Digital PM Summit Retrospective: Day 1

Earlier this month, Matt Bozeman and I attended the Third Annual Digital PM Summit in Philly. We were blown away by the quality of the industry specific speakers and the opportunity to connect with fellow Project Managers fighting the good fight. Every project manager needs to attend this conference. The conference schedule was a bit daunting; with so many amazing options, I didn’t want to miss any of them. Of course I did have to choose in the end. Here are some of the inspirational messages, pieces of advice, and breakout session takeaways I gained from Day 1 of the Summit.

Unleashing Your Inner Intrapreneur

Being an employee & thinking like a CEO

Nancy Lyons from Clockwork Active Media started Day 1 with pep rally spirit, energizing the group of groggy-eyed Project Managers at 9am on opening day and setting the tone for the whole conference.

Intrapreneur a person inside an organization who takes risks to solve problems and grow business. An intrapreneur isn’t afraid to embrace the spirit of an entrepreneur.

Employees look for direction; entrepreneurs do something.

The call to action was clear: go forth and actively question status quo, observe the world, take risks, endeavor to achieve, and experiment to find solutions. Nancy inspired everyone to take the leap within our organizations and take ownership of our paths. It starts with initiative and goal setting. You can find her slides here.

Managing a Project from the Last Responsible Moment

Rob Harr from Sparkbox kept the momentum going by speaking right to the core of what project managers love to do: plan. We love having a plan. But we’ve all set a meticulous plan in place at the start of a project, only to have everything change.

He made the insightful, yet counterintuitive comment that decisions made too early in a project are risky. They create drag and often result in throwaway work. We need to make sure we aren’t so focused on our plan that we build the wrong thing.

Delay commitment to your plan until you have the best available information. Rob defined this as the “last responsible moment,” not to be confused with the last possible moment. He used it as a way to frame good decision-making, based on knowing enough about your client and their needs. You can think of it as the last day something can be done before it eliminates a good option.

Rob offered pointers from how Sparkbox works on projects: Start with the end in mind and set project goals, not strict requirements. Work with your clients to figure out what those goals are; don’t make assumptions. Then prioritize those goals. There can only be one #1 thing.

Set constraints and timelines and leverage them. Another counterintuitive point: constraints are freeing. They give you parameters to work within. Embrace the unknown and get comfortable with uncomfortable. Embrace learning during the project; it generates momentum. Be confident without having to know all the answers off the top of your head.

Use this: “That’s a great question. Let me get back to you with an answer.”

You can find his slides here.

Digital PM Agile Retrospective

In this session, Dave Prior from Leading Agile gave vital definitions for key aspects of  Agile methodology, a style of project management that is often made murky in practice. At Gauge we’ve been using a modified Agile approach for some time—an approach Dave defined as a “Conscious Hybrid.”

Conscious Hybrid: a blend of traditional and Agile project management practices that is created after attempting to practice a form of Agile (like Scrum) as it is formally defined.

We definitely found out we are not alone in our hybrid approach. We were found in good company with many other organizations applying, rejecting, and modifying Agile practices like cross-functional teams, daily standups, and retrospectives, in order to find the right approach for their teams. It was refreshing to be in a room full of people with the same hurdles and questions we have.

Our biggest current hurdle is clearly defining and documenting what “done” means. This seems simple, but in an industry where there is constantly innovation, tweaking, and the ability to improve, it is hard to say something is ever truly  done.

Dave facilitated a survey of practices and summarized his findings here.

Design Pricing

A few months ago, our company started a good old fashioned book club. Sparked by industry peers, we started having conversations about Value Pricing and purchased copies of Implementing Value Pricing for our entire management team. The process and implementation has been fully supported by our whole team; we have approached the change as a group shift in thinking. We are putting our clients at the center of the discussion, and as a company, focusing on adding value to their businesses.

Dan Mall, founder of Super Friendly, focused his talk on the various types of design pricing and why Value Pricing is the best for everyone. We were happy to see Implementing Value Pricing highly recommended by yet another great industry peer.

Stay tuned for DPM Retrospective: Day 2!

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