My 4 favorite Liberating Structures for continuous improvement

Why Liberating Structures & lean make a great combo.

My 4 favorite Liberating Structures for continuous improvement
Photo by Brian Kerr.

I recently shared an introduction to Liberating Structures, the methods that filled the “facilitation gap” in my own continuous improvement practice. Now I want to get specific about the Liberating Structures that have been most valuable to support continuous improvement activities.

I’ve tried many… these are the ones that stuck.


  • Ecocycle Planning—an initial conversation that can help an uncertain team figure out what problems or opportunity areas to work on. Starting with a portfolio-level listing of major systems or activities, people locate each of those in its overall lifecycle. The resulting ‘ecocycle’ is an overall picture of which things need fixing, maybe some things that could be skillfully closed down, and certain things that need to be nurtured into further growth. There’s your first swing at a schedule of continuous improvement projects.

During an improvement activity

  • TRIZ—a scavenger hunt to find existing system behaviors that produce bad outcomes. Fun, terrifying, energizing, and 100% based on the expertise of those most familiar with the work and its frustrations. TRIZ can bring apparently disconnected groups together and let them see how their collective work is both interrelated and necessary. It also gets people laughing.
  • 25/10 Crowdsourcing—a machine for generating bravery, starting with the question: “If you were ten times bolder, what big idea would you recommend?” The activity ends with a tantalizing presentation of the weirdest, least intuitive ideas that were elevated or supported by the whole group. There are always a few ideas you can go do immediately, the ‘ten times bolder’ premise be damned.


  • What/So What/Now What—group closing reflection and commitment. Can scale up or down, but this is the smallest possible closing that helps people make sense of what just happened and decide what they’ll take away from it.

Look, they’re all good

There are dozens of Liberating Structures. Even if you are familiar with some of them, others will be new. I encourage you to seek them out. For example, I only started using Ecocycle Planning in the last year or so, but it has already gotten me out of a couple real pickles.