This January all but one of our Project Management team descended on Manchester to attend the 5th annual Deliver Conference. We were really looking forward to catching up with colleagues and discussing new ideas and techniques.
The conference consists of one day of workshops, followed by a day of presentations. These are delivered by a number of first time and returning speakers from the industry.
Crack of dawn
Despite a very early start, myself and Evelyn Hande arrived in good spirits, mainly thanks to copious amounts of coffee. We headed straight to 'The Hive' for a day of workshops.
There were four workshops over the day and everyone was buzzing throughout the morning sessions. I was particularly excited about attending The Workshop workshop!
Day 1: The workshops
Evelyn and I split up to get as much knowledge as possible. The workshops give us an opportunity to get some practical tips and work through new techniques as a group, or just brush up on skills we already have. I’m going to run through the two I attended.
We know there are lots of challenges delivering digital work. It was great to see that colleagues across varied industries experience similar challenges and have developed different ways of tackling them. Peta Kennett-Wilson took us through a set of tools that helped us get in the mindset of clients and empathise with their point of view. One of the techniques that I suggested in the workshop was to talk to the duck. It works for me.
The Workshop workshop
Tom Bradley, Design Director at Code ComputerLove, ran a packed workshop on 'How might we reinvent the yogurt experience for customers’. This may seem like an odd subject for a digital delivery conference, but it brilliantly illustrated how language can help shape an agenda. It’s both specific and ambiguous and left lots of room for creativity and playfulness for participants.
He demonstrated various techniques whilst actually running the workshop, the outcome of which were 8 prototype yoghurt experiences. His approach was compelling as it fosters innovation instead of demanding it from people.
Here are Evelyn’s take outs on the workshops she attended.
OKRS: What I wish we’d known at the start
Neil Vass, Senior Project Manager at the BBC started the day by talking us through the trial and error approach his team had tried in setting up an OKR (Objectives and Key Results) Framework. He described how they adapted the process so that it worked for the team and supported their needs. He gave us plenty to think about in terms of how this process could work for all the teams within our organisations. Some of the other participants also shared how they use them for one-to-one sessions and their own personal goals.
Neil demonstrated that having clearly defined unified objectives can give a team a clear group focus. Having these goals clearly visible across an organisation can also improve communication, kickstart innovation and knowledge sharing, as well as reinforce the team mindset. I was very excited to take this away and learn more about the process both on a personal level and for the various teams I work with.
Impact Mapping in Action
In the afternoon Michael Body from Inviqa took us through an interactive workshop on Impact Mapping and its use as a tool in strategic planning. My team worked through a specific issue around e-commerce tablet conversions and by the end we were able to plot a roadmap of quick, inexpensive, wins right through to large complex pieces of development work that could help tackle the problem.
Mike taught us to define tasks clearly with KPIs and time frames and then focus on the behaviour that needs to change rather than just on the end features. This was very interesting approach that allows for the exploration of different and often unexpected routes to an end goal. By the end of our 2 hour session my team had established several key actions to be undertaken to address the problem, which it turned out the actual business in question had agreed to pursue - however it had taken them 6 months to reach the same conclusions!
Day 2: The Conference
The actual conference took place in ‘The Comedy Store’ in Deansgate. That morning the rest of our PM team met up with us and we took the inevitable selfie with everyone looking really refreshed(!).
The speakers covered a wide range of topics, including: building an effective team culture, using data and insights to drive delivery, and leadership and how it differs from management.
A theme running through a number of the presentations was an increased focus on outcomes, the ‘what do you want to achieve’ rather than the process and steps to achieve a set goal. At Webfactory we always focus on the problem and goals, and work towards a solution, which is not a dissimilar approach. This allows us to be agnostic to the process and focus on the outcomes.
The keynote from Meghan McInerny ‘LEVEL UP: A LEADERSHIP MVP’ was really insightful, Meghan talked about how managing and leading are complementary, but subtly different. A project manager can manage a project and do the basics; have a project plan, a RAID, setup the WIPs etc, but they can also lead. Leadership is a more about shaping and connecting people, ensuring collaboration between client and agency.
As usual the conference gave us a lot of really interesting ideas, some new things to explore further and gave us an opportunity to meet with fellow professionals and know that we are all in this together. We’re really excited about putting some of the ideas into practice with clients and within our own teams.