I’ve had time to reflect on last week’s 3rd DPM UK conference in Manchester. Every year I come away with a real sense of pride and excitement for the DPM industry. I fondly refer to the conference as PM therapy. Everyone is so friendly, and the event is an eye opener as I always come away with ideas of how I can further improve myself, and my work.


Below are my top takeaways from the stellar line-up of speakers at DPM UK, 2016.

Don’t lose your sense of integrity

Sam Barnes’s talk “you can do well, or you can do good”, reminded us of the importance to stand up for what you believe in and maintain your integrity. Even if that means being prepared to get fired for standing up for what you believe in. A bold concept but one I think we can all relate to on a level as PMs we can find ourselves in situations that test our character.

 

Develop empathy

This was a key theme that came through a number of the talks this year especially Susanne Madsen’s. Human connection is crucial to building trust and I feel this is a skill that we all constantly have to work on. Below is a great little 2 minute video that sums up this concept up in a nutshell.

 

Take care of your future self

in Katie Buffalo’s talk she referenced the urgent / non-urgent matrix as a helpful reminder of how we should prioritize our tasks with an eye on what we can do today to minimize further work. See an example below and more details on how you categorize each block.

Urgent-vs-Important-Matrix

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_91.htm

 

Technical debt

Matt Thornhill’s talk discussed a different approach to having open and honest conversations with clients about the impact of technical decisions. Technical debt is a term that refers to the additional costs incurred by making short-sighted decisions around functionality.

Especially with the rise of agile development this approach can help reposition conversations around value for the overall project in the long-term. What client isn’t going to be open to a suggestion that will mean they pay less overall and get a better end result?

More on the topic can be found on http://martinfowler.com/bliki/TechnicalDebt.html

 

Keep in touch

Ian May reminded us all of the importance of checking in with our colleagues, being a manager of project managers highlighted how crucial it is to help build rapport with your team in order to identify where support is needed (without trying to get into all of the detail). Here’s a great link from his talk on the 5 questions to ask your team members every month, i’ll be using some of these for sure! http://teamgantt.com/blog/five-questions-to-ask-your-team-members-every-month/

 

The next few points all come from Susanne Maden’s talk – for me the standout session from the day. Leadership is a skill i’ve often thought I understood but after Susanne’s talk it certainly highlighted deeper level concepts to consider such as emotional intelligence and asking rather than telling. I know one of my weakness is the sound of my own voice and i’ll get more out of my team by asking them what they need, how they’re getting on etc.

 

Plan collaboratively

One of the 6 basic human needs includes contribution, getting the entire project teams input in a planning session will help to foster greater collaboration going forward with the project. I know I can put this into practice as we’ve all sat locked away in a room with our project planning tools and not consulted with the team who’ll be delivering the work. Early buy in and agreement on how a project should be delivered will pay off throughout the course as everyone feels they’ve had a part to play in shaping how they’ll be working.

 

Strategic vision

One of the biggest reasons for project failure is that projects aren’t linked to corporate strategy. I’m sure if we’re all honest agencies across the board can be guilty of simply taking on work that serves no purpose! I know i’ve asked myself the question in the past – why are we even doing this? Susanne highlighted the importance of identifying this disconnect and thinking about how to fix the gap. Delving deeper under the skin of a project could reveal further opportunities for strategic partnerships to deliver real value for the client.

 

How would you like me to keep you informed?

For me this is a definite takeaway to apply going forward. As its easy to treat all clients the same and not take into consideration their preferences. I know some clients prefer texts to emails, or others would much rather speak on the phone. Communicating the right way, and managing communication expectations from the start will help to build trust and of course help keep up momentum.

 

Eat the frog!

Last but not least this is another key takeaway that in theory we can all easily apply but may leave at the bottom of the list. The concept of “Eating the Frog” (By Brian Tracey) is about getting your biggest, most procrastinated task completed in the morning so it’ll be the worst thing you’ll deal with all day. I think we all know of a frog or too that we need to deal with!

 

There’s a Manchester DPM meet up in February where we’ll be getting together and reflecting on our learnings from the conference so sign up and lets carry on discussion. I’ll see you there!