A few personal highlights from the fifth annual DeliverConf, held in Manchester in January.
Instead of writing a review of the event, this year I've decided to pull together my favourite (or indeed most quotable) moments from the event. This should give those who couldn't make it a flavour of the day and what makes it such a great conference to attend.
This year's event didn't have a theme per se but there were a number of common elements which ran through many of the talks:
- An emphasis on Leadership (and leadership skills)
- Emotional Intelligence and the power of empathy
- Agile working practices within high-performing teams
With these ideas in mind here are a selection of quotes from the day and the reasons why I feel they deserve to be highlighted to a wider audience.
Quote #1: "Creativity cannot be managed, only facilitated"
From: Building an effective team culture by Alison Coward, Founder of Bracket.
Alison Coward - DeliverConf/Manchester Digital
Alison talked passionately, and from her personal experience, about the importance of team culture and how leaders plays a role in creating and nurturing it. She described a shift in the model of leadership into less of a directional and more of a guiding and facilitating role, which is much more suited to team development within knowledge-based industries like agencies. Within her organisation, workshop type sessions are used rather than meetings to encourage participation from all.
Quote #2: "Transforming and delivering is exhausting...so is delivering and being transformed"
From: A people-first approach to transformation by Cara Bermingham, Head of Agile Delivery at The Co-op.
Cara told the story of an Agile delivery project at the Co-op. She explained the experience of a digital team working with subject matter experts (SMEs) from the wider business and the importance of getting them up to speed with the methods and processes employed by the team building digital products.
When you work in digital everyday it's easy to assume a level of knowledge. And when working with a store manager who was used to a shop-floor environment it was really important to show empathy for the 'fish out of water' situation the SME found herself in when first assigned to the project. As a PM or Delivery Manager it's our role to build relationships with stakeholders and help them get to grips with new ways of working in a friendly and safe environment.
Quote #3: "Show the product, not the Kanban board"
From: Build the right thing by Chris Burns, Product Owner at the English Institute of Sport.
With an exceptionally tight turnaround project (think 4 weeks in total!), Chris described the importance of transparency within the project and of showing the stakeholders progress at regular intervals. By working in a more lean / agile way it enabled the team to show the prototype and gather feedback which fed into the product quickly and iteratively. Feedback on the early product was incorporated as quickly as possible. Rather than relying on a status report or a board to explain project progress, showcasing the actual tangible product gave the stakeholders confidence in the outcome.
Quote #4: "Empathy isn't a superpower, it's a state of being"
From: Compartmentalised empathy – how to support others without losing yourself by Roisi Proven, Head of Product Delivery at Honeycomb TV.
Roisi Proven - DeliverConf/Manchester Digital
Roisi told her highly personal story of dealing with being a PM and leader in an agency environment, whilst trying to support colleagues and friends outside of work. She explained how her experiences had led her to view empathy less as a superpower or strength to be deployed in a crisis and more as something that weaves through everyday life. In the talk she also highlighted the need to leave others' issues behind at work and to make time for yourself to enable you to be effective as a leader and as a fellow human being.
Quote #5: "It’s innovation when it’s your idea, it’s change when it’s someone else’s idea."
From: Q&A Panel featuring Shahina Patel, Meghan Mcinerny, Cara Bermingham and Peta Kennett-Wilson.
Q&A Panel - DeliverConf/Manchester Digital
This came out of an interesting debate during the panel session and highlights the need to show people why and how it will be innovative for them if you want to be passionate about doing it. This quote resonates because it reminds us to consider multiple points of view when communicating. And, importantly, not to let our enthusiasm for making things better run away with us without taking the time to bring others along on the journey with us.
Quote #6: "Deliver good news and bad news at the same velocity. Bad news gets worse with age"
From: Level Up: A Leadership MVP by Meghan McInerny, COO at Clockwork.
Meghan Mcinerny - DeliverConf/Manchester Digital
Meghan's talk was really inspirational and she came across as an exceptional leader and role model within our industry. Having worked as a PM she's well placed to give advice on how best to communicate within projects and this nugget made a lot of sense. Balancing the need to manage the message with delivering news about issues (and potential issues) in a timely fashion is a real skill and something that requires experience to learn.
It's really hard to sum up a full day event in 6 quotations but hopefully this summary helps to bring the event to life and will act as a lasting reminder of 2018's DeliverConf 'best bits'.
Lastly, I'd like to thank our agency, Ridgeway, for enabling 3 of us from the Project Management team to attend the conference.