By Dan Barrow
So, you’ve just woken up the day after the conference, your head is swimming with fantastic ideas and how to implement them in your workplace. Over breakfast, you make a couple of notes on what stood out most. On the commute, you fantasise about how wonderful life will be once this new change is in place. Over coffee, you enthuse to your co-workers how great the conference was and how it’s changed your world.
Then, you sit at your desk, with 100+ emails to read, even more Slack notifications, and the team needs you to catch-up on that Jira backlog. That’s ok, I’ll implement change tomorrow, but all too often tomorrow contains more deadlines, more emails, and less opportunity. All too soon the momentum has gone, the buzz has faded, and no-one is interested in your ideas anymore, including you.
Conferences provide a great learning opportunity, and a chance to share and learn from the experiences of others. Maximising those learnings is still a challenge when you are in the post-conference state.
I’d like to offer some techniques and practices I’ve discovered to both keep the momentum going, and effectively implement change in a team using ideas from conferences I’ve attended.
Conferences contain heaps of information, new ideas, and methods. It’s important to share these ideas with your colleagues. Some learnings and environments are best served by different ways of conveying that information.
TestSphere is a fun way to help recall and discuss things from conferences. Play the game as normal, or maybe add in bonus points if you can relate it back to a conference talk or workshop key points.
Movie Nights / Sessions
With a Ministry of Testing Dojo team membership, your whole team can get access to all the recorded talks and masterclass sessions the Ministry of Testing has to offer! What could be better than watching all of these? Watching them with friends of course - Movie night! Get your team together, add snacks, bean bags, and settle down for a learning bonanza. Remember to leave time to discuss and reflect on the talks you watch.
Sketch Note It!
Sketch notes are a fun, creative way to record and share information from conferences. Marianne Duijst is one of many sketchnoters who share.
For those with a talent for drawing, you can take this a step further and draw comics like Conny Armitage.
Brain Food / Knowledge Sharing Sessions
Knowledge sharing sessions can be both a great way to share the learnings you have found and to practice some public speaking. The idea is simply to organise a time and space to review your experiences and learnings with the group back at the office. Lunchtime sessions can be a good approach to get these started. Attract people with snacks, and if possible, persuade the management to buy some pizzas.
Many places run these as a regular feature once a week or fortnight and it’s great to record them for posterity too.
Make it a more active event by asking questions of your colleagues in the audience or embedding live polling, e.g. Poll Everywhere, while the event is happening.
Write about It - Blogs, Newsletters & Articles
Using an informal format, such as blogs or newsletters, can be an easy point of entry to writing for the community. You can target your team or office, or look larger, and distribute to the region or wider community. Print it off and leave it around the coffee area at the office.
Additionally, you could write an article like this one. Articles are more formal and structured as they have a longer shelf life. You don’t need to stress about getting it right on your own you can find someone to fill the role of editor and help you to refine your piece before submitting it.
Use Collaborative Media
Collaborative media such as Trello can help teams to prioritize and track learning materials, and set up columns for different learning streams. Additionally, colleagues can add comments to share experiences and contribute to discussions. Likes and comments on cards can help people decide what information is more valuable.
The team is informed and enthused with all these new ideas, but how do we actually enact these changes? What ways do we have to get buy-in and get initiatives over the line? Here are a few ideas to take what you’ve learned and turn it into a team’s day-to-day reality.
If you don’t already have one, try to organise a regular meet up with the other testers in your office, make it an open invite and encourage people of other disciplines to come along and share. These sessions are really valuable not just for sharing what you’ve learned but also to discussing new opportunities or challenges facing your group. Let the group talk about their challenges together and collaborate to a find a solution.
A great way to maintain momentum on a guild project and provide aspiring leaders with an opportunity to learn the craft is to create a working group. Identify an opportunity and challenge an aspiring leader to gather some volunteers and begin chipping away at it. Check in regularly to offer support and remove blocks for the team. Maintaining momentum here is key to having everybody learn and improve.
Side projects are something everyone could be doing. It’s a fantastic way to generate enthusiasm and new ideas. Identify a new skill or initiative that you can use at work, and start taking an hour or two a week for self-development. Share what you are doing with the team, and be open to input. This also encourages others to take on their own initiative and share what they learn.
Ownership & Progress Checks
With any desire for change, it’s important that there is assigned ownership. Without someone owning an initiative, there is little incentive to keep progressing. Check in with working groups and colleagues side projects regularly to encourage momentum, this includes you. Report to the guild and your team even when there has been very little or no progress on special projects. This could be done in weekly 1-to-1 catch-ups. Don’t apply pressure around timelines for projects and be relaxed about any lack of progress. The intention is to maintain a mindfulness of the initiative and what team members are learning.
Make Your Enthusiasm Contagious
Enthusiasm is contagious. We’ve all been in meetings where everyone is slumped back in their chair gazing out of the window or checking their phone. In other meetings, we’ve looked about and seen people making notes, sitting so far forward in the seats they nearly fall off. It’s not simply the subject matter that drives this engagement, it’s the enthusiasm of the speaker and the attendees.
Lead By Example
Gandhi teaches us
“Be the change you want to see.”
If you are feeling confined by the monotony of everyday meetings and the daily repetition, change it up. Pick an initiative and change up your schedule to make it fit. Culture is created by those experiencing it. If you want to create a learning culture, carve a spot in your calendar and take that time to learn, and invite others to join you.
We have a mantra in our office, ‘ask for forgiveness, not permission.’ We trust everyone in our organisation to use their best judgement to make the best decisions based on the information they have available at the time.
The coffee machine is your ally. Take time to talk about something more than the latest TV shows. Take that chance to spread your enthusiasm, and discuss your initiatives openly. This encourages others to contribute and begin their own initiatives. It creates a culture of trust, transparency, and sharing, encouraging others to be transparent as well.
Don’t be afraid to blow your own trumpet. How else would we find out how if we are playing a great song, or need to try another tune?
It can take a long time to effect change, and for that change to reap rewards. Short-termism is a significant challenge in all business aspects, but be persistent, and the best rewards come to those who continue moving forward instead of giving up.
Encourage And Support Others
Encourage colleagues to join and engage in the community. Support and develop their ideas where you can. Celebrate the successes and learnings of others. If someone you know took a chance on something and it didn’t work out, chances are they are feeling pretty bummed out. Focus on what they learned and treat the failure as a learning opportunity for next time. This approach gives people the confidence to experiment and innovate, learn from failure and move forward.
Share Your Ideas Far And Wide
So let’s wrap up. Here are some of the key things to keep your conference momentum going:
It’s good to share - share what you’ve learned. Share ideas and problems far and wide. Make your enthusiasm contagious.
Take and assign ownership - for any initiative to succeed someone needs to drive it. If that’s you or someone else, own it and talk about it often. Don’t wait for someone else to start.
Maintain momentum - by talking often and checking in with others you can maintain momentum and cultivate a learning culture.
Feedback is massively valuable to all. Let’s continue this conversation on The Club! Let others know what your thoughts and ideas are from conferences you’ve attended. What’s your current side project? How did you create change? Share what you’ve learned and what you know. Keep the momentum going!
Heya, I’m Dan.
In my day to day role, I’m a Senior QA for Pushpay in New Zealand, where I focus predominantly on Mobile testing in my current team. My role also includes QA Coaching and I’m deeply passionate about how testers can reach their potential and how we develop those talents.
I also co-produce the Super Testing Bros Podcast with my buddy James Espie, where we discuss and collaborate with both other testers and people from other disciplines within our industry to better understand how we can improve.
I love to chat and collaborate, so please get in touch with me on Twitter @DanielBarrowNZ