Here’s a story about change. I am not saying this was me, but I am also not saying I didn’t have anything to do with it at all:
When I started my job as a Product Manager at a digital lab in a corporation, nobody was using Design Sprints. I heard rumours about how people used to do that and then stopped, but no one remembered when or why. We did a first miniature Design Sprint-ish thing in February 2018. It worked quite well. I facilitated a full on 5-day sprint in April 2018, you can read about it on the TELUS Digital Blog. I wasn’t too stoked about my own performance as a facilitator, so I wrote about my learnings. Overall the Design Sprint yielded a good result and moved us a long way faster than we ever could’ve using traditional approaches. After that a few more sprints followed and I supported other team members facilitating them. Unfortunately, I had to leave in January 2019 because my work permit was up and didn’t get extended. But just a few weeks ago, there was a Design Sprint boot camp led by no other than John Zeratsky himself. I was super jealous to say the least, but also super happy for all my former team mates that they got to learn about Design Sprints and how great they are.
I believe you can be the change that you wanna see.
I believe in the ripple effect.
I believe you can persuade people to try new ways of working by following these three steps: Experience. Learn. Use.
I will explain what I mean by that and how I’ve done it, so you can, too!
It’s great to talk about #NewWork blog posts or the super cool book you read with your co-workers. If you’re lucky, they get as excited as you about it. Most of the time they’ll just nod agreement and then continue business as usual. So how do you get them on your side?
Let them experience it! The easiest way is to ask your team, the people you work with closest, if they’d try something new with you. Suggest a different meeting style for an existing and boring meeting, they’ll likely be ok with it because it cannot get any worse. And then use something like the Lightning Decision Jan to blow their mind. There’s a reason I call it my “not so secret super power”.
Using this technique will give new life to the meeting and create actual results, tangible next steps and hopefully an air of hope and motivation. Nobody wants to live work life in a Dilbert comic.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Once people have experienced the benefits of one new way of working, it’s so much easier to convince them to try another new way of working. You can spread all the cool new stuff, like a disease, but, um, like a good one. Still working on my metaphor game!
Chances are you work in a cross-functional team, a lot of the time designers will talk to other designers, devs talk to devs, the word will spread. More disease!
This is the ripple effect. I’ve had people from other teams that I had never worked with reach out and ask for support to create a concept and facilitate a design thinking workshop. POs from teams I did work with occasionally, wanted to run Design Sprints. I shared my new experience in our guild and I did informal little sessions with some team members to talk about different techniques and when to use what. Every product manager needs a tool kit!
Naturally, every PM is born knowing all these cool things and will continue down their chosen path as soon as they enter the work force.
Ok, you got me! There’s no actual product manager college degree (or maybe now there is, do let me know, if I missed something), so how do we learn these things?
Mostly from others as well as trial and error. More senior colleagues mentor and coach more junior ones. Some people love to learn on their own in one way or another. You read about something and try it with your team. You take an online course or attend a webinar and give it a shot. You go to an in-person training and use whatever you’ve learned as soon as you’re back on the office. Who knows how you do it?! Personally, I like to read a mix of anecdotes, case studies and instructions and then try things out. I’ve always had very open teams that would do those kinds of things with me. Sometimes new things are amazing. Sometimes we alter them to fit our needs and sometimes we stop using them all together.
I have acquired quite the tool kit this way, if I may say so myself. And I would like to share what I can with you.
Learn facilitation. This will help you with everything else down the line. I did a so called “Train the Trainer” Workshop a Million years ago, it was paid for by my employer. This would be my first choice, there’s also low-cost or free material on the web.
Learn about methodologies. Agile, lean and design thinking should mean something to you. You can start as easy and fast as reading a blog post.
Lean vs. Agile vs. Design Thinking – Very short book by Jeff Gothelf.
Understanding how Design Thinking, Lean and Agile Work Together – Mind the Product blog
Learn methods that are useful in your position. This one is a little tricky, since sometimes it isn’t quite that clear. I will share my favourite frameworks and methods as a list with links to either books or blog posts where you can start learning about them.
- Brand Sprint – This tool has been handy to define my freelance personal brand which I wrote about here and also get started with small businesses. It usually needs refinement down the road, but it’s a great start.
- Business Model Canvas – If you haven’t heard of this one you’re either very new to this or you’ve been living under a rock. No offence.
- Design Sprint – This really feels like a power tool! You get to take a peak into the future within a week and without spending all the budget. Pretty neat, eh?
- Product Definition Canvas – A Great Canvas to define a new product or a bigger upcoming initiative in half-day workshop, you need some other information in advance.
- Value Proposition Canvas – Understand your customer, their pains and gains and how your products and services cater to them. Honestly, if you do not know this about your customer, you can only accidentally build a successful product.
- This is only a small selection, there are tons of cool frameworks and tools out there, Google all the things and find the stuff that excites and potentially helps you!
You can also use online master classes to learn certain things, here are some I’ve heard good things about. I myself have only started a web development online course for funsies, so I cannot give any personal opinion. These are pricier options, but for a lot of peeps this is easier than self-study. I’ve just been too broke, let’s be honest.
You can only learn so much by reading or through courses. You also gotta do it.
I have always worked with amazing teams who’d try almost anything with me. While I see it as a blessing, I also attribute it partially to my communication style.
Be open and honest about what you want to do. Tell your team, it’s something new you haven’t done before, that it sounds intriguing and you’d love to experiment with them. Work it out together if it is the right approach for your team, situation or challenge, how you could tweak it or when to abandon it.
Once you have other humans do whatever it is they experienced and learned about, you’ve gone full circle and they will be advocates for the new tool, framework or general way of working.
„To learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know.“ ~ Stephen Covey
I have made this experience with Design Sprints as mentioned in the beginning, also with implementing Scrum or updating team norms and processes in a newly merged team, and plenty smaller changes. These three steps have not failed me so far.
If you want to see change, be it! Let others around you experience the benefits of the change, teach them or share resources so they can learn, and then use the tools.
I am curious to hear, if you had similar experiences, do share if you like!