Written by Caz Houghton
Jun 02, 2017

Research and development in focus

Getting the most out of regular team research and development time.

WCIDFY - What can I do for you?

We recently reengineered our team R&D (research and development) days and rebranded them as WCIDFY (What can I do for you?) days. More than just a fancy name (and confusing abbreviation), we shifted some of the key timing and elements of the days to maximise the time for our team. 

Josh’s recent blog explains the rationale behind this initiative in more detail.

But how did this move affect the team and what have we learned? 

1. Don’t neglect your admin and clients

One of the key decisions in our rebranding of our R&D time was to move them from the end of the week to the beginning.

This straightaway prompted some nervousness amongst the team (me included).

How were we going to get any of the usual admin and project work done, if Monday and Tuesday were blocked clear for our WCIDFY time? 

During our WCIDFY kick-off meeting (in place of our usual Monday team breakfast meeting - don’t worry the breakfast wasn’t missed out), we quickly realised we were all anxiously glancing at emails from clients and glancing at project backlogs wondering where we’d be able to sneak in 10 minutes to address something.  

We didn’t want our clients to feel neglected nor did we want productivity to suffer. So we agreed that for the next WCIDFY time, we would block out 9am-10am for project/client work. This is similar to how we operate during a Design Sprint.

The team were at once at ease.

2. R&D yourself

Obviously, R&D times (or our WCIDFY reincarnation) are valuable times to learn new skills. But, they're also packed with important opportunities to learn about the team.

We often learned the most and gained the best insight into aspects of our own company, by speaking to each other about what we each do or how we could word differently to benefit the entire team.  

It’s important not to miss this. As well as learning new skills and solutions, R&D is a valuable time to learn more about how you and your team work. Don’t miss this out!

3. How we help each other

We were keen to fully utilise this ‘team’ dynamic to our R&D time.

So, for our new WCIDFY days, we wrote up a list of things that were getting in our way as a team, instead of the areas we individually wanted to develop.

(Nb: We have a generous training budget which still allows us to explore these personal development tasks).

Discuss and prioritise 

Together, we discussed the ideas we’d raised and decided on a few that we all felt were the most pressing. In the same way that we plan client work, we agreed on an achievable list of tasks that we could complete in the time we had.

Create sub-teams

Having assessed who were the most appropriate people for each of our chosen tasks, we broke off into small groups.

We might not have been on the sub-team that was addressing a problem we’d voted on but we are all confident that other people in the team can do something as well as, or often much better than ourselves. And that equally, we can add value to something they struggle with. 

Physical outputs

This new approach felt so much more productive and it gave us physical outputs to show for our time that would benefit the team. 

As a company, we can now see that we've put new processes in place (as we did with Trello) or done something that we otherwise wouldn’t have had time to do.

We also had removed potential blockers to enable us to work more efficiently.

Record and carry over

We now keep a spreadsheet of potential elements to look at for the next ‘What can I do for you’ days and use this as a template (which we’re by no means limited to) to plan at the start of the next WCIDFY days.

Conclusion

For now, our new R&D model has been successful but as with everything at Brightec, we want to continually improve and I’m sure we’ll find ways to make this time even more productive.

Maybe we should also consider looking at renaming it to something that is a bit easier to say...

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