Planning Your Next Vacation...or Product Feature?
Use the 4 Cores of Clarity to break any idea into actionable work
The Decomp is one of six cadences I will be covering over the next few articles. They are derived from a mix of Kanban and other digital product methodologies and have been implemented and iterated on at Ramsey Solutions with great success. If you’d like more information on these and how to implement them, please let me know!
My daughter loves going to Dollywood in Tennessee. It’s a fun, eclectic amusement park that has something for everyone. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun family getaway.
When we decide to go, we get together for a quick family meeting where we discuss the logistics of the trip. Some of the things we identify are:
Rent a car
Create “Highlight Reel” list
This quick huddle ensures everyone is on the same page and knows what must get done to help us achieve our desired outcome; a great time of family fun.
I teach a similar meeting cadence to digital product teams and, in today’s Tidbit, I thought I’d share some tips on how to make a conversation like this extremely successful, even for breaking down your next family vacation.
Creating clarity for a room of people, in today’s skill economy, is worth its weight in gold. Anyone can increase their facilitation acumen by employing these tips to get really clear on any idea and its desired outcome.
For the last few years, I have taught teams how to use these skills in a meeting I call a Decomp. Short for decomposition, a Decomp is a conversation where the parties involved start with a problem they need to solve and “break it down” into the work that needs to get done. You can call it anything you want, and different methodologies do, but no matter the name, this meeting ends when everyone is clear on the problem that needs to be solved and what solution the team intends to implement.
It’s easier said than done. Language is difficult, sure, but people also have very different ways of thinking about information even when language is clear.
There are four essentials to breaking down any idea and reaching clarity whether at work or at home.
The 4 Cores of Clarity
Do Your Homework - Someone, most likely a Product Manager, works to prioritize what’s next and facilitates getting to clarity.
Ideas generated & some validation has occurred
Know the Why and Value of the idea
Bring Context of the work
Know Your ABC's - Always Be Capturing
Someone captures notes during the meeting
Capture discussions and decisions in real-time - don't wait
If you use a digital Kanban board, create Kanban cards as both the notes and your future work visuals.
Say No to Weeds - Try and stay out of the implementation details of the "How" while calling out potential dependencies
Keep it short and focused
Focus on one, highest priority idea or problem
Check For Clarity - State the problem you are trying to solve and why it’s worth solving. Review the homework the team did to decide this problem was worth prioritizing.
Each work item is clear
Identify other work
Be clear on outcome
Decomp In Action
In my coaching with Ramsey Solutions, I’ve experienced various examples of great Decomps, but one still sticks out in my mind. The facilitator of the meeting was a talented UX Designer named Elizabeth Weeks, and her team was working to migrate the company website from one domain to another. More interesting than the work was the fact that this was one of Elizabeth’s first times facilitating this type of meeting.
She started the conversation by clearly stating the problem they were trying to solve. She walked over to a whiteboard and wrote the problem statement across the top then turned to the room and paused, just long enough so it wasn’t awkward, to scan for clarity. After about three or four seconds, she asked, “Does that make sense?” She would consistently check for this clarity throughout the meeting and, once the room would nod or voice alignment, she would move on.
Moving from the whiteboard to her laptop, she pointed everyone’s attention to the large screen where she was projecting a digital concept of the site topology. She paused again. “Does someone mind taking notes?” Someone quickly volunteered, and Elizabeth jumped back into the discussion. As she talked she walked over to the whiteboard and started to draw specific parts of the diagram as the room would ask questions or make changes. Some of the people in the room would routinely reference both the digital version and the whiteboard version as they continued to make decisions towards a solution. Not a single decision or thought was lost as they meticulously captured notes.
That brings me to the part of the story that stood out the most to me. It was a combination of the other two Cores of Clarity. The beauty of the meeting that day was in the homework Elizabeth had done. Her visuals were matched in clarity only by her ability to navigate between them. She didn’t seem to falter at all when moving from a visual on her laptop to the whiteboard to draw out a new iteration that would address a question from the room. Having obviously put in the prep time prior to this meeting, she was moving as though this conversation was a dance.
She responded to questions with great restraint, and opted to deflect implementation queries to focus again on gaining clarity around the work itself. We humans love to get into the weeds and ask questions to start getting ahead. Things like “what should it look like” and “who will we need for approvals” are questions they could answer as part of the work, and she deflected with the grace of a seasoned facilitator and managed to lift them out of the weeds.
I left impressed at how she had commanded the room, not in an authoritative way, backed by the confidence of having done the homework. I captured pictures of the whiteboard diagrams, and Elizabeth shared a copy of the notes the team took. Any time I teach Decomp now I call up that session, mentally run through those images, and recall how she used all four of the Cores of Clarity to create massive focus and clarity with her team.
Like Elizabeth, you can add massive value and clarity when breaking down new ideas. Product teams can get clear on what problem they need to solve and what solution that will require. Families can break down vacations or other events they wish to plan. Here are some quick steps to run your next Decomp meeting.
Remember the 4 Cores of Clarity. These are the basics of a well run Decomp.
Do your homework.
ABCs - Always Be Capturing
Stay out of the weeds
Consistently check for clarity
Keep it short. Start with an hour and don’t be afraid to cut it short when you get to clarity.
Focus on one idea or problem per Decomp. Fight the temptation to do more.
Make decisions in the meeting on what outcome you’re after, and stay out of the weeds of how to do it.