Working in a charity digital team is challenging. We spend so much time delivering web and social media content at pace, it can be hard to find time to reflect. But the landscape we work in is always shifting, with new technologies and opportunities arising all the time.
I’m the manager of a small digital team (there are three of us) at Time to Change, and I’ve been working to improve the balance between delivery and reflection. I’m still relatively new to managing a team – I’ve been doing it for just over eighteen months and I still feel like a novice! But in that time, I’ve been particularly interested in how we can continuously improve our work and keep an eye on the changing environment, while also hitting our targets and milestones.
1. Social media retrospectives
A test and learn approach is critical if you’re trying to innovate and grow in a way that meets your user’s expectations. But it’s hard to find the time; you really have to build it in.
In our team, we split responsibility for curating and posting content on social media throughout the week, so it’s important for us to communicate about how the content has been performing. Once a week the team gets together for a half-hour review of our social media performance from the previous week. We run it on Slack so that we can look through the week’s content as we go, and so there’s a written record of what we said. We reflect on the following questions:
- What went well last week?
- What went less well last week?
- What have we got coming up?
It helps us to celebrate the posts that performed well and analyse those that underperformed. We talk about the possible reasons for both. In this way, we are constantly clarifying what good social media looks like for us. The team has license to test new formats and approaches on social media, and the retrospective allows us to report back on those tests to each other. Sometimes, we find content has done better than we expected, which we can learn from and incorporate into future activity.
The retrospective also helps us to critique each other and hold each other accountable for content that could have been better, without singling anyone out for criticism. Since we’ve started doing it, each of us has been happy to reflect on what we could have done better personally, and it also gives us a chance to celebrate each other’s highlights. We tend to lean towards collective criticism, so we actively try to get an equal balance of comments in the good and bad columns!
2. Flash talks
Digital innovation is happening all around us and its fast pace. Keeping up with latest trends is a daunting task for a small team. We’ve decided to try something a little different to stay on top of the latest developments.
In our monthly team meetings, we try to reflect on the bigger picture. One way we do this is a flash talk on an area of digital practice, delivered by one of us on a rotating basis. They’re 5-10 minutes, and each team member can choose the topic they want to talk about.
The topics we’ve had so far have included user stories, chatbots and emerging social media trends. The presentations are informal, but they serve a few purposes. Firstly, they help us to see what else is going on in the charity sector: the chatbots talk featured excellent case studies from Shelter and the RNLI, for example. Secondly, it helps to spread the responsibility for horizon-scanning across the team, rather than it just being one person’s job. And while it’s not always possible for us to act meaningfully on each topic we present on, it sometimes plants the seed of an idea that might be more relevant further down the road.
3. User manuals
When you’re in a fast-moving environment, collaborating and communicating effectively is key. But it’s also really easy to lose sight of everyone’s preferences and ways of working, which you’ll need to optimise to do your team’s best work. To help with this, we wrote down our own personal user manuals, a concept we stole from Cassie Robinson.
A user manual describes your working preferences: when you like to work, what conditions you like to work in, what helps you to thrive and what you find difficult. They help to communicate some of the things that don’t always come up in day-to-day conversation, as well as simple practical things – for example, I keep my headphones on a lot to help me focus, but I don’t want that to stop my team from talking to me!
These practical steps are helping us as a team to test and learn, future-proof the organisation and communicate better with each other – proof you don’t need a big budget to build positive and inspiring work cultures. What hacks have you introduced to your team or organisation? Add yours in the comments below. 👇