Rerun: Building communities that work – Emily Webber on The Product Experience "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs September 09 2022 False Empowered product teams, Podcasts, Product teams, The Product Experience, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 7121 Product Management 28.484

Rerun: Building communities that work – Emily Webber on The Product Experience

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It can be tough, even at the best of times, to remain engaged at work – to find a community of people to share with and learn from. Emily Webber’s seen this in action and has started (and nurtured) successful communities both at work and at home. In this rerun podcast episode, she joined Lily and Randy to go deeper into how to build great communities with remote teams.


 

 

Featured links

Featured Links: Follow Emily on LinkedIn and Twitter | Emily’s Blog | Tacit | Read Emily’s book  ‘Building Successful Communities of Practise: Discover How Connecting People Makes Better Organisations’ | In The Ether has all the details on how to run a great virtual lean coffee | The Diversity Charter | Sharon Bowman’s book ‘Training From The Back Of The Room!‘ | Robin Dunbar’s Social Circles feature in The Guardian | Emily and Robin’s joint research paper ‘The Fractal Study of Communities of Practise: Implications for Business Organisation’

Lily Smith: 

Hey, Randy, as we come to the end of q3, and now basically its New Year, I thought we should revisit one of our earlier topics on community building.

Randy Silver: 

Okay, you know, that sounds great, but it’s definitely not nearly the new year, we’ve still got 107 days to go.

Lily Smith: 

Yes. And it’s 101 sleeps until Christmas. But you don’t want to be rushing around the last minute to buy me a present, or to start planning for next year’s strategic updates. So, anyway,

Randy Silver: 

well, you know me, I love building communities and talking about building them. So I’m all in. So let’s go back to our chat with Emily Webber on communities of practice, duty shooting.

Lily Smith: 

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Lily Smith: 

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Lily Smith: 

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Randy Silver: 

Emily, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. For anyone who doesn’t already know you, and I’m sure there’s only two or three people out there who fit that description. Can you give us a quick introduction? Who are you? How did you get into product agile space? And why are you here today?

Emily Webber: 

So I’m Emily, hello. I call myself different things depending on who it is that I’m speaking to, I often call myself agile delivery, consultant, coach, trainer, that kind of thing. I tend to my my area of agile, I guess my area of delivery tends to be around people, and how, you know, we’re organisations of people how people work together in order to be effective to deliver things. And I got into agile, like any good agile practitioner, I have a Master’s in Fine Art School. And I kind of bizarre route which which took me through things like being a producer working in a arts and music organisation making, making things happen, making projects happen, bringing people together, through through into into more digital, I’ve worked for a marketing agency for a little bit. Then, through the frustration in very kind of count manager heavy waterfall type short projects moved into agile because I didn’t understand why people weren’t talking to each other.

Randy Silver: 

So you also think you described it and you’re talking about the product a couple of years ago, you have a habit, a bit of a habit of creating communities wherever you go. And something that’s really important was really on our mind. And one of the reasons we want to talk to you, too. So how did you get into this? Was it was it natural? Was it a decision?

Emily Webber: 

So I guess it was kind of natural I, I’ve always done a bunch of projects, I tend to have a tonne of side projects going on at any one time. And including things like so I used to live in Hackney in East London, I lived there for 15 years. And I wanted to start a website or a forum site for people to get together and do positive things. Because I believe that people together can do better things than people on their own. So and there was a lot of negative a few negative websites out there at the time. And I want to say actually, let’s let’s get people together, let’s let’s do positive things. That was a forum site, whole bunch of people joined a whole bunch of people talked about local stuff, good things, bad things, create some community there. So those and then I started a bunch of meetups along the way. So I just have this habit of saying, look, there’s a problem here. If we get people together, we can do something better. And then saying, Well, no one else is doing it. So I’m just gonna go ahead and do it and make that happen. So I guess in my my personal life, that’s how that started. And that then bled into my work life and saying, look, there’s a bunch of people that do similar things to each other. Why don’t we start talking to each other and learning from each other and getting better at what we do together?

Lily Smith: 

And in those kinds of early communities that you built? Did you find that came easy or was it quite Hard to find the right people and bring them together or the kind of, you know, attracting the people that you were expecting to come together. I guess it

Emily Webber: 

kind of depends. And it’s always, I think, with the communities, a lot of it comes from connections that maybe already exist, or networks that exist and then grows from there. So, with Hackney, for example, I was part of some when I joined Twitter, back, you know, back in back in the old days, when Twitter was a lot more social than it is now, I met a bunch of people who, who, some of whom I’m still friends with now through Twitter, and we started that kind of connection, connection that that naturally formed. And building the forum, for example, was building on top of that, the meetups that I’ve started, and there’s been a bunch of them, some of them have been based on existing connections that I have, and starting to kind of grow them organically. Or I started one in Leeds A while back, because I had a client in Leeds, I don’t live in Leeds, I’ve never lived in Leeds. And that was using meetup just putting that out there. And meetup does obviously the wonderful thing where it tells everybody that might be vaguely interested, that there’s this new meetup. And one thing I found about northerners, is they are so so much more friendly. And they all kind of without one, they all jumped in. What was amazing when I when I had the first meetup was I was thinking, Oh, it’s gonna be like one of those London meetups where everyone stands around and doesn’t talk to each other. And because they don’t know each other, and these were these folk came into the room didn’t know each other to start conversations. Yes, it was wonderful.

Lily Smith: 

So for any Southerner, listening, if you’re planning a meetup, just invite a few northerners, right.

Randy Silver: 

It’s tough hold true in other countries besides the UK, or is that a UK specific thing?

Lily Smith: 

That’s probably equivalent.

Randy Silver: 

So one of the things that we’re all dealing with, now a lot of us are dealing with varying degrees of self isolation, or lockdown. And community just feels really important. And you’ve talked about the benefits of becoming part of a community, it’s not just a group of people getting together to solve a problem. But there’s other kinds of benefits as well. We’ll talk a little bit about those.

Emily Webber: 

So and I’ll do this from the distributed or, or, or calling them suddenly distributed, because this isn’t remote working or choosing to work from home. Because it fits into your lifestyle. This is you have to work from home, forced to work from home, everyone’s forced to work from home, there’s a whole bunch of things going on the organization’s aren’t necessarily prepared for. People aren’t necessarily prepared for. So with communities, actually, usually, the thing that I took number one thing that I talk about is support networks. So really effective communities that I’ve seen, really have that sense of community where people feel like they have peers that can support them can really help them, keep them motivated, engaged, and all those wonderful things in their roles. Once you are suddenly at home. And some people are at home with no one else, or they don’t get to see the people that they normally see they don’t get to go to lunch with the people that they normally go to lunch with to share their woes and problems. So keeping connected through communities is super important. So like making extra effort to keep those connections going, which seems it’s kind of feels harder to do when you’re when in the situation. But is is even more important right? At the moment. The other thing that so sharing what people are doing and knowledge sharing is really a real value of communities. And during a time where you know, there are some organisations that are having to change really rapidly. So it might be that they’re having to suddenly put infrastructure in for people to work from home, which they haven’t had to do before. And they’re learning stuff. And they’re finding new ways to do things. And being able to continue to share that on a regular basis so that other people that are doing these things that are new and different, can learn from that and can build on top of that is is another real value communities right now.

Lily Smith: 

So just going into the whole support networks side of things, how do you create the culture within your community that provides support because inside Some cases people might feel when they come into a community sort of like they have to show off all of their knowledge or kind of, you know, act like they know what they’re talking about, rather than say, you know, here’s my problem, help me with it, how do you create that culture of support rather than one of, I guess, trying to feel like you have to pretend that you know everything?

Emily Webber: 

Yeah. I’d say that’s kind of similar to what you might do in a team. And some of that is dependent on an organisation. So I’ve worked with organisations that that’s not even a question, because it’s the type of organisation where people are you that has some psychological safety, so people are fine at coming forward and asking questions. And then I’ve also worked at organisations where that’s a lot less so. So I think for me, what I what I tried to do with communities is say, look, the creating, creating the connections between people, is probably the first thing that you do. So this is, for me, it’s why I think support networks are probably my, the number one, the top reason I tend to give when I talk about communities. So creating those connections between people is super important. And we tend to create some of those really naturally anyway. So if you’re, we’ve probably all been in the situation where you’re working in an organisation and you’re trying to navigate it, or you’re new to an organisation, you’re trying to navigate it, and you and you find someone that does the same thing as you, and they look friendly. So you start asking them lots of questions, and you start building those connections there. So some of that starts to happen naturally. And building on top of that is quite important. And I’d say other things similar to what teams do. So you know, talking about principles, how you’re going to work with each other, how you’re going to treat each other having some kind of rules of engagement and checking that they’re still working and checking in on them. And, and having a community if you have created some principles as a community, then the members being able to point to those and own those and say, Are we still doing this? Are we not doing this? Is there a problem here? And do we need to do something about it?

Randy Silver: 

Building on that the idea of Is there a problem here? I saw your talk a couple years ago on the product. And I had just finished building a community of practice at an organisation. And I had made quite a few things that you had termed as mistakes. And it was a really successful community. But I also saw where things had were going wrong, and in certain things I shouldn’t have done. So I’m curious, what are the types of mistakes you see other people making or that you’ve made before when you start to build them and nurture them? Oh, never made any

Emily Webber: 

mistakes? So I think that’s one of them. Like I had a, I remember having a conversation once with somebody who was building communities. And I said, I went through some of the points in my maturity model. Some of the things that communities do things like, you know, having having a purpose, you know, that’s always having a purpose and having some goals, having some principles, etc, etc. And he said, Yeah, we’ve done all those. We’ve done all those. And I said, Oh, that’s great. So how often are you meeting instead? Well, we haven’t met yet. Okay, maybe we need to like take a bit of a step backwards and do the meeting and getting to know you before that working out what it is that you agree as a as a as a bunch. So I think the meeting regularly is really important. One of the biggest challenges people have is engagement, always engagement and engagement. Because people are doing, people are doing jobs, they’ve got day jobs, it’s that kind of takes priority from from doing some of the other stuff. And sometimes it’s like doing the stuff that will make your job easier is the stuff that ends up falling by the wayside because you’re overwhelmed with doing your job. So engagement tends to be a big challenge. What I see that can help with that is if you’re meeting regularly, and I do think that you do need to meet regularly in order to keep momentum around that community is they don’t know what they put in a regular meeting. They don’t know what they’re going to talk about. So they turn up to the meeting. And they say, Well, we’re going to talk about again, we can talk about this time, and everybody starts to drop off because they don’t see any valuing going along to that. So having kind of an idea, have a bit of at least plan ahead of time about what it is that you’re going to do. What it is that you’re going to talk about, what are the kinds of what are the things that you’re interested in covering can be really useful? And I think as a community matures as well, it’s like saying, Okay, well, we’re meeting and that’s great. Can we actually change, we’re actually going to do something it’s going to change something. So having some being able to do that be able to get together and say what is it that we want to change? and making things better for themselves. And therefore organisations is a useful thing to do, that becomes a real problem, then if the organisation doesn’t let them change anything. So if you have a disempowered community, that’s one way to kill it. Because there’s a bunch of people that are doing having some great ideas and doing some great work. And then they’re told they can’t do anything with it is really problematic. And that that, that can be a killer. I don’t know if I don’t know if that’s quite mistakes.

Randy Silver: 

No, definitely is just a one of the mistakes I made when when I created this community is the participation was really high. I did a certain amount of curation and programming of topics. And that worked really well. And then we use a Lean Coffee style tool for so that the community didn’t felt like they were able to bring up things on the day. And I’ll ask you more about that later. But one of the problems was that I was the dominating force in terms of organising it, and no one else really volunteered, I’ve voluntold plenty of people to do things, and they were happy enough to do it. But they weren’t taking the initiative amongst themselves. And that was one of the things I picked up from your from your book, that there are ways of nurturing other people to come in and be organisers and take responsibility. How do you pull that off?

Emily Webber: 

It’s easy to say it’s really hard to. So I mean, that it is hard. It could be that actually, for some folks, and I’ve seen this happen before is that the dominating voice is off, steps away, for whatever reason, leaves the organisation is that other people start to step in. And it can be really hard, because I’m one of the people that will organise stuff to step away and let that happen. Because the the other side of that is, it could just stop happening. That’s one way. And other ways is yeah, just I mean, it’s, it’s really difficult one, but you know, finding people that are have that spark of interest and helping them like you start to see it, sometimes I have a bunch of communities I’m working with now. And I’m kind of waiting to see who steps forwards to do certain things. And then kind of jumping on that. saying, Okay, we’ll help you let me coach you through doing that. But it is, is a challenge that often community will survive or not based on one or two people,

Lily Smith: 

I was gonna say is it Have you ever seen it work where there’s not been one or two people leading the charge, where it’s a bit more of a kind of open, anyone can can take the lead?

Emily Webber: 

I think we definitely see that happen in some online communities. And I see it happen in some smaller communities. There’s a piece of research that will be coming out in the next couple of weeks be published in the next couple of weeks. Finally, after a year, scientific papers apparently take that long. So there’s a paper that I’ve written with Professor Robin Dunbar him him that talks about numbers, numbers. And his research is all about the size of social networks, in human communities. Surprisingly, he doesn’t think a lot of people talk about his work in the business world, which is just, I don’t know, mind blowing that like the academic world, the business world so far away from each other, that he can’t see what’s going on. And in that we talk about communities of kind of 40 or 50, being able to be a bit more democratic than communities that are bigger than that. And once you get past that kind of 40 ish size, you actually need, you need more like a management group within it because of the complexities you get with that, though, that number of people. So it tends to be the smaller communities can be much more democratically run. And the bigger ones, just it just can’t be.

Lily Smith: 

Your book is talks about communities of practice. So how do you distinguish kind of just a general community to a kind of a community of practice?

Emily Webber: 

So my distinction tends to be around well, when I’m in organisations, it tends to be around role, which isn’t necessarily the same as job title or so practice tends to be something that people are practising on a regular basis, so that they are able to contribute to that community in a way that they have active practice of that subject. I also have the concept I mean, there’s many different types of communities out there And in organisations, I also talked about the concept of communities of interest. So some, and it depends on the organisation as to how we define it. But in some places of silicate practices around roll, it’s a closed group of people around somebody that does that roll regular regularly. So you may have a community of product managers, which is product managers talking to product managers about product management things. And they, and that might be closed off, because we want to create a safe space so that those people can feel like they can talk openly with each other. And they can talk at the kind of depth of skill and experience that they might not be able to talk about, if other people that weren’t product managers were in the room, communities of interest tend to be a bit more cross cutting. So you could maybe you say, we have an interest in some kind of new technology that’s coming out, or something that crosses a whole bunch of people. So maybe it’s like, I don’t know, FinTech or something, maybe. And there’s a bunch of people that might be product managers, or delivery managers, or developers or whatever. And they all come together around this kind of area of interest, which is, which is a bit more open. So those are the two types of communities that I tend to talk about. There’s a lot of similarities between them, but it tends to be closed versus open for me, right?

Randy Silver: 

When, when communities of practice start springing up in an organisation. One of the dangers is people start siloing. Really quickly, how do you avoid that?

Emily Webber: 

Yes.

Randy Silver: 

easy questions just for fun.

Emily Webber: 

And it’s interesting, because I, because communities of practice are a really great way of breaking down silos, because you start to say, particularly if you’re in an organisation, he has multidisciplinary teams, where maybe you are. So if you’re a product manager, you’re often the only product manager on your team. And developers tend to get a few, so at least they’ve got some friends to talk to. But it might be that you are doing, you’re working on a product over here, someone’s working on a product over there, but actually, you don’t get any chance to talk to each other. And the community has helped bring folks together, so reducing some of those cross team or cross programme silos. And then yes, we have the challenge that you can create new silos by doing that. So what I so if you’re, maybe if you’re at the point, actually, somebody brought this topic up recently at the Lean Coffee meetup. And they said their communities was so successful, and people didn’t want to, they were like engaging with the communities more than they were engaging with their teams and their work over here. And I think the advice that I gave to them was to actually start doing some joint sessions with some of those silos. So two things. One is you have if your product management community and you are closed, going to invite only community is having some sessions with other communities, where things are of interest to both of you. And the other thing is, is having your kind of your outer circle of people that are interested in in product management and having more open sessions with those folks, too. So always finding ways to kind of break it up a bit. So you are talking to other people.

Lily Smith: 

So you mentioned that, you know, community of practice, like one of the things to kind of make them more successful would be to meet regularly just so that it doesn’t sort of just fall by the wayside and get forgotten about, I guess. And also you kind of said about having a purpose for the community. But when that community gets together, like what do you see as the successful activities that that community is doing when they meet? Are they just sharing problems that they’re having? Or are they kind of behaving in a in a kind of in a slightly different way? And yeah, is there something that kind of a good community of practice should do? Yes.

Emily Webber: 

So my advice to communities is, there’s there’s different types of things that communities should do. If they’re doing the same thing all the time, it would, it can start to get repetitive and not as valuable. So tend to kind of break it into two categories there is thinking about yourself in your organisation and the challenges that you come across and things you have to face, day to day. So that might be you know, problem solving type things where you might be saying knowledge sharing, or the things that kind of concern you day to day in your role. But there’s also a whole area where actually it’s about bringing newness Legion. So there’s times where communities should be learning new things because we we all motivated and enjoy learning new things. So we should be spending time doing that too. So that might be, there’s different things that you might do to learn. So you might watch presentations, for example, conferences, like mine, the product, record all their presentations, and they’re nice and succinct, and nice length. So getting a community together and watching something like a half hour presentation, from a conference, which is bringing new knowledge, and then having a chance to discuss it afterwards is is a great kind of community thing to do, or trying out new skills. So maybe I’m going to keep saying product managers. So maybe you want to learn some new road mapping techniques. And you can do that in a safe space for the community. So practising skills that you might use in your real life on your job, but doing it in a safe space, so that so you can get to know what that feels like before you kind of inflict it on on real products, doing things as well like sharing. So, you know, designers have, do things like critiques, where they look at each other’s work. And they give feedback on it. So we can other communities taking that on is important thing to do, as well. So getting feedback from people in a safe space, and things like show and tell. So what are people up to, you know, said discussing challenges during Lean Coffee style meetups. So giving giving people a chance to talk about challenges that they have also doing. So we’ve got kind of I’ve got a reading through a list if you’ve got learning, sharing and critiquing things like creating better practices. So saying, we do this now how can we improve what we do? Looking, there’s also spending time looking at the community. So like we do in our teams retrospective retrospective in the community, is it working, what might you need to do to change it do in our teams and applying it to the community as well, and social events, so communities doing getting to know you type stuff, whether that be evening things, or daytime things or going for lunch with each other? It’s really funny. So I’ve worked with communities in the UK. And they are people that eat at their desks usually. And sometimes if they’re outside London, they’d be at their desks, and they go home at five, six o’clock, depending on what kind of organisation is. And then they don’t talk to each other. And then you’ve got organisations in London, where Pub is a thing. postwork Pub is definitely a thing. I worked with some communities in Peru. And the first thing they wanted to do was plan their social events. That was like, they were like, right, we’re gonna talk about social events before anything else. And I worked with an organisation in India where, like, no one eats at their desk, everyone has a proper lunch, they will sit down together, they will talk to each other. It’s a really, really social organisation. So some of some of these things come easier to some poachers than they do to others.

Randy Silver: 

So some of those things that you’re talking about are not possible at the moment and working remotely and creating we, we have the challenges, as you talked about earlier of distraction at home and things like that. But you also just have the challenge of the lot of subtle cues that we have the ability to just talk to one another person aside in the corner, or the verbal nonverbal cues of nodding your head and things like that, or making eye contact aren’t available. How do you I’ve seen you do this in practice, I’m just gonna ask you to share some of the tips of running a good community running a good meeting or workshop, when you don’t have that kind of in person interaction

Emily Webber: 

is I think online meetings can be more personal sometimes then in person meetings. And it does depend on tech and bandwidth connection. And there are some challenges for some people around that. But so the online space and this is I’ve been running an online meetup for just over a year, I think now. And one thing that is really apparent is that the online space is, is quite unusual for people so they don’t necessarily know how to say how to behave, not how to be but how they should be in that space. So when we when we walk into a meeting room so far in our office, when we walk into a meeting room, we can look around, we can see who’s there we can tell what kind of environment it is we know how to behave, walking to a coffee shop. It’s quite different when we walk into an online meeting I’m with we’re still in our house, we still like kind of reading the cues can be quite difficult. So some of the things that I like to do at the beginning of a online meeting is set up, set up some expectations sometimes. So with the client at the moment, we’re using MS teams. So one of the things I say is, this is how you easily mute and unmute. Keep muted if you’re not talking. This is how you turn your video on and off. If generally, I say to people keep the video on all the time, that’s not not always the case, if people have difficulty with internet and bandwidth. So I might say, you know, turn your video on when you’re talking so that other people can see you when you’re talking. So they can see those cues when you’re talking. So having some clear guidance for people around how they might behave in that space is a great way to start a meeting. And actually, it’s sometimes it’s kind of good meeting etiquette that we just forget in the real world when we’re doing face to face meetings. So we’ve kind of forgotten good meeting etiquette, and we’ve forgotten how to talk to each other about that stuff. And being online. This kind of brought us back to that and saying that, okay, we need to do these things. But But I totally. So the remote meetings, and I ran a remote conference last year did you come to that? Randy,

Randy Silver: 

I didn’t make it, unfortunately.

Emily Webber: 

There was a few things that I followed there. So I put tonnes and tonnes of breaks in try not to have anyone sitting in the same place for too long a time. I put some things in there that forced people to get up and move around. So in the breaks, I said things like, they had to go and find something in their house and bring it back. So like a fridge magnet, or a tin of food, and then come back and share it with each other. So the fridge magnets was fun, because it’s quite personal. So force people to get up and move around. So it’s about thinking about some things like that, and what is it that we need to do in order to keep people engaged when they’re in a different space, help them understand how to behave. And also, if you’re using any kind of collaborative tools be really, really clear about those, and how they work and practice those, that kind

Lily Smith: 

of thing. And one of the things you run is agile in the ether. And you mentioned before a couple of times about the Lean Coffee style meetups. So explain how that works. When you have a whole kind of, you know, quite a large group of people trying to have a conversation all together at one time. How do you manage that?

Emily Webber: 

So at all in the ether was been everyone’s really polite. It’s such a polite group of people. And I’m not entirely sure how that happened. It feels it feels like a friendly group, which is which is good. And I think some of that is to do with those rules. So one of the rules. In agile NIDA is actually there’s, there’s a couple of things. One is, I get people to say, say someone’s name, if they’re talking to them. One of the challenges with online meetings is you can’t make eye contact with anyone. So and I find this and I run, run workshops online as well. When you’re facilitating a workshop, sometimes you might look at someone if you want them to say something, but you can’t do that online. So you kind of have to be really like, specific say that. Another one of the rules is that people should put their hand up if they’re finding it difficult to find a break in the conversation. And they have something to say. And I’d like people to kind of physically put their hands up, because I’ve sometimes found that the ones in the tools can be complicated. And I don’t use many hand signals, because because I don’t want to create a people having to learn a bunch of stuff so they can interact. So hand up is the thing, and everyone does it. But they even do it when there is a break in the conversation.

Randy Silver: 

Like the way you also You said you don’t use many hand signals, but you have built timings into it. And you ask people to vote thumbs up, thumbs down or don’t care if they want to keep the conversation going. And I find that that that regular interaction that everyone feels like they’re heard and is asked to participate is really, really important.

Emily Webber: 

Yeah, I think the I mean, the other thing I do Agile on the ether is I start with an icebreaker. So that is a chance for everybody to say something. So that’s that’s always a good thing to do in a meeting anyway, it’s a chance if you know, you’re more likely to say something later on if you said something in the first place. So it’s a way to bring everyone in, give them a chance to say something, which I think helps with the flow of the conversation later on.

Randy Silver: 

Awesome. Thanks. sure that everyone’s audio and video is working. Yeah. Yeah. So there’s one other thing we want to ask about, which was something else that you got involved in creating, which is the diversity Charter, which I think was originally intended route conferences, but seems really applicable to communities as well. So can you just introduce it and tell us a little bit about it.

Emily Webber: 

So I started the diversity charter a few years ago, and it kind of is a project that takes ticks long on the side. And it was, it came off the back of a conference. Organiser, I think asking me about, about diversity events. And the one thing about agile, sorry, agile on the bench, which was a previous meetup that I ran, which was meetup in a park is that it was fairly gender balanced. I think some of that was to do with the fact that I was involved, it was me, and there was a guy called David Lowe, who set it up. So there were two of us involved in running it. And it was at lunchtime. And a lot of meetups I think are challenging for some people to go to in the evenings. So I mean, it was difficult for anyone that was far away from where the park was. It tended to be fairly, fairly balanced. So people were interested in that add on the third tends to be fairly balanced in that respect to these. And it kind of got me thinking I was asked about it. A conference organiser asked me about it, and it got me thinking about this side, that people don’t necessarily think about as much, which is that your or your audience needs to be diverse, as well as the people that you have on stage. So you can invite people, the people on stage, so you have it. So you have a bit more control over it. But it’s really hard. If you’re, I think if you’re standing on stage, and you see a face, see of people that you can’t recognise yourself in at all. So I think that that there’s consideration for both of those things. And I wrote a blog post about things that you should think about, don’t have the answers, just have lots of questions, which ended up with me creating the diversity charter. And the intent of that was not to, you know, not to call people out who maybe don’t know any better or don’t know how to do things, but to say, look, here’s some things that you should think about. Here’s a charter that you can sign. The point is you need to strive to do better, whatever better might look like. So that kind of sits sits there in the background, but it’s really, so it reads really focused on events. And I’m keen that, you know, both conferences and meetups, think about this kind of thing, because I think meetups have a real challenge with diversity as well. Yeah, so it comes it comes from there.

Randy Silver: 

Well, I’ll, I’ll give you one last question. And then you can throw it in, which was totally and this is, you can also say no to this question. I was just gonna ask, What’s your favourite icebreaker?

Emily Webber: 

Ah, my favourite word? I guess it depends on the situation. So I, I went to do Sharon Bowman’s training from the back of room training, delivered by Sharon Bowman herself, who is absolutely brilliant. And she has these four C’s concepts of running any workshops. So the four C’s if I can remember the connections, concepts, concrete practice and conclusions. So the first thing, the first see is connections. And this is really important. It’s not just about doing an icebreaker. It’s about doing some kind of something that helps people check into the room and into the workshop, but also connects them to the material in some way. So I so when I run my community of practice workshops, I have a question that talks about what value people get from connecting people that connecting to other people that do something similar to them. So it gets them into thinking about connecting with other people, get some more help to have a chance to talk gets people writing on post it notes and kind of moving around. So the icebreaker is a really useful point to do something that isn’t just whimsical, but actually kind of starts to get people into what it is that you’re going to talk about later on. So the answer is it depends. Hey, I’m a coach.

Randy Silver: 

We’re on a product podcast and if we didn’t have at least depends, we would have lost our charter. So

Lily Smith: 

me that’s been really great and really insightful to hear lots of great advice on how to start and keep running successful communities of practice. I think Particularly now is a great time for us all to kind of get together and try and get better at what we’re doing. So thank you very much for joining us the product experience is the first and the best podcast from mine the product. Our hosts are me, Lily Smith, and me Randy silver. Louron Pratt is our producer and Luke Smith is our editor.

Randy Silver: 

Our theme music is from humbard baseband power. That’s P AU. Thanks to Arnie killer who curates both product tank and MTP engage in Hamburg and who also plays bass in the band for letting us use their music. You can connect with your local product community via product tank, regular free meetups in over 200 cities worldwide.

Lily Smith: 

If there’s not one near you, maybe you should think about starting one. To find out more go to mind the product.com forward slash product Thank you

It can be tough, even at the best of times, to remain engaged at work – to find a community of people to share with and learn from. Emily Webber’s seen this in action and has started (and nurtured) successful communities both at work and at home. In this rerun podcast episode, she joined Lily and Randy to go deeper into how to build great communities with remote teams.
   

Featured links

Featured Links: Follow Emily on LinkedIn and Twitter | Emily's Blog | Tacit | Read Emily's book  'Building Successful Communities of Practise: Discover How Connecting People Makes Better Organisations' | In The Ether has all the details on how to run a great virtual lean coffee | The Diversity Charter | Sharon Bowman's book 'Training From The Back Of The Room!' | Robin Dunbar's Social Circles feature in The Guardian | Emily and Robin's joint research paper 'The Fractal Study of Communities of Practise: Implications for Business Organisation'
Lily Smith:  Hey, Randy, as we come to the end of q3, and now basically its New Year, I thought we should revisit one of our earlier topics on community building. Randy Silver:  Okay, you know, that sounds great, but it's definitely not nearly the new year, we've still got 107 days to go. Lily Smith:  Yes. And it's 101 sleeps until Christmas. But you don't want to be rushing around the last minute to buy me a present, or to start planning for next year's strategic updates. So, anyway, Randy Silver:  well, you know me, I love building communities and talking about building them. So I'm all in. So let's go back to our chat with Emily Webber on communities of practice, duty shooting. Lily Smith:  product experience is brought to you by mind the product. Randy Silver:  Every week, we talk to the best product people from around the globe about how we can improve our practice, and build products that people love. Lily Smith:  Because it mind the product.com to catch up on past episodes, and to discover an extensive library of great content and videos, Randy Silver:  browse for free, or become a minor product member to unlock premium articles, unseen videos, AMA's roundtables, discounts to our conferences around the world training opportunities Lily Smith:  for mining products also offers free product tank meetups in more than 200 cities. And there's probably one. Randy Silver:  Emily, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. For anyone who doesn't already know you, and I'm sure there's only two or three people out there who fit that description. Can you give us a quick introduction? Who are you? How did you get into product agile space? And why are you here today? Emily Webber:  So I'm Emily, hello. I call myself different things depending on who it is that I'm speaking to, I often call myself agile delivery, consultant, coach, trainer, that kind of thing. I tend to my my area of agile, I guess my area of delivery tends to be around people, and how, you know, we're organisations of people how people work together in order to be effective to deliver things. And I got into agile, like any good agile practitioner, I have a Master's in Fine Art School. And I kind of bizarre route which which took me through things like being a producer working in a arts and music organisation making, making things happen, making projects happen, bringing people together, through through into into more digital, I've worked for a marketing agency for a little bit. Then, through the frustration in very kind of count manager heavy waterfall type short projects moved into agile because I didn't understand why people weren't talking to each other. Randy Silver:  So you also think you described it and you're talking about the product a couple of years ago, you have a habit, a bit of a habit of creating communities wherever you go. And something that's really important was really on our mind. And one of the reasons we want to talk to you, too. So how did you get into this? Was it was it natural? Was it a decision? Emily Webber:  So I guess it was kind of natural I, I've always done a bunch of projects, I tend to have a tonne of side projects going on at any one time. And including things like so I used to live in Hackney in East London, I lived there for 15 years. And I wanted to start a website or a forum site for people to get together and do positive things. Because I believe that people together can do better things than people on their own. So and there was a lot of negative a few negative websites out there at the time. And I want to say actually, let's let's get people together, let's let's do positive things. That was a forum site, whole bunch of people joined a whole bunch of people talked about local stuff, good things, bad things, create some community there. So those and then I started a bunch of meetups along the way. So I just have this habit of saying, look, there's a problem here. If we get people together, we can do something better. And then saying, Well, no one else is doing it. So I'm just gonna go ahead and do it and make that happen. So I guess in my my personal life, that's how that started. And that then bled into my work life and saying, look, there's a bunch of people that do similar things to each other. Why don't we start talking to each other and learning from each other and getting better at what we do together? Lily Smith:  And in those kinds of early communities that you built? Did you find that came easy or was it quite Hard to find the right people and bring them together or the kind of, you know, attracting the people that you were expecting to come together. I guess it Emily Webber:  kind of depends. And it's always, I think, with the communities, a lot of it comes from connections that maybe already exist, or networks that exist and then grows from there. So, with Hackney, for example, I was part of some when I joined Twitter, back, you know, back in back in the old days, when Twitter was a lot more social than it is now, I met a bunch of people who, who, some of whom I'm still friends with now through Twitter, and we started that kind of connection, connection that that naturally formed. And building the forum, for example, was building on top of that, the meetups that I've started, and there's been a bunch of them, some of them have been based on existing connections that I have, and starting to kind of grow them organically. Or I started one in Leeds A while back, because I had a client in Leeds, I don't live in Leeds, I've never lived in Leeds. And that was using meetup just putting that out there. And meetup does obviously the wonderful thing where it tells everybody that might be vaguely interested, that there's this new meetup. And one thing I found about northerners, is they are so so much more friendly. And they all kind of without one, they all jumped in. What was amazing when I when I had the first meetup was I was thinking, Oh, it's gonna be like one of those London meetups where everyone stands around and doesn't talk to each other. And because they don't know each other, and these were these folk came into the room didn't know each other to start conversations. Yes, it was wonderful. Lily Smith:  So for any Southerner, listening, if you're planning a meetup, just invite a few northerners, right. Randy Silver:  It's tough hold true in other countries besides the UK, or is that a UK specific thing? Lily Smith:  That's probably equivalent. Randy Silver:  So one of the things that we're all dealing with, now a lot of us are dealing with varying degrees of self isolation, or lockdown. And community just feels really important. And you've talked about the benefits of becoming part of a community, it's not just a group of people getting together to solve a problem. But there's other kinds of benefits as well. We'll talk a little bit about those. Emily Webber:  So and I'll do this from the distributed or, or, or calling them suddenly distributed, because this isn't remote working or choosing to work from home. Because it fits into your lifestyle. This is you have to work from home, forced to work from home, everyone's forced to work from home, there's a whole bunch of things going on the organization's aren't necessarily prepared for. People aren't necessarily prepared for. So with communities, actually, usually, the thing that I took number one thing that I talk about is support networks. So really effective communities that I've seen, really have that sense of community where people feel like they have peers that can support them can really help them, keep them motivated, engaged, and all those wonderful things in their roles. Once you are suddenly at home. And some people are at home with no one else, or they don't get to see the people that they normally see they don't get to go to lunch with the people that they normally go to lunch with to share their woes and problems. So keeping connected through communities is super important. So like making extra effort to keep those connections going, which seems it's kind of feels harder to do when you're when in the situation. But is is even more important right? At the moment. The other thing that so sharing what people are doing and knowledge sharing is really a real value of communities. And during a time where you know, there are some organisations that are having to change really rapidly. So it might be that they're having to suddenly put infrastructure in for people to work from home, which they haven't had to do before. And they're learning stuff. And they're finding new ways to do things. And being able to continue to share that on a regular basis so that other people that are doing these things that are new and different, can learn from that and can build on top of that is is another real value communities right now. Lily Smith:  So just going into the whole support networks side of things, how do you create the culture within your community that provides support because inside Some cases people might feel when they come into a community sort of like they have to show off all of their knowledge or kind of, you know, act like they know what they're talking about, rather than say, you know, here's my problem, help me with it, how do you create that culture of support rather than one of, I guess, trying to feel like you have to pretend that you know everything? Emily Webber:  Yeah. I'd say that's kind of similar to what you might do in a team. And some of that is dependent on an organisation. So I've worked with organisations that that's not even a question, because it's the type of organisation where people are you that has some psychological safety, so people are fine at coming forward and asking questions. And then I've also worked at organisations where that's a lot less so. So I think for me, what I what I tried to do with communities is say, look, the creating, creating the connections between people, is probably the first thing that you do. So this is, for me, it's why I think support networks are probably my, the number one, the top reason I tend to give when I talk about communities. So creating those connections between people is super important. And we tend to create some of those really naturally anyway. So if you're, we've probably all been in the situation where you're working in an organisation and you're trying to navigate it, or you're new to an organisation, you're trying to navigate it, and you and you find someone that does the same thing as you, and they look friendly. So you start asking them lots of questions, and you start building those connections there. So some of that starts to happen naturally. And building on top of that is quite important. And I'd say other things similar to what teams do. So you know, talking about principles, how you're going to work with each other, how you're going to treat each other having some kind of rules of engagement and checking that they're still working and checking in on them. And, and having a community if you have created some principles as a community, then the members being able to point to those and own those and say, Are we still doing this? Are we not doing this? Is there a problem here? And do we need to do something about it? Randy Silver:  Building on that the idea of Is there a problem here? I saw your talk a couple years ago on the product. And I had just finished building a community of practice at an organisation. And I had made quite a few things that you had termed as mistakes. And it was a really successful community. But I also saw where things had were going wrong, and in certain things I shouldn't have done. So I'm curious, what are the types of mistakes you see other people making or that you've made before when you start to build them and nurture them? Oh, never made any Emily Webber:  mistakes? So I think that's one of them. Like I had a, I remember having a conversation once with somebody who was building communities. And I said, I went through some of the points in my maturity model. Some of the things that communities do things like, you know, having having a purpose, you know, that's always having a purpose and having some goals, having some principles, etc, etc. And he said, Yeah, we've done all those. We've done all those. And I said, Oh, that's great. So how often are you meeting instead? Well, we haven't met yet. Okay, maybe we need to like take a bit of a step backwards and do the meeting and getting to know you before that working out what it is that you agree as a as a as a bunch. So I think the meeting regularly is really important. One of the biggest challenges people have is engagement, always engagement and engagement. Because people are doing, people are doing jobs, they've got day jobs, it's that kind of takes priority from from doing some of the other stuff. And sometimes it's like doing the stuff that will make your job easier is the stuff that ends up falling by the wayside because you're overwhelmed with doing your job. So engagement tends to be a big challenge. What I see that can help with that is if you're meeting regularly, and I do think that you do need to meet regularly in order to keep momentum around that community is they don't know what they put in a regular meeting. They don't know what they're going to talk about. So they turn up to the meeting. And they say, Well, we're going to talk about again, we can talk about this time, and everybody starts to drop off because they don't see any valuing going along to that. So having kind of an idea, have a bit of at least plan ahead of time about what it is that you're going to do. What it is that you're going to talk about, what are the kinds of what are the things that you're interested in covering can be really useful? And I think as a community matures as well, it's like saying, Okay, well, we're meeting and that's great. Can we actually change, we're actually going to do something it's going to change something. So having some being able to do that be able to get together and say what is it that we want to change? and making things better for themselves. And therefore organisations is a useful thing to do, that becomes a real problem, then if the organisation doesn't let them change anything. So if you have a disempowered community, that's one way to kill it. Because there's a bunch of people that are doing having some great ideas and doing some great work. And then they're told they can't do anything with it is really problematic. And that that, that can be a killer. I don't know if I don't know if that's quite mistakes. Randy Silver:  No, definitely is just a one of the mistakes I made when when I created this community is the participation was really high. I did a certain amount of curation and programming of topics. And that worked really well. And then we use a Lean Coffee style tool for so that the community didn't felt like they were able to bring up things on the day. And I'll ask you more about that later. But one of the problems was that I was the dominating force in terms of organising it, and no one else really volunteered, I've voluntold plenty of people to do things, and they were happy enough to do it. But they weren't taking the initiative amongst themselves. And that was one of the things I picked up from your from your book, that there are ways of nurturing other people to come in and be organisers and take responsibility. How do you pull that off? Emily Webber:  It's easy to say it's really hard to. So I mean, that it is hard. It could be that actually, for some folks, and I've seen this happen before is that the dominating voice is off, steps away, for whatever reason, leaves the organisation is that other people start to step in. And it can be really hard, because I'm one of the people that will organise stuff to step away and let that happen. Because the the other side of that is, it could just stop happening. That's one way. And other ways is yeah, just I mean, it's, it's really difficult one, but you know, finding people that are have that spark of interest and helping them like you start to see it, sometimes I have a bunch of communities I'm working with now. And I'm kind of waiting to see who steps forwards to do certain things. And then kind of jumping on that. saying, Okay, we'll help you let me coach you through doing that. But it is, is a challenge that often community will survive or not based on one or two people, Lily Smith:  I was gonna say is it Have you ever seen it work where there's not been one or two people leading the charge, where it's a bit more of a kind of open, anyone can can take the lead? Emily Webber:  I think we definitely see that happen in some online communities. And I see it happen in some smaller communities. There's a piece of research that will be coming out in the next couple of weeks be published in the next couple of weeks. Finally, after a year, scientific papers apparently take that long. So there's a paper that I've written with Professor Robin Dunbar him him that talks about numbers, numbers. And his research is all about the size of social networks, in human communities. Surprisingly, he doesn't think a lot of people talk about his work in the business world, which is just, I don't know, mind blowing that like the academic world, the business world so far away from each other, that he can't see what's going on. And in that we talk about communities of kind of 40 or 50, being able to be a bit more democratic than communities that are bigger than that. And once you get past that kind of 40 ish size, you actually need, you need more like a management group within it because of the complexities you get with that, though, that number of people. So it tends to be the smaller communities can be much more democratically run. And the bigger ones, just it just can't be. Lily Smith:  Your book is talks about communities of practice. So how do you distinguish kind of just a general community to a kind of a community of practice? Emily Webber:  So my distinction tends to be around well, when I'm in organisations, it tends to be around role, which isn't necessarily the same as job title or so practice tends to be something that people are practising on a regular basis, so that they are able to contribute to that community in a way that they have active practice of that subject. I also have the concept I mean, there's many different types of communities out there And in organisations, I also talked about the concept of communities of interest. So some, and it depends on the organisation as to how we define it. But in some places of silicate practices around roll, it's a closed group of people around somebody that does that roll regular regularly. So you may have a community of product managers, which is product managers talking to product managers about product management things. And they, and that might be closed off, because we want to create a safe space so that those people can feel like they can talk openly with each other. And they can talk at the kind of depth of skill and experience that they might not be able to talk about, if other people that weren't product managers were in the room, communities of interest tend to be a bit more cross cutting. So you could maybe you say, we have an interest in some kind of new technology that's coming out, or something that crosses a whole bunch of people. So maybe it's like, I don't know, FinTech or something, maybe. And there's a bunch of people that might be product managers, or delivery managers, or developers or whatever. And they all come together around this kind of area of interest, which is, which is a bit more open. So those are the two types of communities that I tend to talk about. There's a lot of similarities between them, but it tends to be closed versus open for me, right? Randy Silver:  When, when communities of practice start springing up in an organisation. One of the dangers is people start siloing. Really quickly, how do you avoid that? Emily Webber:  Yes. Randy Silver:  easy questions just for fun. Emily Webber:  And it's interesting, because I, because communities of practice are a really great way of breaking down silos, because you start to say, particularly if you're in an organisation, he has multidisciplinary teams, where maybe you are. So if you're a product manager, you're often the only product manager on your team. And developers tend to get a few, so at least they've got some friends to talk to. But it might be that you are doing, you're working on a product over here, someone's working on a product over there, but actually, you don't get any chance to talk to each other. And the community has helped bring folks together, so reducing some of those cross team or cross programme silos. And then yes, we have the challenge that you can create new silos by doing that. So what I so if you're, maybe if you're at the point, actually, somebody brought this topic up recently at the Lean Coffee meetup. And they said their communities was so successful, and people didn't want to, they were like engaging with the communities more than they were engaging with their teams and their work over here. And I think the advice that I gave to them was to actually start doing some joint sessions with some of those silos. So two things. One is you have if your product management community and you are closed, going to invite only community is having some sessions with other communities, where things are of interest to both of you. And the other thing is, is having your kind of your outer circle of people that are interested in in product management and having more open sessions with those folks, too. So always finding ways to kind of break it up a bit. So you are talking to other people. Lily Smith:  So you mentioned that, you know, community of practice, like one of the things to kind of make them more successful would be to meet regularly just so that it doesn't sort of just fall by the wayside and get forgotten about, I guess. And also you kind of said about having a purpose for the community. But when that community gets together, like what do you see as the successful activities that that community is doing when they meet? Are they just sharing problems that they're having? Or are they kind of behaving in a in a kind of in a slightly different way? And yeah, is there something that kind of a good community of practice should do? Yes. Emily Webber:  So my advice to communities is, there's there's different types of things that communities should do. If they're doing the same thing all the time, it would, it can start to get repetitive and not as valuable. So tend to kind of break it into two categories there is thinking about yourself in your organisation and the challenges that you come across and things you have to face, day to day. So that might be you know, problem solving type things where you might be saying knowledge sharing, or the things that kind of concern you day to day in your role. But there's also a whole area where actually it's about bringing newness Legion. So there's times where communities should be learning new things because we we all motivated and enjoy learning new things. So we should be spending time doing that too. So that might be, there's different things that you might do to learn. So you might watch presentations, for example, conferences, like mine, the product, record all their presentations, and they're nice and succinct, and nice length. So getting a community together and watching something like a half hour presentation, from a conference, which is bringing new knowledge, and then having a chance to discuss it afterwards is is a great kind of community thing to do, or trying out new skills. So maybe I'm going to keep saying product managers. So maybe you want to learn some new road mapping techniques. And you can do that in a safe space for the community. So practising skills that you might use in your real life on your job, but doing it in a safe space, so that so you can get to know what that feels like before you kind of inflict it on on real products, doing things as well like sharing. So, you know, designers have, do things like critiques, where they look at each other's work. And they give feedback on it. So we can other communities taking that on is important thing to do, as well. So getting feedback from people in a safe space, and things like show and tell. So what are people up to, you know, said discussing challenges during Lean Coffee style meetups. So giving giving people a chance to talk about challenges that they have also doing. So we've got kind of I've got a reading through a list if you've got learning, sharing and critiquing things like creating better practices. So saying, we do this now how can we improve what we do? Looking, there's also spending time looking at the community. So like we do in our teams retrospective retrospective in the community, is it working, what might you need to do to change it do in our teams and applying it to the community as well, and social events, so communities doing getting to know you type stuff, whether that be evening things, or daytime things or going for lunch with each other? It's really funny. So I've worked with communities in the UK. And they are people that eat at their desks usually. And sometimes if they're outside London, they'd be at their desks, and they go home at five, six o'clock, depending on what kind of organisation is. And then they don't talk to each other. And then you've got organisations in London, where Pub is a thing. postwork Pub is definitely a thing. I worked with some communities in Peru. And the first thing they wanted to do was plan their social events. That was like, they were like, right, we're gonna talk about social events before anything else. And I worked with an organisation in India where, like, no one eats at their desk, everyone has a proper lunch, they will sit down together, they will talk to each other. It's a really, really social organisation. So some of some of these things come easier to some poachers than they do to others. Randy Silver:  So some of those things that you're talking about are not possible at the moment and working remotely and creating we, we have the challenges, as you talked about earlier of distraction at home and things like that. But you also just have the challenge of the lot of subtle cues that we have the ability to just talk to one another person aside in the corner, or the verbal nonverbal cues of nodding your head and things like that, or making eye contact aren't available. How do you I've seen you do this in practice, I'm just gonna ask you to share some of the tips of running a good community running a good meeting or workshop, when you don't have that kind of in person interaction Emily Webber:  is I think online meetings can be more personal sometimes then in person meetings. And it does depend on tech and bandwidth connection. And there are some challenges for some people around that. But so the online space and this is I've been running an online meetup for just over a year, I think now. And one thing that is really apparent is that the online space is, is quite unusual for people so they don't necessarily know how to say how to behave, not how to be but how they should be in that space. So when we when we walk into a meeting room so far in our office, when we walk into a meeting room, we can look around, we can see who's there we can tell what kind of environment it is we know how to behave, walking to a coffee shop. It's quite different when we walk into an online meeting I'm with we're still in our house, we still like kind of reading the cues can be quite difficult. So some of the things that I like to do at the beginning of a online meeting is set up, set up some expectations sometimes. So with the client at the moment, we're using MS teams. So one of the things I say is, this is how you easily mute and unmute. Keep muted if you're not talking. This is how you turn your video on and off. If generally, I say to people keep the video on all the time, that's not not always the case, if people have difficulty with internet and bandwidth. So I might say, you know, turn your video on when you're talking so that other people can see you when you're talking. So they can see those cues when you're talking. So having some clear guidance for people around how they might behave in that space is a great way to start a meeting. And actually, it's sometimes it's kind of good meeting etiquette that we just forget in the real world when we're doing face to face meetings. So we've kind of forgotten good meeting etiquette, and we've forgotten how to talk to each other about that stuff. And being online. This kind of brought us back to that and saying that, okay, we need to do these things. But But I totally. So the remote meetings, and I ran a remote conference last year did you come to that? Randy, Randy Silver:  I didn't make it, unfortunately. Emily Webber:  There was a few things that I followed there. So I put tonnes and tonnes of breaks in try not to have anyone sitting in the same place for too long a time. I put some things in there that forced people to get up and move around. So in the breaks, I said things like, they had to go and find something in their house and bring it back. So like a fridge magnet, or a tin of food, and then come back and share it with each other. So the fridge magnets was fun, because it's quite personal. So force people to get up and move around. So it's about thinking about some things like that, and what is it that we need to do in order to keep people engaged when they're in a different space, help them understand how to behave. And also, if you're using any kind of collaborative tools be really, really clear about those, and how they work and practice those, that kind Lily Smith:  of thing. And one of the things you run is agile in the ether. And you mentioned before a couple of times about the Lean Coffee style meetups. So explain how that works. When you have a whole kind of, you know, quite a large group of people trying to have a conversation all together at one time. How do you manage that? Emily Webber:  So at all in the ether was been everyone's really polite. It's such a polite group of people. And I'm not entirely sure how that happened. It feels it feels like a friendly group, which is which is good. And I think some of that is to do with those rules. So one of the rules. In agile NIDA is actually there's, there's a couple of things. One is, I get people to say, say someone's name, if they're talking to them. One of the challenges with online meetings is you can't make eye contact with anyone. So and I find this and I run, run workshops online as well. When you're facilitating a workshop, sometimes you might look at someone if you want them to say something, but you can't do that online. So you kind of have to be really like, specific say that. Another one of the rules is that people should put their hand up if they're finding it difficult to find a break in the conversation. And they have something to say. And I'd like people to kind of physically put their hands up, because I've sometimes found that the ones in the tools can be complicated. And I don't use many hand signals, because because I don't want to create a people having to learn a bunch of stuff so they can interact. So hand up is the thing, and everyone does it. But they even do it when there is a break in the conversation. Randy Silver:  Like the way you also You said you don't use many hand signals, but you have built timings into it. And you ask people to vote thumbs up, thumbs down or don't care if they want to keep the conversation going. And I find that that that regular interaction that everyone feels like they're heard and is asked to participate is really, really important. Emily Webber:  Yeah, I think the I mean, the other thing I do Agile on the ether is I start with an icebreaker. So that is a chance for everybody to say something. So that's that's always a good thing to do in a meeting anyway, it's a chance if you know, you're more likely to say something later on if you said something in the first place. So it's a way to bring everyone in, give them a chance to say something, which I think helps with the flow of the conversation later on. Randy Silver:  Awesome. Thanks. sure that everyone's audio and video is working. Yeah. Yeah. So there's one other thing we want to ask about, which was something else that you got involved in creating, which is the diversity Charter, which I think was originally intended route conferences, but seems really applicable to communities as well. So can you just introduce it and tell us a little bit about it. Emily Webber:  So I started the diversity charter a few years ago, and it kind of is a project that takes ticks long on the side. And it was, it came off the back of a conference. Organiser, I think asking me about, about diversity events. And the one thing about agile, sorry, agile on the bench, which was a previous meetup that I ran, which was meetup in a park is that it was fairly gender balanced. I think some of that was to do with the fact that I was involved, it was me, and there was a guy called David Lowe, who set it up. So there were two of us involved in running it. And it was at lunchtime. And a lot of meetups I think are challenging for some people to go to in the evenings. So I mean, it was difficult for anyone that was far away from where the park was. It tended to be fairly, fairly balanced. So people were interested in that add on the third tends to be fairly balanced in that respect to these. And it kind of got me thinking I was asked about it. A conference organiser asked me about it, and it got me thinking about this side, that people don't necessarily think about as much, which is that your or your audience needs to be diverse, as well as the people that you have on stage. So you can invite people, the people on stage, so you have it. So you have a bit more control over it. But it's really hard. If you're, I think if you're standing on stage, and you see a face, see of people that you can't recognise yourself in at all. So I think that that there's consideration for both of those things. And I wrote a blog post about things that you should think about, don't have the answers, just have lots of questions, which ended up with me creating the diversity charter. And the intent of that was not to, you know, not to call people out who maybe don't know any better or don't know how to do things, but to say, look, here's some things that you should think about. Here's a charter that you can sign. The point is you need to strive to do better, whatever better might look like. So that kind of sits sits there in the background, but it's really, so it reads really focused on events. And I'm keen that, you know, both conferences and meetups, think about this kind of thing, because I think meetups have a real challenge with diversity as well. Yeah, so it comes it comes from there. Randy Silver:  Well, I'll, I'll give you one last question. And then you can throw it in, which was totally and this is, you can also say no to this question. I was just gonna ask, What's your favourite icebreaker? Emily Webber:  Ah, my favourite word? I guess it depends on the situation. So I, I went to do Sharon Bowman's training from the back of room training, delivered by Sharon Bowman herself, who is absolutely brilliant. And she has these four C's concepts of running any workshops. So the four C's if I can remember the connections, concepts, concrete practice and conclusions. So the first thing, the first see is connections. And this is really important. It's not just about doing an icebreaker. It's about doing some kind of something that helps people check into the room and into the workshop, but also connects them to the material in some way. So I so when I run my community of practice workshops, I have a question that talks about what value people get from connecting people that connecting to other people that do something similar to them. So it gets them into thinking about connecting with other people, get some more help to have a chance to talk gets people writing on post it notes and kind of moving around. So the icebreaker is a really useful point to do something that isn't just whimsical, but actually kind of starts to get people into what it is that you're going to talk about later on. So the answer is it depends. Hey, I'm a coach. Randy Silver:  We're on a product podcast and if we didn't have at least depends, we would have lost our charter. So Lily Smith:  me that's been really great and really insightful to hear lots of great advice on how to start and keep running successful communities of practice. I think Particularly now is a great time for us all to kind of get together and try and get better at what we're doing. So thank you very much for joining us the product experience is the first and the best podcast from mine the product. Our hosts are me, Lily Smith, and me Randy silver. Louron Pratt is our producer and Luke Smith is our editor. Randy Silver:  Our theme music is from humbard baseband power. That's P AU. Thanks to Arnie killer who curates both product tank and MTP engage in Hamburg and who also plays bass in the band for letting us use their music. You can connect with your local product community via product tank, regular free meetups in over 200 cities worldwide. Lily Smith:  If there's not one near you, maybe you should think about starting one. To find out more go to mind the product.com forward slash product Thank you

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