Here is our round-up of the 2 days we spent in Manchester at DC19 listening and learning some fantastic tips from great people in the industry of delivering projects.
We joined fellow delivery teams at The Studio @ The Hive in central Manchester for a day of interactive workshops.
The day started well with coffee and pastries and some really cool facts about Manchester located on the back of the toilet door!
Suze spoke about how we can adapt product management theories and tools for project management, using 3 core principles – customer first, frequent delivery & team collaboration.
The workshop looked at adopting agile without having to follow a ‘by the book’ implementation, the pitfalls of the project-centric thinking approach, and how it can become detrimental to you and the products you’re delivering. In contrast, we explored users becoming the core focus of delivery and audience-centric project teams.
We buddied with 4 other project managers, 3 of which had traveled from Germany to attend along with the Delivery Manager from Manchester Airport Group (MAG), who were all great company and offered really interesting perspectives to the topic in contrast to our own.
The key things we took away from this workshop:
Put the customer first
We try to keep our clients, team and business owners happy and we tend to let personal opinions or business motives take over the actual needs of the end user.
Develop a hypothesis
This is a very simple but effective tool. Print out your hypothesis and stick it up on the wall and refer to throughout the project to remind everyone what the end users need and refer back to it to qualify any new ideas.
At Reckless, our strategy and creative teams work hard to find out who these users are and what makes them tick. By creating an actual profile for those users, it helps us understand a bit more and makes it more real and relatable.
Create an early feedback loop
As we all know, communication is key. However, sometimes we don’t talk as often as we ought to, depending on the situation, team or project we are working on.
Suze suggested, and reminded us, that a good habit to adopt is feeding back as soon as something happens whether it’s good, bad or ugly. Give your feedback as soon as possible and don’t let the moment pass by or let it get the better of you.
Define a problem statement
Establish a problem statement at the beginning of the project. This is where you ought to spend a good chunk of time trying to understand what the problems are before trying to come up with the solution.
Suze handed out scenarios, for us to try producing a problem statement in our groups. It was definitely easier said than done, but we did get to use post-it notes and a whiteboard to help us! Here is a photo of our ‘workings’.
We found it was hard to focus on what the problems were without coming up with ways we could solve them and the tools we could use. I can understand why this is a great exercise to do at the beginning of the project before rushing into finding the solution.
This all lends itself well with what we have recently started to implement at Reckless using a method called‘Jobs to be Done’. This also adopts a customer-first approach and utilises research and insight to form problem statements, map assumptions and write hypothesis which can be inspected and adapted at regular intervals.
We recognise at Reckless that one size does not fit all and that every project has its own individual set of requirements. Adapting agile and using a hybrid delivery approach enables us to remain flexible, keeps research at the heart of what we do and embodies our human values by identifying that everyone is unique and should be supported individually.
We hope that our clients will see the value of this approach and be keen to support us by welcoming future workshops, customer interviews, and focus groups to help us get to know their customers too.
The second day was held at The Comedy Store and was crammed with people sharing their tips & experiences on stage.
The day had a fantastic line up of industry experts waiting to part with their knowledge in a quest to guide us through the turbulent times of the digital project management – most appropriately summed up by this video!
The morning started with the following presentations:
Zen And The Art Of Project Management – Stephen Thomas – Senior Digital Project Manager And Director Of Operations, Dubaussi Ltd
Points make projects – Managing workload using project points – Vicky Walsh
Followed by 3 lightning talks including one from our very own Andy Taberer who summarised the work we have been doing around Quality at Reckless for the last 3 months.
The afternoon continued after a lovely hot buffet lunch with 3 further presentations:
Anything but Fluffy – Natasha Sayce-Zelem – Head of Technology, Sky
From Disengagement To Practical Value – Paul Harding – Agile Coach, Bookinggo
Creating Cultures of Empathy – Sharon Steed
There was most definitely an overarching holistic theme to all of the presentations throughout the day- a true sign of the times and the society we live in today. With mental health awareness at its most prominent to date, there was a clear message of how to look after yourself at work and keep yourself grounded in a role where juggling budgets and clients expectations puts a huge amount of pressure and responsibility on your shoulders. From managing stress to balancing workload, comparing the importance of Hard skills versus soft skills and creating cultures of empathy, so many ideas were shared on how to take care of ‘YOU’ at work.
Stephen provided an interesting fact taken from HSE which states that PMs are under the category of ‘Professionals’ and, as you can see below, that’s a large portion of the graph!
Top tips we took from Stephens presentation:
Our very own Andy Tabberer presented a lightning talk on ‘What we mean when we talk about Quality’. In this he spoke about our own quality journey which forced us to strip everything back to its roots and look at human behavior and how this shapes our day to day interactions with one and other.
As an official delivery team, we have worked together in shaping the quality goals and standards. However, to really be a success, the delivery team really involves everyone!
Quality as a democracy
Including everyone — getting people on board will help make improvements easier, quicker and fun!
Consistency, momentum and never giving up
System and prevention over individual and intervention
Laura Lancaster also delivered a lightning talk, this was on ‘Using EQ to Deliver’ which complemented Natasha Sayce-Zelems talk ‘Anything but fluffy…’.
Laura explained that, in the technology industry, we work with some brilliant people with high IQs. However, we need more than an off the chart IQ to be able to work in such collaborative and ever-changing environments.
Laura listed 10 points which can help us all be great at our jobs:
Understanding strengths and weaknesses
Admit when you’re wrong — say sorry!
Embrace feedback and difficult conversations — stick to the facts, give examples, put yourself in their shoes and get ready for questions.
Stop! After drafting your reply to an ‘interesting’ email don’t press send straight away, type it out and revisit it later.
Take yourself outside of your comfort zone — this is where the magic happens!
One size doesn’t fit all — understand that not everyone is the same.
Do what you love and love what you do
Find your own motivation
Natasha added to this by commenting that although hard skills are required to do the work, the ‘soft skills’ are just as important. These take time and practice to craft but ultimately, they are the core reasons for career progression and promotions.
Another focus of Natasha’s talk was around personal development and she shared her experiences outside of work that helped her in her job. Activities such as volunteering at events, talking at conferences and coaching people wanting to get into tech all worked in her favour. Doing things like this can take you out of your comfort zone and can give you a boost of confidence by learning or achieving something that you didn’t think you could do.
At Reckless our company values and quality objectives each encompass a ‘Human’ element in a bid to keep our teams health and well being a priority in order for us to deliver good work. We now have some fantastic tips to share with our team leads in order to keep our colleagues happy and healthy at work which, will, in turn, mean they will remain focussed and driven to deliver the best possible solutions for our clients and their customers.
The event gave Project Managers throughout the room skills to take away and implement across their own teams in the spirit of continuous improvement.
Thanks again to all of the wonderful presenters and to everyone we spoke to at the conference. It really is a great community of people trying to do their best in the world of project delivery by helping each other and sharing experiences.
See you at Deliver Conference 2020!
Francesca Marsh | Project Manager
Sian Dalzell | Studio Co-ordinator