lego

Manchester’s Project Manager Conference 2019

I attended Manchester’s Project Manager Conference ‘Deliver’ in March 2019. A year on I am still finding it insightful, on best practice but also the ability to learn from your mistakes while doing project management. I am not a trained Agile PM in fact in many ways I have fallen into being a project manager by doing other things that I did not consider project management.

On the first day, I attended the workshops which I was fairly surprised were not as highly attended as I expected. and on the second day, there were 8 talks and a Q&A panel.

Workshop

The workshop I attended was run by Rachel Shah (Senior Project Manager & Agile Delivery Lead for Reason Digital), her workshop was entitled “The Lego SCRUM community of practice”, I might have picked it because anything with the word Lego in it seems to make sense, but actually found it was a valuable exercise.

Picture of post-its on a wall symbolising workshop

It has taught me that I know a lot more about the agile way of working but from my time at university back in the late ’90s, the thing about the usability cycle as I know it is that you are expected to ‘test, reflect, improve, test a bit more and continue this process’.

Sprints are the working section, and probably the hardest thing to take on when you are new, as you need to take into account how long it takes to do everything. I think I have worked in old terms where people have forgotten or chosen not to dedicate time for reflection or to learn from the process of ‘doing’ which seems counteractive considering the need to improve as you go.

Picture of Lego

Our task was to build a Lego and drawn city that was safe for its inhabitants and also have an infrastructure that allowed for cars and other vehicles to pass each other and access shops and a zoo.

What I did learn was we adapted our team way of working as we went along naturally which is probably a problem in the ‘agile world’ as it was not a conscious decision to do so. When you are finding blocks and building a Lego train it does not have a massive knock-on effect but I can see how it would when you doing a project in hours and not minutes.

As a team, you need to be able to replicate processes and it is hard to do this when you have adapted your way of working without proper thought.
A Lesson Learned

We did the planning side of our project reasonably well, and we used some interesting tools including a set of cards (Fibonacci) for estimating time spent doing tasks within the project.

There are a couple of other tools that can be used for estimating task time, and I would like to try them sometime, including estimate time based on points and relative time (which sounds a little odd as unless you know what unit of time you are using is).

We did at least achieve our city…

Conference Day

A full day of interesting talks there were some interesting highlights for me especially the entitled ‘Anything But Fluffy’ by Natasha Sayce-Zelem, I would guess this is of special interest to me because it looked at the ‘soft-skills’ gap we find these days in, not only the tech industry but in wider society.

I will no doubt write about this somewhere else but I am interested that life-time skills seem to be so undervalued in any industry, and it is clear this is beginning to be noticed more now.

Other highlights for me, were the Q&A session after lunch, the talk by Stephen Thomas about looking after yourself as a project manager entitled ‘Zen and the Art of Project Management’, Vicky Walsh who’s talk was ‘Points Make Projects – Managing Workload Using Project Points’.

Most importantly was a very personal keynote talk from Sharon Steed who made a courageous decision to take up public speaking after making the decision to embrace her fear about her stammer, however, by embracing this we got a particularly meaningful talk called ‘Creating Cultures of Empathy’.

This talk highlighted the importance of Empathy in the workplace enabling sharing, helping employers and companies retain employees. In fact, it became clear that if you or your company fail to embrace empathy then you will be unable to relate to your staff and clients.

A year on…

I still think all the talks were interesting in their own ways, 2019 was my first Deliver Conference and what was particularly meaningful to me is just how supportive the community are, Project Managers really understand what it is to be a PM, not something that I am surprised to hear, but what is really rewarding is how willing people within the community are to share their experiences and knowledge with each other.

As you can imagine with the COVID-19 Deliver 2020 was not something I got to attend, like everyone else really, but I look forward to 2021 and the local meetings to come.

Life moved on, I am now freelance, PM’ing WordPress projects and doing a whole mixture of other things.