Project management camp in Barcelona 2017

On 6th and 7th of October, the project management bar camp took place in Barcelona. We participated with four people from NIMIUS. In addition, Vanessa, project manager at our partner "land in sicht" joined us on our trip. There are multiple project management camps happening in Europe throughout the year, addressing project- and team-leaders, development teams, and everyone interested in project management and communication topics.

However, due to recent events in Barcelona (i.e. terror attacks, strikes, the independence of Catalonia), only a small group of around 60 people participated. Thursday after work, we started  our trips from Zurich and Basel off to Barcelona and arrived late at night. The flat we rented was central and within a short walk from there, we reached the event location at Placa Pau Vila.

One would expect that there are mostly people working with software projects like we do. All the better, people we've met worked in a variety of fields, which gave us insights and new views. Among the participants, there were a few that inspired us:

  • Brian from LA/Barcelona, consultant, with a lot of experience in the needs of companies which mostly not match to what they think of what they need.
  • Peggy from Germany/Barcelona, consultant, she knows a lot about communication and wanted to learn more about non-verbal communication.
  • Ido from Israel, governmental atomic power project manager, wanted to know if scrum could work for their HR and administrative departments.
  • Frank from Germany/Barcelona, product owner (open source), we discussed the concepts of multiple project portfolio management and related topics (e.g. tooling).
  • Andrius from Lithuania, project manager at a bank, he deals with many stakeholders but has essentially the same issues and experience we have.
  • Lisa from UK/Barcelona, coach, she is experienced in coaching teams and face-to-face communication without being parent and child.
  • Maria from UK/Barcelona, project manager, she is currently making a sabbatical and managed educational projects before. Nice talks!

12 tips for better public speaking (Pascal Dürsteler)

A bit outside of project management, a session about better public speaking was held. His explanations, supported with practical examples, broken down into twelve points, are:

  1. Key message: Don’t get lost in too much other interesting facts from side stories.
  2. “Why listen?”: At the beginning, give a reason for attention.
  3. Anticipation and curiosity. They increase the attention level and may be in form of a question that is going to be answered during the talk.
  4. Structure like a tree: The trunk is your key message. Branches are importantly connected to your trunk and contain more interesting information to support your key message.
  5. Have a story: A story is much simpler to learn and remember as a chronological order of words and sentences. It reduces the speaker’s nervosity, which in term calms down the whole talk.
  6. Paint pictures: Make people remember your talk by giving them a picture to remember, as it is done in books.
  7. Emotions: Facts and figures are good, but what you take home are emotions.
  8. Lead to an end: Prepare the message to lead to an end, e.g. a summary of your talk. Don’t just end it by saying “Any questions? Thank you for your patience”.
  9. Practice! Standing in front of people makes you nervous and you suddenly forget a part of what you were about to say. Don’t just practice your talk until you know your words, but until you are certain in your whole execution.

Managing multiple projects within one sprint (Scrum) (Nicki Schinow)

I proposed and held this session to discuss and challenge various ideas and problems that evolved when working with multiple projects in one sprint, like

  • context switching
  • getting all clients involved in all events and activities (sprint planning, daily scrum, retrospective, testing, decisions, etc)
  • knowing how to deal with unfinished tasks
  • adapt to specific needs of clients

I started by giving an overview of how scrum works in agile project management, and how the scrum framework does not really define how to manage multiple projects in parallel. We switched to having a great discussion about experiences, ideas for solving problems, and even if it is the right framework for our cases.

We did not found "the solution" but collected ideas and inspirations.

Tuff Leadership Training on Feedback (Jakob Höfflin)

This session was focusing on how to give feedback and thus not strictly only useful in PM but also for everyday life.

The presented method is based on a change in paradigm for the motivation behind giving feedback in general. Instead of asking “How do I get him/her to do ….?” we should much rather give feedback with an honest wish to contribute to the other persons development  in a positive way, in other words for their sake instead of ours.

A second uncommon idea is to explicitly DO go below the surface and give feedback on a general behavior or mindset of a person instead of simply commenting on a specific task or action. By doing this it is possible to cause a real positive change in behavior. To be able to go on such an emotional level without losing the situation to a heated argument, the session leader Lisa Gill proposed four important steps for giving feedback:

  1. Mandate: The first step is to give the other person a choice if she wants to get feedback in a given situation at all. Only on a clear “Yes” should we go ahead and deliver our message.
  2. Message: The feedback should be as straight and concise as possible. It is very important to stay on an adult-adult level and to not act as a parent.
  3. Listen: At this point it is important to make the other feel heard and “felt” by simply listening. This crucial part keeps the conversation from getting out of hands for emotional reasons. The maxim “don't be a parent” is still very important. It might also be a good idea to go back to step one and ask if it is still ok to continue the discussion.
  4. Coach: Lastly it may or may not be possible to help the other person in working on the discussed traits.

These steps were tried out during the session by role playing in smaller groups of three: a feedback giver, a feedback receiver and a third person to listen and comment afterwards. It was  interesting to see how these rules could make it possible to offer criticism in a constructive way. However, the four steps have to be practiced thoroughly to prevent falling back into familiar behavior patterns.

One of the take away messages was: “The intuitive response is to argue. The way out is to listen.” By keeping the discussion on an adult-adult level, it is possible to give feedback on a very personal level. Criticizing a persons basic trait does not have to be a no-go, if it is done the right way.

Agile for my grandma (Nicki Schinow)

The main questions in this sessions were "What is agile project management?", "How does it work?", and "What tools can be used to support the workflow?".

Specifically, the base of the discussion was about introducing and involving scrum to "my grandma"; Everybody loves their grandma despite the fact that she may drive you nuts when you try to explain something technical to her.

As a solution we found out that the benefit needs to be clear, answering the most important question of "What's in it for me?".

FuckedUp Talk (Stefano Rutishauser)

Usually, if one talks about a finished project, it's about the success of it. Failed projects will be forgotten or ignored. In this session, participants did not tell success stories, but how and where they failed and what lessons they learned by it.

As an example, one participant told about her project which failed because of a missing project management item; the project concept.

"A customer commissioned us with a new project, which involved the evaluation of data. The project was given from one department to the other, where nobody captured the exact requirements in the form of a concept. So it happened that after a few weeks of work, the first misunderstandings were discovered, and the project had to be restarted. The second time, it began with a project concept.", she told us.

Retrospectives for continuous improvement (Nicki Schinow)

A retrospective is a defined event in the scrum framework. It's all about plan, work, reflect, and repeat.
Anita showed us basic communication rules that can be applied to any retrospective. For example, "no judgement"; Nobody should be judged for what they say, as it blocks an open and honest communication. She also explained us how important a time box and structure is, to keep the meeting productive and efficient. In a retrospective, all input should be collected by the team, no matter the context. This way, it's also possible that something like "the coffee is bad" finds its way onto the retrospective document. The next step is to prioritise the, as the defined time box generally doesn't allow discussing everything. At the end, action items are defined and assigned to a specific person – Missing this step usually results in nobody taking care of said task.

Social event

On Thursday evening, socializing started inside a tapas bar – a must for Barcelona. We enjoyed tapas and good wine in a nice atmosphere continued talking about project management.

After all, the camp was really inspiring and we learned a lot about ourselves, communication, team building, and successful project workflows.