7 weeks in RBG Digital Product Land

Product Manager Alex Ferrand shares his reflections, 7 weeks on from joining Royal Greenwich's product team.

It’s been 7 weeks since I started my new Product Manager role at RBG. Time really does fly - at hyper-warp speed! Here’s some thoughts on my experiences so far.

Learning, learning, learning

There’s a massive learning culture at RBG. Each discipline runs fortnightly ‘Communities of Practice’, with teams co-creating a ‘syllabus’ of learning and taking turns to facilitate workshops, in which knowledge is co-created and shared. This culture is really embedded and means the responsibility for driving learning is well distributed, sitting with all. There is also a weekly ‘Product Open House’, where different disciplines take turns to facilitate sessions on a wide variety of topics, as well as open-invite ‘Show and Tells’, with product updates from multi-disciplinary teams. My line manager and I also devote 1 in 4 of our weekly 1:1s to a deep dive learning topic. In my 7 weeks here so far, I’ve been part of sessions covering:

  • setting direction

  • sprint planning and refinement

  • product roadmaps

  • estimation techniques

  • behavioural economics

  • impact modelling

  • building positive relationships

  • a session in which a colleague shared 6 lessons from her career so far

That’s a load of good learning in 7 weeks; I’m delighted to be working somewhere where it is taken so seriously.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

As well as the ‘working in the open’ stuff, I’ve also encountered a really emotionally liberated culture, where people are willing and able to share their vulnerabilities or worries openly, be that work or more personal stuff. This is role modelled by senior and more junior people alike - sometimes in meetings with really large numbers of people - which helps really set a safe, supportive, culture where people can be understood and supported to not suffer in silence. There’s also a willingness for people to be open about sometimes having had difficult days or weeks and that this is ok and part of normal life – very refreshing!

There’s also a real praise culture at RBG Digital. People take the time to publicly and privately praise and thank each other, with shout outs and thanks flowing in meeting Teams chats and built in to meetings as agenda items. In my previous career as a secondary school teacher I learnt that a really praise-filled environment was essential for creating a positive and motivating environment; this is the best example I’ve seen so far of that in an ‘adult’ work environment.

Finally, there’s also strong direction, vision and strategy here. So that strategy that the culture swallowed for breakfast isn’t wasted – it’s always there to provide structure and nourishment.

A new website and some personal reflections

I’ve been easing in to my new role, with lots of shadowing to understand how we work at RBG, avoiding the temptation to dive head down into furious ‘doing’, before I’ve got a good sense of the bigger picture. Having said that, I’m really excited to now be getting my hands dirty on my first product, working on some exciting changes to the council’s website.  We are redesigning our website, to improve information findability, and to make it more accessible, usable and inclusive. As part of this, we’ll be adopting the open source LocalGovDrupal platform which will also better meet the needs of content designers and comms colleagues. Last but not least, we are introducing a new web content publishing service, to ensure our wide range of content is consistent and well-maintained.

I’m delighted to be getting my teeth into the website project and with the warm, inclusive and fun culture I’ve found here at RBG.

Thanks for reading.

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