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How to Prepare for a BRIDGeS Session

The BRIDGeS framework is a flexible problem-solving and solution discovery tool with a lot of advantages. When you decide to give it a try, you need to be well-prepared for the BRIDGeS session, to make it truly productive.
If you haven’t read the BRIDGeS process description, then it’s highly recommended to check that page first.

Getting ready

The process of the BRIDGeS session is quite straightforward. However, there should be a person to guide the team. This person ‒ facilitator is responsible for making an introduction, demo, explaining the structure of the session, leading the process, and engaging all the participants. A facilitator should choose a helper to deal with notes and cards and work with boards. The role of a helper usually rotates among participants to keep the engagement at a high level.

Here are the things to know when preparing for the BRIDGeS session.

1

Clearly define the context and a problem to solve

Before the session is set up, the context owner needs to define the goal to be achieved. It can be “to launch a new product,” “to optimize company processes,” “to create a new growth strategy,” etc. BRIDGeS is a versatile framework that can be used to solve all sorts of problems, be it a strategic, operational, or personal matter.

2

Make a list of attendees

Once the topic is clear, a session initiator invites subject matter experts (SMEs), who can contribute the most to solving the problem. Here is how the list of attendees may look, in different cases:

  • If it’s a new product/feature discovery session, the team of participants should include engineers, designers, representatives from the product team (a product manager, business analyst, project manager, etc.), and other key stakeholders, who are going to be involved in the development process. It’s better to keep the team of a reasonable size ‒ 2-8 people so that the focus remains on the specific subject.
  • If it’s a session to solve operational problems, those who suffer from this problem the most and management of the company (CEO, COO, CFO, etc.) should be invited.
  • If it’s a session to develop a new strategy for the company, the team should consist of executive-level managers
3

Prepare related materials

Before the session, the team members need to collect and get familiar with the materials related to the investigated context. The type of materials heavily depends on the session’s topic. For instance, if the goal is to create a new product/feature, the following materials can help a lot during the session: market research, competitor analysis, examples of existing solutions, designs, prototypes, if there are any, all the other sorts of documents that will help to understand the domain better.

4

Choose the tools

BRIDGeS framework is applicable for both offline and online team sessions.

A session facilitator chooses the set of tools and instruments they feel comfortable with. Here are the tools and equipment they will need during the session:

  • For an offline session, a whiteboard, colored sticky notes, and markers is the choice. Magnets can be used as they help move cards quicker. Also, a team needs to book a room big enough for the group of 2-8 people.
  • For an online session, all the participants make sure that the internet connection is stable and can hold a multiple-hour meeting. Each member should consider noise in the building, their camera and microphones quality to mitigate the risk of distracting other teammates. Last but not least is choosing an online tool that can act as a whiteboard (e.g., Figma, Mural, Miro, etc.). At Railsware, we prefer to use Figma as it works perfectly for distributed teams like ours. A session facilitator will need to create a template of the BRIDGeS board or use our templates. They provide participants with access to this board in advance, so a team doesn’t waste time on that during the session.
5

Get familiar with the bridges core components and process

To be able to have a successful session, a facilitator should be proficient in the BRIDGeS framework. Here are the details of the main components that the framework is built upon. These are Subjects (stakeholders involved in the context), Subject descriptors (Benefits, Issues, Risks, Domain knowledge, and Goals of subjects ‒ BRIDGe), and Solutions that can be decomposed into epics and nested tasks.

A BRIDGeS session can take from 4 hours (if the discussed context is small, i.g., company process optimization) to 16 hours (if the goal is to ideate a new product, for example). The session usually starts with the Demo and Intro from the SMEs and facilitator. Later the whole BRIDGeS process is divided into four major steps: problem description, prioritization, solution variations, and solution breakdown.

No matter if it’s an offline or an online session, all the team members take the role of a facilitator helper (a person who deals with cards and boards) so that participants are actively involved and follow the discussion. The facilitator’s job is to pay attention to participants being focused on the process, and making sure no one is reading emails, or is shifting to non-related discussions. To keep the pace of the session and ensure its productivity, all phones should be set to silent mode.

6

Complete work after session

The classic BRIDGeS session finishes once the team has come up with the Solution variation (in case of a non-product matter) or Solution breakdown (in case it’s discovering a product). Yet, there’s still a lot to do after these stages. A team can continue working on these tasks or fulfill them later, after the session. All these actions are necessary to ensure that the generated ideas and plans are kept safely and will be executed. Here are the most important steps:

  • Saving the collected results. The session findings should become a base for the future work and it’s important to save them properly. If the session was offline, a team takes a photo of the boards, collects all the notes, and adds them to the session materials. If the session was online, it simply stores the virtual board and all notes in the cloud.
  • Adding epics and tasks to the task tracker or roadmap tool. The idea behind the BRIDGeS framework is not only to find a solution but also to get a clear implementation plan. By adding tasks to a task tracking software solution, a team can also estimate them and assign a responsible for delivering the results.
  • Sharing results with the rest of the team. While it's critical to keep the session team small (2-8 people), sharing the session results with the rest of the team is also vital. One or several session participants can run a short presentation (discovery replay) to highlight the session findings and results to keep everyone on the same page so that they all clearly understand what they are going to work on and why.

Wrapping up

The BRIDGeS framework is a versatile tool with a long list of considerable advantages. The more you apply it to different contexts and the more proficient you become, the better results you can get and more complex issues solve.

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