Wow… what a great week it was. It is now already is a couple of weeks ago, but it still feels like it was last week. Everyone in one location, all 95 R&D employees in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
The goal of the RES R&D Summit 2015 was to build trust and understanding and to apply the lessons learned from the RES R&D Summit 2014.
We did not just want to work together for one week but we really wanted to focus on building Trust and Understanding. We wanted to increase Trust and Understanding within all R&D teams and between R&D teams. All activities we organized were linked to this theme.
RES Super Guild Event
On Tuesday we held the first ever RES Super Guild Event. Every group of professionals in our company has regular Guild sessions. Goal of these sessions is to have people exchange knowledge about their profession and to increase the skills of the professionals in the guild. We decided to organize a RES Super Guild Event: an internal conference. Speakers from RES Software who speak for RES Software. This would give people the option to get a clear understanding of other guilds, to learn together about new things, to get some interaction going with people from other teams and even departments and to have a fun evening! We were hoping for eight sessions, we were positively surprised when we ended up with 16 sessions!
RES Exploration Days
Later in the week, to show the trust we have in our R&D employees and to provide room for learning, we organized the first RES Exploration Day. The goal was learning, not shipping. It is great when a team delivers a potentially shippable product, but it’s also great when the explorers fail spectacularly by discovering the wrong continent, one they had never planned to find! We showed trust in the people who participated that they would learn and discover new things, people would show trust in each other that day so they could learn together. At the end of the Exploration Day there would be a presentation and every project would present the results. As said before, it was not about the results but about what the people learned.
We believe in data driven management so we, the organizers, set ourselves two OKR’s. The first OKR was “Organize R&D Summit to improve knowledge”.The key results were:
- At least 75 people of R&D should attend the RES Super Guild Event
- At least 23 people should participate in the RES Exploration Days
- We don’t spend more money than budgeted
According to the latest Gallup research about employee engagement, 17% of the professionals in NL are not engaged. Therefore, we expected at least 83% of R&D to attend the RES Super Guild event. Including Product Management we have some 100 people in the department so we aimed for approximately 75 people.
According to the 2015 Developer Survey of Stack Overflow, the average developer spends more than 7 hours per week coding on the side. We, however, expected only the developers who spend more time than average on coding on the side, to attend the Exploration Days. Taking that number this would be 22% within RES Software R&D. We decided to aim for 25% of the people of R&D to attend the RES Exploration Days.
So how did we do on those OKR’s? Around 65/70 people from R&D visited the Super Guild event. We also had some people from Support and Professional Services. 36 people participated in the RES Exploration Days. Definitely a great success! We did spend more money than we had budgeted though. Not because we tried to attract people with gadgets, but just because we did not take all costs such as dinners, taxi, etc. into account.
The second OKR was: “Organize an R&D Summit to grow relations in teams and between teams”. The key results were:
- Did you interact with colleagues you did not know really know before? 50% or more should answer yes.
- Do you think it is easier to approach colleagues now after the summit? 50% or more should answer yes.
- Do you now have more trust in your colleagues? 80% or more should answer yes.
- We don’t spend more money than budgeted.
We sent out a survey that we prepared earlier directly after the R&D Summit 2015 to collect feedback and to ask the team members to answer the questions above.
89% of the team members responded that they interacted with colleagues they did not really know before. We were positively surprised by this result. It seems that everyone grew their network and their was a lot of interaction between the team members from the different locations.
“Do you think it is easier to approach colleagues?” 86% said yes to this question, which was totally in line with the previous question in our opinion. Working in a team is all about knowing and respecting each other. When 89% of the people grew their network, it is in line that also a lot of team members will find it easier to approach colleagues.
74% of the team members said they now have more trust in their colleagues because of the R&D Summit 2015. A lower score than the other key results, but it could be some team members already had trust in their colleagues. Can you only trust a colleague for 65%?
The budget key result was not met. We underestimated some costs, mainly related to transportation and dinners.
What did we learn
The RES Super Guild Event was a success. Everyone who attended the event and filled out the survey said they liked it (55 people)! However, we think it also was an opportunity to break down silos between R&D and other departments. Next time, we would like to make it a real RES Super Guild Event. We will ask Account Managers to share their sales process and we will ask our CEO to share some of his experiences.
The RES Exploration days also were a success. 95% of the people who participated in the Exploration Days said they liked it! One of the spin offs, for example, is that the testers have now started to work on some test automation projects in the evening with colleagues. Not because they cannot find the time in the day time but because they want to learn and experiment and they found out is is fun to hang out together. The seed of innovation has been planted. However, several colleagues still mentioned that the day-to-day work load made it hard for them to spend time on the RES Super Guild event and RES Exploration Days. We will have to rethink how we can reach out to these people next time. In general, we see and feel that NL, being in their comfort zone, is lagging behind with team building and being aware of the day to day issues of their remote workers. We think that if money allows it, it should be a serious option to consider organizing the R&D Summit abroad next year. Perhaps RO or a company kick off in January somewhere else in Europe. We feel that a number of Dutch colleagues should be taken out of their comfort zone as we did with all foreign colleagues many times.