One of the most fun and effective liberating structures (I find) is the 1-2-4-All. Through a simple process you make sure that all group members have their say. And, just as important, feel heard.
- Define a theme or subject. Often a bottleneck or a long-term challenge that requires new ideas and insights.
- Then let the group members write down ideas for 1 minute on their own.
- Then they discuss their ideas in pairs for two minutes.
- After this – you guessed it – four minutes in fours.
- And finally, one highlight per foursome will be discussed in plenary.
Sometimes it is difficult to share one striking insight as a foursome. You can also build in an intermediate step: Let the fours determine the three most appealing items/insights from their group (e.g. with dot-voting) and use this for the plenary session.
We use the 1-2-4-All regularly. For example with a group of 15 middle managers who suddenly ‘have to’ work agile and were struggling with their new role.
The session was led by the organizer, one of the managers. The attendees immediately started talking through each other until the man with the biggest mouth got the rest quiet. As Agile Coaches, we then kindly intervened and asked for the purpose of the session. The organizer read the goal from the agenda: ‘To pick up all the things the managers encounter during the agile transition’. After that, we suggested using the microstructure 1-2-4-All, so that everyone could provide his or her input.
The result was satisfactory for both the big mouth and the grey mouse. Everyone felt heard and understood. Concrete action points were formulated.
Read the entire instruction of the liberating structure 1-2-4-All here.