Most of us have heard that a picture tells a thousand words. Consensually built pictures, especially around complex topics and interactions, can be used to help solve and resolve a thousand arguments.
We are reminded by the IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) Quick Tip Bulletin #58 about the value of one picture type, called a Context Diagram.
A Context Diagram, also known as a Scoping Picture or Picture of the Business (area) may look complicated and un-informing to the uninformed, but a picture of the business quickly enables a session leader to tighten the reign on scope creep issues that plague many meetings and workshops.
The Context Diagram on the right illustrates “who” the business interacts (here, an organization or business called “Home Finance”) with, “what” the business receives from them, and “what” the business gives to them. Many refer to the “whats” as inputs and outputs. Inputs and outputs are used in requirements gathering to narrow the scope of discovery and discussion. The picture helps both the participants and the facilitator focus on the deliverable.
How to Build a Context Diagram
Consider using the simple agenda shown below. It captures the answers to three simple questions to complete the modeling:
- WHO do we work with to support our purpose (eg, Actors or Agents)?
- WHAT do we get from them (inputs)?
- WHAT do we give them (outputs)?
Consequently, modify this “plain vanilla” agenda for a Context Diagram as shown or as you see fit. Use the MG Rush 7-step introductory sequence and 4-step review and wrap for the workshop bookends. Have an ample supply of Post-It® Notes available, in at least three different colors, sizes, or shapes to distinguish the WHO from the inputs and outputs. Once complete, and consensually validated, you can proceed further with follow-up meetings or workshops to further define and illustrate WHO the business uses to support their purpose, and what activities (Activity Flow or Functional Decomposition workshop, leading to use cases such as SIPOC) and information (Logical Modeling or Entity Relationship Diagram) are also required to support their business purpose.
The following shows the simple agenda that typically takes two to four hours to complete. Also refer to your MG Rush Professional Facilitative Leadership manual for more details.
- PURPOSE OF THE BUSINESS AREA
- WHO INTERACTS (Actors)
- WHAT COMES IN (Inputs)
- WHAT GOES OUT (Outputs)
- MODEL AND VALIDATION (Walk-thru)
- THE SCOPE DEFINED (Narrative)
- REVIEW AND WRAP
Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.
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- Benefits and Best Practices Using Structured Facilitative Workshops (mgrush.com/blog)
- What is the Difference Between Structured Facilitation and Kum Ba Yah Facilitation? (mgrush.com/blog)
- Guidelines for Selecting Appropriate Structured Facilitation Tools (mgrush.com/blog)
- Phase One Results from a Facilitated Business Process Improvement Project (mgrush.com/blog)
- Why We Need Trained, Professional Facilitators Who Can Guard Against Bias (mgrush.com/blog)