Min Specs

Min Specs

Min Specs to Specify Only the Absolute

Min Specs is a liberating structure technique that helps groups discover what is absolutely essential and cleans up the mess. Liberating Structures are facilitation techniques that allow you to unleash and involve everyone in a group — from extroverted to introverted and from leaders to followers.

Min Specs offers a nice balance between first exploring the entire field of do’s and must-not-do’s, and then aggressively narrowing down to what is absolutely essential. It does so in a way that allows everyone to be actively involved.

Respecting the Min Specs will ensure that innovations will be both purposeful and responsible. Like the Ten Commandments, Min Specs are enabling constraints: they detail only must dos and must not dos.

Often two to five Min Specs are sufficient to boost performance by adding more freedom AND more responsibility to the group’s understanding of what it must do to make progress.

Out of their experience in the field, participants shape and adapt Min Specs together, working as one.

Fouer Structural Elements

1. Structuring Invitation

  • In the context of a challenging activity, a new initiative, or a strategic bottleneck, invite the participants to first generate the entire list of all the do’s and don’ts that they should pay attention to in order to achieve a successful outcome. This is the list of maximum specifications (Max Specs).
  • After the list of Max Specs has been developed, ask the participants to reduce it to the absolute minimum needed to achieve their purpose. Invite them to sift through the list one item at a time and eliminate every rule that gets a positive answer to the question, “If we broke or ignored this rule, could we still achieve our purpose?”
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2. How Space Is Arranged and Materials Needed

  • Groups of 4 to 7 chairs around small tables
  • Paper to record Max and Min Specs

3. How Participation Is Distributed

  • Everyone involved in the activity or program can participate
  • Everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute

4. Sequence of Steps and Time Allocation

  • Generate the list of all must-do and must-not-do activities (Max Specs), at first alone for one minute then consolidate and expand in the small group for five minutes. Make list as complete as possible in a short time. 6 min.
  • Each small group tests each spec on its Max Spec list against the purpose statement. If the spec can be violated and the purpose still achieved, the spec is dropped from the list. 15 min.
  • Do a second round if needed. 15 min.
  • Compare across small groups and consolidate to the shortest list. 15 min.
Purposes and Objectives
  • Evaluate and decide what is absolutely essential for success
  • Open space for new possibilities
  • Focus or redirect resources and energies where it matters
  • Simplify strategy in fast moving markets
  • Include as many people and stakeholders as possible. By getting as many ‘brains in the room’ as possible, you can tap into the full potential of the group
  • Make sure to start with an appealing and clearly defined challenge to get the best result. It is worthwhile to spend some time with the group to define the challenge. Writing the challenge on a flip that is visible throughout the exercise
  • Do extra rounds as needed
  • Give more weight to direct experience in the field rather than conceptual knowledge
  • Keep the Min Specs alive by adapting them based on field experiences
  • If groups are having difficulty, you may need to circle back to clarify purpose and make sure that it is down to what is truly important
See also  Discovery and Action Dialogues

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