishments?
- What obstacles and barriers did the team have to overcome? How did they overcome these barriers?
- What is the impact of the team's accomplishment for the organization and its customers?
- What are the team's biggest challenges for the next 5 years?
Suggesting that the team's letter should address these questions.
Tell the teams that they will have about 25 minutes to write their letter. Ask the teams to get started.
Monitor the time. Give teams up to 30 minutes, as long as they are working and making progress.
Part 3 - The Reports
Announce that it is now time to read the letters. Invite participants to listen to other teams' letters and identify significant themes in each letter.
Choose a team and ask for a volunteer to read the team's letter. After the letter has been read, ask other participants to call out the major themes in the letter. Record these themes on a flipchart.
Now ask the members of the team that wrote the letter to respond to these questions:
- Were you surprised by any of the themes that the others identified?
- Did the others miss any of the themes that you wished to communicate?
Give a round of applause to the team. Ask other teams to take turns to read their letter. Repeat the same process.
Part 4 - Follow Up
Facilitate a dialogue around the common themes and integrate them into a shared vision for the future.
Ask participants to prioritize different themes in terms of their importance to the team's future.
Ask participants to identify specific and realistic themes and convert them into goals.
Finally, conduct a discussion of suitable strategies for translating the common vision into reality.
Source: Thiagi Group - Bill Matthews