Chapter Communications Blog

Interactive LEGO Serious Play workshop

Author: Daniel Rodellar, PMP

Daniel Rodellar 100x100

Deep dive and hands on with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® online

On Wednesday, August 26, 2020 we had a very playful and interesting online session about playing with Lego® bricks to solve serious problems.

Jens Dröge is Lead Trainer of LEGO® Serious Play® Methods and Materials for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and German author of the standard-setting book “SERIOUS WORK – How to facilitate meetings and workshops using LEGO® Serious Play®”. He guided us during the workshop, together with Rolf Bielser, CEO of Computare GmbH, a Swiss-based management consulting and training company, and he is Certified Facilitator of LEGO® Serious Play® Method and Materials.

Usually, after 10min on a meeting, people start surfing. It is not the case when doing meetings or workshops with LEGO® bricks!

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Let's start from the definition of what LEGO® Serious Play® is...

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The rules about how to participate in such meetings are easy to understand: we want to know and vehiculate the meaning, not to challenge the choices of the bricks. Participants are invited to express themselves with the models, they are not judged, there is no right answer. They are asked to respect time constraints: having few time pushes them to think with their hands since they do not have enough time to design the model before building it. And it offers value and benefits on people and communications, strategy and organisation and on innovation and product development.

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 The first thing we did was a tower, only using orange and green bricks, with a black baseplate, finishing with a flag. And we had to do it in a limited time (01:30).

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Then we could present and discuss the different realizations. We could discuss about structure and stability (solid and firm base), the selection of other colors (to fit, alternation of colors). It was important when building the model to keep time in mind and be efficient. We had some people that tried to use as many bricks as possible, that tried to do the highest tower possible with the bricks available, and also that put emphasis on simmetry of the model.

There were 20 versions of the same initial requirement. We do not justify our choices, and we should not judge. It is a truth that we construct.

The core process is shown on the following picture:

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1. challenge: the facilitator poses the building challenge to the participants.
2. building: the participants build a Lego model representing their reflections on the building challenge.
3. sharing: the participants share the meaning and the story that they have assigned to their own models.

These 3 phases are repeated several times, beginning with a simple task and gradually up to more complex tasks.

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In this workshop we have worked on Individual Models

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The workshop was divided into two parts: session 1 and 2.

Almost all people had the LEGO® bricks, but some used other things they had at hand, and it also worked. Basically the bricks are better suited because they fit to each other and they stay compact.

Session 1: The working environment after Covid-19

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The participants build and shared models on how they felt during the lockdown times.We talked about fear and feeling anxious about uncertainty and deaths, and people that lost their jobs. We shared that it was an unexpected series of events, and how people adapted quicly to work online and digitally.

There was also very positive feedbacks about the joy by going to the forest and recover the Nature contact and doing exercise (almost) alone.

What stroke us most during this first session was that:

  • everyone had positive things to tell
  • Nature was very important for most of us
  • there was a clear focus on working
  • we felt more humans
  • the difficult exercise of keeping the work-life balance in equilibrium

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What could a red brick be? You need to atach a meaning to the brick.

Take 3 bricks and connect them. Explain the words with the bricks. We asked participants waht was different on using bricks as methaphors, and the answers were that is was very free and open, that the other people see different things from what I see, and it is easier to memorize for most of the participants.

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It was touching that everyone could go into an introspection into their lives and get to take some distance from work to try understand what is important for each of us, in life.

Session 2: What’s required by today’s virtual leader

The second session was dedicated to the soft skills of a virtual leader.

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We had to put ourselves in the employee's shoes and say what was expected from good virtual leaders, and then from the leader's point of view.

The main take aways on the discussion and presentation of the models were:

  • the turning wheels that represented the fact that at work things need to keep on turning and people need to have this feeling that things do not stop working.
  • nice envionments were depicted, a virtual leader has to make the others feel confortable.
  • the leader must drive to targets that are special and give clear directions where to go.
  • all people's goals need to be aligned (and kept aligned all way through).
  • there is a strong requirement to synchronize with everyone, as we are all connecting remotely.
  • transparency on goals.
  • celebrating success and giving credit to each and everyone that contributed.
  • empowering, represented by a ladder on the models, to help people to get better.
  • trust on people and making all levels work together.
  • having a positive attitude and being relax
  • leading in a sustainable way.

We had to modify the model to meet the requirements expressed for the virtual leader, and this showed just small changes but specially adding professional tools that needed to be provided to execute these tasks and the request tha direction are not changing too often, and some sense of stability.

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As mentionned before, we just did the Individual Model for this introductury workshop, but the next levels of this training include Shared Model (a team building the same model all together) and the System Model to represent the more complex systems.

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The Shared Model needs very good communication between participants, an online (or in person) facilitator, and a good environment (light, connectivity, etc).

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As a final remark, this workshop fulfilled the original goals to show everyone the power of using LEGO® Serious Play® method to solve complicated problems and difficult concepts.

It is always open, and if you remember working with Lego® bricks as a kid, there is no barriers, everything can be represented and "materialized". It is most suitable for cases where "I have the problem, but not the answers".

To end up, we thank Jens for such great introduction and we were curious to play again, to foster our creativity and in fact, we realized that even for complicated models, not too many bricks are required.


Teaching Aids:

For this workshop we used the Starter Set of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® with 46 parts.

The needed LEGO® parts are pictured here.


It's good to be Negative

We are already in November and COVID situation is still very difficult. We have new restrictions, home office is in some places mandatory and sadly, we notice how the number of positive cases is raising up. For that, it’s good to be Negative, specially tested negative. 
One of the lessons we can learn from the PMBoK is how to be more organized and how can we manage everything better. In this actual situation it’s very important to think and act also thinking in your environment. Wearing the mask and following the instructions can save your life but also your relatives. Working together as a team can make our life better, be a manager, be a leader.
Because in this moment... it’s good to be NEGATIVE. 

Product Owner Secrets - an interactive workshop

Author: Katalin Juhász, PMP

Katalin Juhasz photo

The Product Owner (PO) role is sometimes misunderstood yet critical in Agile projects. The Switzerland chapter of PMI has organized an exciting interactive online event again on 13th October, where we could learn about this often overshadowed role. Besides discussing the secrets of the PO role - living up to the expectations of the title of the event - the participants also had the opportunity to gain a first hand experience about an facilitation method, called the fishbowl conversation format, applied in the online space. This method is built on premises, such as the value of experiential learning, assertiveness and the power of discussions, enabling an impactful learning experience. Personally I found the format just as valuable as the shared knowledge about the product owner role itself. Killing two birds with the same stone and all within 90 minutes.


The session was hosted by Patryk Nosalik, PMP, agile PM, project manager of the PMI Romandie Events team,  while facilitated by Maria Cortés Astudillo and Nicolas Pages, members of Agile Suisse. María is an industrial engineer, PMP, Professional Scrum Master, Professional Product Owner and Empowering People at the Workplace certified, with over 15 years of experience, successfully building and launching digital applications across multiple channels and formats. Nicolas has more than 20 years of experience in the IS/IT software industry, including 12 years in the supply chain domain acquired in Nestlé. He is a junior coach in design thinking, certified Scrum master and product owner.

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After some introduction about the fishbowl format, four volunteers were recruited to join the imaginatory “inner circle”. The selection criteria for the volunteers was to already have experience about the product owner role (either by fulfilling this role earlier, or being close enough to a PO to have a good enough understanding of its requirements and challenges). 

The discussion has been kick-started by the four volunteers who shared their views about the “good”, the “bad” and the “ugly” aspects of the product owner role. Not only the facilitators, but also the volunteers had an impressive amount of accumulated experience, making sure the discussion was exciting enough to pin the observers in the outer circle to their screens. After 7 minutes, the observers had the chance to pair up in the breakout room, to discuss what additional questions they would like to ask from the experts in the inner circle, once everyone returned into the virtual plenary room.


We learnt that:

  • The biggest challenge and value of the PO role is how to maximize the customer value, while managing the (often latent) customer needs and taking into account the (capacity or technical) limitations of the available resources. 
  • A key to maximizing the customer value requires the mastering of prioritization, communication (where listening weights with double score) and good negotiation skills. It is also invaluable to have a crystal clear product vision.
  • Things can be ugly sometimes, as the PO is right in between the customer and the developer team, trying to carry out a balancing act in a never easing pressure. One wise advice was to accept the fact that it is impossible to make everyone happy at the same time, but instead aim for maximizing the customer value, while considering realistically what is possible.
  • While having a good understanding of the developer group is essential to be able to ask the right questions, it might make it more difficult for a PO to have a technical background, as it carries the risk of being dragged too much into the details of the solution. The PO has to keep focus on the “why” and “what” and strongly resist the temptation to design the “how”. 
  • Trust is a crucial resource in this constellation, as the control of designing the solution, along with estimating the resource needs falls under the responsibility of the developer team. Moreover, the PO also has to recognize the limitations of his knowledge and capabilities, to know when it is better to rely on others.
  • While the agile approach can be used in organizations preferring the waterfall approach, it takes a lot of effort to manage expectations and help the client understand how the process will be different. Clarifying, and repetitively refreshing the definition of the PO and SCRUM master could be also indispensable. 


While experimenting with a new format is always a risk, based on the feedback of the participants, the session was indeed very effective in helping them to get a deeper understanding of the product owner role. It also served as proof that well designed online events supported by the right technology can be just as effective as physical encounters. Witnessing the continuously improving online facilitation capabilities of these events, I feel assured that we can expect a maintained level of quality, when it's about exchanging knowledge within the PMI community.


We hope to continue hosting more online open space events in the future to come. Therefore we encourage all PMI members if anyone is keen to help in being part of the organisation of creating a regular cycle of interactive Open Space events, then please get in touch with Patryk Nosalik (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).


The recording of the full event is available here.


Katalin Juhász, PMP

Organizational Developer at SonarSource

Editorial PMI Switzerland Newsletter October 2020

Author: Adi Muslic, PMP

This month, in addition to our standard articles, Message from The Board and Members Update, our newsletter is featuring an article about the upcoming online workshop (hurry, not much time left to sign up) and an engaging article about the stakeholders' management. I am sure you will find them all very interesting and enjoy reading.

The coming months may bring some new challenges related to the virus spread though I do not think we will be going back into some form of confinement. With the discipline and further precautions, we can keep going on with our lives.

I joined PMI Switzerland's newsletter team two years ago. It has been an enriching experience, and I highly recommend trying it if you are looking for a volunteering role. As a copy editor, you will have a chance to collaborate with various team members and manage the newsletter content and publication activities. If you feel more like a technical person, there is a technical editor role as well. The team works with online collaboration tools, and the way we collaborate did not change when the virus crisis started. It is a nice opportunity to practice online collaboration.

After two years, it is time for me to make some changes. This is my last editorial, but I will continue to contribute differently. This is not a goodbye, but rather a - see you soon - message.

Take care,



Product Owner Secrets Workshop – a continuation of a journey of discovery

Author: Patryk Nosalik, PMP

Late last Spring, PMI Switzerland held its first Open Spaces meeting. It was really warming to see so much genuine enthusiasm for a novel meeting format, on top of that, we did it online. And when I hear many people are missing the human networking component in other more typical webinars, one of the benefits of interactive formats is that it allows for the creation of meaningful connection. So it was here, from the people contributing and participating in the Open Space, that I was introduced to two very engaging Agilists, María Cortés Astudillo, and Nicolas Pagès.

It turned out Maria and Nicolas were keen to work with me and colleagues at PMI to create another interactive workshop, based on their successful experiences in the Agile Suisse community ( They proposed a discussion about the Product Owner role. 

A quick search or browse of LinkedIn suggests the Product Owner (PO) is a much misunderstood or unappreciated role, and personally in the way this role was applied in my previous professional context, also left me with many unanswered questions. I’d love to share them with you, but the unique point of this workshop is that the participants who register are invited to send in via a form their 1-3 questions they have about the product owner role, be it as naïve, profound, basic, deep, personal or general as they like. Therefore, in order to not bias the event agenda before its inception, I’m having a tough time not sharing them with you! 

Nevertheless I shared this concept with both my Romandie events colleagues and Online Events back in July. We have now created a workshop you can see on our events page,

and invite you warmly to both explore the Product Owner role, and to experience this meeting format which you can take away and use for your own facilitations. 

The questions we will receive, up to a week before the event, will be analysed by Maria, Nicolas and me. We will create the agenda  probably starting with fundamentals before taking a deeper dive, but it will be wholly dependent on participants' input – so that could be you . Just register and you’ll get the link to the very easy form. It may be that we facilitate the discussion so that knowledgeable participants can answer the question, or it may be that the named expert speakers will do so. Of course we would expect to have time for more open discussion as we go along. 

So if you liked our previous Open Space or want to learn something new and be heard by the community, make a note to join this Product Owner workshop on the 13th October. Our facilitators are María Cortés Astudillo, and Nicolas Pagès. Maria is an industrial engineer, she is PMP, Professional Scrum Master, Professional Product Owner and Empowering People at the Workplace certified. Nicolas is a junior coach in design thinking, certified Scrum master and product owner, and has also practiced roles such as super key user, project coordinator, IT solution expert and in the last year, business analyst. Read more about Maria and Nicolas in their fascinating bios on our events page, and then challenge them with questions about the Product Owner role. Remember, the uniqueness of this workshop and relevance to you depends on those who have sent their questions in at registration (but circa 1-2 weeks before), so don’t delay! 

Finally, such workshops benefit from diversity, so share the message with colleagues on Linkedin, friends at work, it will all help harness a collaborative collective intelligence for the benefit of all participants.

Spoiler alert – if we get as many questions as we estimate, then based on experience, we may do some sort of follow up 3-4 weeks later for the most passionate amongst you!