This year marked 5 years of deliver conference (formerly DPMUK), and as a bit of an delivery geek i’ve been to every single one. I’ve tried to make a commitment at the end of each event to write up a blog to capture the key learnings and takeaways. So in a time honoured tradition i’ve captured my reflections. While I did a talk on data driven delivery I won’t be reviewing myself, so will be posting a separate link to the video ( which is coming soon).
Day 1 is the workshop track, and what could be better than a workshop on workshops! Tom Bradley delivered an excellent session teaching us some simple rules to get the best out of workshops.
- Playfulness – creativity is fun, give people icebreakers to get into the mood
- Set the agenda – be clear with what you will be covering
- What else? – this simple and powerful question asked repeatedly draws out ideas
- Silence is golden – to get the group’s attention simply stop talking to take back control
- Make it inclusive – calling out participants based on month of birth can remove politics
- Diverge / converge – the double diamond technique helps flow into solutions
- Finish on time – don’t try to fit too much in and allow time for questions / reflections
Neil delivered a practical workshop on how we can use Objectives and Key Results ( OKRs) to supercharge our teams delivery.
Sharing lessons on what’s worked well for him at the BBC and how we can apply the method to our teams was really helpful. It’s an area I want to get more involved in so am keen to read up more and see how our team get on.
Building an effective team culture
Alison an experienced workshop facilitator shared some really interesting research and experiences on how workshops can help build a better team.
Companies inadvertently kill creativity in favour of productivity, however the thing that people seem to forget is that in actual fact “Creativity can’t be managed, only facilitated”.
So as we’re increasingly having to collaborate within highly creative teams it’s important to figure out how such teams are going to work together.
Alison outlined examples of how workshops can be used to design teamwork
- How do you work together – looking at ways to create new habits & new routines
- Where do you do your best work? Developing team self awareness
A really simple takeaway for me is to ask myself and the team this question:
How frequently do we as a team talk about how we want to work as a team?
A people first approach to transformation
Cara’s talk provided some really interesting insights from her experience of taking the Co-Op food division on a digital transformation journey.
She shared some really key learnings around how transformational change affects people:
- Take the time to acknowledge how the change will make people feel – it’s easy to forget that change isn’t exciting for everyone
- Never assume someone knows what you mean – silence doesn’t equal understanding, always take the time to ask people if they have any questions or clarifications
- It’s tiring and exhausting for new teams who haven’t worked in an agile way – It’s important to acknowledge there will be challenges and its not going to be all smooth sailing
- Take the client on the journey before the work starts – As delivery professionals who are well versed in agile methodology we can often take for granted that not everyone understands these principals. Taking the time at the start to run an agile initiation programme for those who are new can really help on-board clients
Build the right thing
Chris’s lightning talk shared his learnings of becoming a new product owner.
Some really great reminders of the essential points to always keep in mind when building a product:
- Remember to be clear, consistent, open and honest – stakeholders need to be invested in the product too
- If it’s not validated, it’s not going in – challenge stakeholders on the why!
- People want to see progress not hear it – scheduling regular reviews so people see how things are shaping up
- Celebrate success – show stakeholders what you’ve achieved, it’s easy to overlook how far you’ve come!
Managing expectations of you
Vicky’s talk centred around how do we convey what we as PMs do and what we’re here for.
My favourite idea that Vicky shared was the concept of project points. Borrowing the concept from agile estimation for development we could apply the same sort of approach to help convey the volume of work we can process. For example if you have a challenging client that demands a lot of your time this would have a higher point score than a really easy going client.
Aim wide not just high
Kayley delivered a humorous and well rounded talk looking at how delivery professionals can become more T-Shaped. The idea is that T shaped people have a depth and breadth of skills ( in a way you could refer to this as cross functional knowledge) which is something we’re always expanding upon given the pace of change.
- Combine business skills and PM knowledge – having a commercial understanding is important as well to broaden your knowledge base
- Look at the bigger picture – some skills can still be relevant in your day job
- Be enthusiastic – being open to new opportunities can make a big difference
- Be selective in what you take on – focus on skills that will increase your value
Roisi shared a very personal story of how she’s come to learn what empathy means and how to manage it. She provided a really easy way to understand the difference between the two.
Empathy = I feel how you feel / i’ve had lived experience
Sympathy = I know how you feel
I especially liked how she used the concept of spoon theory, which looks at our emotional capacity in terms of each of us only have so many spoons and when you have a mental health condition it can quickly use up all your available spoons leaving you with a psychological deficit.
Level up – A leadership MVP
Meghan delivered a fantastic closing keynote on the attributes we should all learn to demonstrate if we want to be seen as leaders. Reflecting on her own experiences of joining ClockWork and being inspired by Nancy Lyons their founder she provided a great definition of what a leader is “Leaders inspire people to move towards a vision”.
She outlined a number of capabilities which determine leadership, though we all have the ability to show up with the following skills she outlined below.
- Teach people how to treat you
Don’t forget how you treat people that you don’t need. We should treat everyone well and if you don’t this says alot about how you judge your self-importance and be off-putting especially at an interview stage
When you do get further up the ladder you often have to remind people to not necessarily that your word as gospel. Meghan had a great example where team members would take what she said as a direct order when it was only a suggestion. Being a leader to say that my way may not be the right way so go do what’s best.
- Communicate with context and clarity
I loved Meghan’s example of how short emails are a work of art. Basically we should always think about ensuring we tell the person what they need to know quickly and clearly. A lazy FYI doesn not give the person the key info they need to work with.
- Don’t suck time
We need to think that when we add a meeting it is subtracting time. If you book in a meeting with someone are you happy to take that time from them?
If you do need a meeting focus on the outcome you want, Meghan identified there are 5 reasons to have a meeting:
- To give info – though could this be provided in a different format to negate a meeting?
- To get info
- To generate ideas
- To make decisions
- Take note of the leaders around you
Observe what leaders do that are good or bad and then make sure you do more of the things you like.
- Lead first, title second
Be the role you want to be first, its then a lot easier to ask for what you want. I loved this advice as for me it’s easy to think you need a title to get the promotion. So i’m certainly going to try and knuckle down in areas I want to get into to then be able to apply this concept.
All in all it was another fantastic conference and there’s plenty to reflect on and try out new ideas. Here’s until 2019!