Workshop - Problems from a vending machine

This is an all day workshop.

Together, we will make products based on your business problems for sale in a real (or hypothetical) vending machine.


If you already have a bright future defined but are struggling to move towards it, the chances are the current reality and problems may need making visible, with a plan to overcome them. Step 2 of the Releasing Agility model.

We would conduct a Root Cause Current Reality tree where all problems are listed, connected and the root cause is identified. There are typically very few root causes that spawn a number of issues. We typically try to keep the root causes in this session to between 5-10.

We then start building products that we could put in a hypothetical (or real) vending machine. Each row of the machine is a root cause. Each product is a problem and/or resolution to address the root cause. Ideally no more than 5-7 “products”.

We then build the products or use cards to represent them – we get creative here. Draw, doodle, stick, print or whatever, to create each product. On the reverse of the vending machine product we list the next steps, effort and outcome.

At the end of the day we will have a series of product (potential solutions) to your root causes, complete with a plan on how to move forward with each one.

The goal of this is to show that potential solutions can be found if we lean into the current reality – but also, and more importantly, you can’t take all of the products out of the machine in one go – as in, you cannot possibly hope to solve all of your problems at once.

You can set you own limit, but I always recommend you only try to tackle no more than 2 of the problems and solutions when you get back to the office. Tackling too many problems at once will confuse and drain your team. Selecting which ones to tackle next is important – and using a scientific method, you can implement each one and then return to the machine for the next one once you know it’s solved the problem.

And of course, as you move towards you bright painted future, you will uncover more problems that can be added to the machine.

There are always more problems that you can realistically address, which is why it’s important to only tackle the heart of the problems that stand between where you are now and where you want to get to. The vending machine acts as a frame and constraint – only put in it the solutions to problems that will make a difference.

This is a wonderful way of coming up with next steps to tackle problems facing you now, prioritising them and visualising the next stages of your business journey.

Schedule and Location

Space is needed for this. I provide the materials, you provide the brains. Ideally a suitable room with plenty of workspaces (floors, desks etc).

  • 08:30 – 09:00 – Set up work space
  • 09:00–09:30 — Introductions
  • 09:30–10:45 — Current Reality Tree
  • 11:00–12:30 — Building products for the machine
  • 13:30 – 15:00 — Building products for the machine
  • 15:30 – 17:00 – Loading the machine – and next steps

Location is up to you – your office, a local hotel, factory – somewhere with parking, coffee and space to create.


  1. Before the workshop begins, please do some pre-thinking about the problems you are facing in work – big or small and try to be specific.
  2. Try to bring evidence that demonstrates these problems are indeed problems, and that they are indeed worth solving.
  3. Ensure your team have no meetings or tasks scheduled – it’s important everyone is engaged.
  4. Turn up, leave politics at the door and put your creative hat on. This is a problem resolution workshop. The resolutions have to be right – people don’t. “Disagree and Commit” is a useful mantra to come prepped with.

After the workshop

  1. It’s expected that someone will transcribe the products into your suitable work management tool for action.
  2. I will write up the day’s notes – anything I spot that could be useful, and send this over to you within 2-3 working days.
  3. Action is key – ensure there is a plan to bring to life the solutions your team come up with. Some may need finer refinement – all will need measuring to ensure they address the problems raised.