Reece’s Secret Sauce to Product Success – October Wrap

How well do you really know your customers?

Do you have to reference a user testing report to try to understand their needs?

When you are designing and building solutions, how easy is it to test your assumptions?

Do you need to kick off a testing with a 3-4 week lead time, to recruit, book and run sessions?

Could there be another way?

The folk at reecetech thought so. 

Immersion, Immersion, Immersion – Branch Time

Starting from their grad program, and soon proliferating throughout the rest of their teams, new Reece employees are given an induction like no other. They are sent to one of the 644 Australian branches to immerse themselves in the business.

It’s back to apprentice mode, as you get first hand experience of the customer sites. The 7am morning rush, helping setup customers, picking and packing orders which come in from all areas (overnight orders, phone, app and in-person), receiving stock, organising deliveries,  reporting back when things don’t go quite right. And seeing Reece’s customer obsession service standard for yourself.

Not just for research purposes, or standing on the sidelines taking notes. But by working side by side with the branch staff, serving customers. 

Everyone has done Branch Time. 

Even the CEO.

How long can vary for different areas, depending on their needs. But the standard stint for a Product Manager is around 6 weeks.

The Pros and… More Pros

But sending every new hire to Branch Time is a serious commitment – in both time and dollars. 

So what’s the upside?

Firstly, accelerating your understanding of the business, and building a strong foundation to make decisions in the future. This is not always tangible or measurable by reporting, but what better way to fast-track your decision making capability?

Also, forming connections and relationships with the branches, and understanding the mayhem of retail. You even get direct experience with using Reece’s internal systems, such as TRS. You always have access to feedback, as you’re constantly in contact with branches. 

And, of course, establishing deep empathy with your customers, the majority who are tradies. Understanding and becoming intimate with their customer problems, so you can ensure the right solutions are developed to deliver the right outcomes. Knowing their world also enables you to contribute and create meaningful OKRs (targets). 

But it doesn’t stop there: 

  • Branch managers and staff also benefit from building relationships with somebody in head office.
  • After Branch Time, you have ongoing access to the branch network, to continue to foster relationships, to interview or to validate ideas and concepts with staff or customers. 
  • New team members also go through the same Branch Time experience, so there is a shared understanding and common ground established.

Thank you

Thank you again to Cameron Rogers and Nikki Pecora from reecetech for sharing, to our volunteers (Nosh Darbari, Yau Hui Min, Steve Bauer) and to our lovely hosts Lexicon and A Cloud Guru.

Become (more) brilliant with Impro! – March Wrap

Impro Melbourne session at Product Anonymous
Photo courtesy of Koen Alexander

After a long challenging year, it was great to get back together for our first face to face meetup for 2021. After multiple delays, we finally were able to be joined by Katherine Weaver and Caylie Panuccio from Impro Melbourne for a fun and interactive session and it certainly did not disappoint. 

During the session, we learnt a little about improv, and were guided through a series of activities, where we learnt about:

  • Supporting each other and helping your partner (colleague) look good;
  • Collaborating with others and building on ideas;
  • Empathy for our stakeholders, who will have a lot of other things on their plate at times; and
  • Our own self-consciousness, and the artificial rules we create for ourselves.

Not only was the session extremely fun, we also saw how the exercises could be applied in work settings, to make us better product people. 

About Impro Melbourne

Impro Melbourne is Victoria’s premier improvisation company and the home of spontaneous theatre since 1996, and celebrating their 25th anniversary this year.  

Between performing shows and running a full schedule of workshops at their training facilities, they also take workshops and shows to schools and community venues, and lead corporate training sessions at home and overseas. 

If you’re interested in learning more or developing soft skills, beginner workshops are available: 

Check their website for more dates and details. Or for corporate events, public events, or workshops, contact Impro Melbourne at publicworkshops@impromelbourne.com.au

Thank you

Thank you again to our fantastic facilitators: Katherine Weaver, improviser, actor, teacher and Artistic Director of Impro Melbourne and Caylie Panuccio, Senior UX Researcher at SEEK, who has been practicing improvised theatre with Impro Melbourne on and off for the past couple of years and has found it a huge help as a designer / researcher / product person working in corporate environments

And also to our volunteers, Gwen D’souza, Nosh Darbari, Steve Bauer and our trusty organisers, Jen Leibhart and Liz Blink.

Katherine and Caylie doing their thing.
Photo courtesy of Koen Alexander

Encouraging Ethics Conversations – May Wrap

In recent years, the harm caused by technology has come under greater scrutiny. Whether at an individual product level, or the ecosystem created by a combination of products. 

  • How can we anticipate and mitigate against harm?
  • Bring an ethical lens into the product design process?
  • And map the potential bias in the systems we create.

If you’re struggling to find an answer, you’re probably not alone. 

After numerous years working in tech companies and startups, Laura Summers identified a lack of tools to facilitate ethics conversations. This led Laura to found Debias.AI, and create Ethical Litmus Tests – a deck of cards with prompts and questions to help reframe a scenario, and apply different lenses during the design process.

We were fortunate to have Laura join our May session, and using the Litmus Tests, take us through an interactive exploration of ethics in product design.

https://twitter.com/summerscope/status/1263290459217989639

Why is it so important?

Making trade-offs is part of designing and building products. But have you ever deeply considered what the impact of those options could be? Do you justify the decisions with yourselves, for the net (or greater) good?

But would you feel comfortable explaining your choices to a close younger relative?

Or what if the user was your elderly grandparent?

By applying these types of lenses, would you change the way you approach these decisions?

How does the Ethics Litmus Test work?

Define the motivator or driver

Describe the problem or scenario. The motivating concern can be either broad (eg, I’ve got a niggling feeling about this outcome), or very specific (eg, what if data was misused). 

Pick a litmus card at randOM

Select a card to help you reframe your view.

Write down your responses individually

With the litmus card in mind, spend a couple of minutes to consider:

  • Opinion: your position to the scenario
  • Questions: if you need to know more information
  • Next steps: action items

Share your responses

  • Compare and contrast your responses. 
  • Are you surprised?
  • Explain your thinking.

Some alternative activities to share your thoughts and responses:

  • The Blind Advocate – pass your response to another participant, and take turns to argue for another person’s opinion. A true exercise in empathy!
  • The Brainstorm – good for bigger groups, share your thoughts on post-its, or a digital retro board (like FunRetro), and then you can sort the responses into themes.

In this session, we all had some practice and fun, as Laura ran through several interactive scenarios with the Litmus Tests. Using the breakout rooms, we were able to discuss each scenario in small & bigger groups.

Resources and Further Reading

Read more about Laura and her work:

Thank you to our host: A Cloud Guru

Thank you to A Cloud Guru for hosting us online again this month. A Cloud Guru’s mission is to teach the world to cloud. We’re hiring