RES Software has software development centers in the US, the Netherlands, and Romania. We firmly believe that one of the most important factors to making a global software development approach successful is for the members of these teams to really get to know each other. That means knowing that Dave, for example, often goes to the mountains to snowboard with his wife and kids, or that Mircea really likes to hike in the mountains of Romania. It’s knowing that Sabine enjoys scuba diving all over the world, and knowing that Andrei is looking for a new place to live in Den Bosch. We feel there are natural barriers between people in the workplace, and these barriers can prevent them from asking questions of each other, which in turn impedes knowledge transfer.
Getting to know the person behind your colleague on a global team is especially challenging. You don’t meet them at the coffee machine or during lunch. In meetings, you’re often focused on the meeting itself, assuming that the small talk can be done at another time. But it’s harder to have small talk when you’re working remotely. As a result, it is harder to get to know each other.
The RES Software Research & Development Summit
So how is RES Software different? We address this problem in many ways, but the most fun is our yearly Research & Development (R&D) Summit!
Every year we invite our R&D colleagues from abroad to the RES Software office in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands (aka Den Bosch). For one week, the entire team – nearly 100 people – is in one location. And that makes this time really gezellig.
Lessons Learned in 2014
Last year we organized the summit for the first time, and we were happy to have all team members working together in one location. While some planned extra meetings outside of the summit, it was mostly a regular work week. Thursday was the main event, a party day. We did an update meeting in the morning, had lunch together, and followed up with fun activities in the afternoon.
People could choose between a city walk to get to know the beautiful historical character of Den Bosch, a pool tournament, a drum workshop, or the option to race the town in a solex tour.
Following the afternoon activities, we enjoyed drinks and a pub quiz on events at RES Software in recent years. We then had a dinner cruise, sailing the Dutch canals. We concluded the evening with a pub crawl in the city center of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, with the plan to set a benchmark for the next years to come.
It was a great week and everyone loved it. The department was full of energy and it was all people talked about in the following weeks.
Planning on 2015
While this was a great event, as an agile company we realized that we could and should improve as we prepare for the R&D Summit 2015. The teams can work together every day, so why focus on just working together as a team during this week? Why not focus on binding the team this year? Additionally, we believe in the concept of guilds where team members get together with their colleagues from the same profession and improve on their skills as a developer, tester, tech writer, etc., with an apprentice, journeyman and master structure. So why not do something with this concept during the R&D Summit?
Personal development and innovation is a key value at our company. So why not give team members the opportunity to innovate and develop in their crafts during this week? Learning as an individual is nice, but learning with colleagues is even better!
R&D Summit 2015 – Trust and Understanding
First of all, the goal of the week is to build trust and understanding within and among all of the R&D teams. All of the activities that we organize will be linked to this theme.
For Monday and Tuesday of the week, we asked our program managers to use this opportunity to build strength and we even gave them some examples:
- Groom/discuss the next product releases
- Host technical sessions such as how does the product need to be improved the most
- Perform a release retrospective: not just a sprint retro, but take a look back at the entire last year
- Organize lean coffees for open, team led discussions
- Decide on a specific project that you would like to deliver in one week
Every group within R&D has regular Guild meetings. The goal of the guild meeting is to exchange knowledge about their profession and to increase the skills of those in the guild. So, on Tuesday evening we are going to organize the first RES Super Guild Event, an internal conference! The idea is to have be by RES Software, for RES Software. This gives our team members the opportunity to learn about other guilds, skills, trades and interaction with people from other roles in a fun way!
We were hoping for eight sessions, but we received such a positive response and now have 16 sessions in total lined up! Team members who are proud of what they do, are trying to grow their knowledge, or want to share their knowledge with others will have an open stage to present their stories. We want to lead by example so the organizers of the summit will of course also host a talk.
Later in the week we are organizing the first RES Exploration Day with the goal of learning through risk taking. It is great when a team finds the answers to a solution they are looking for, but it’s even better when they find a whole new opportunity – one they never planned to find!
We promise that the participants will learn and discover new things, while the participants will trust each other to learn in a group environment. At the end of the Exploration Day every group will present the results of their studies. As said before, it is in not about the results but about what the people learned.
Friday will be the grand finale filled with relaxed and fun events to grow trust and understanding. All R&D employees will lunch together and participate in outside activities in the afternoon. In the evening we will have dinner together followed by going to a pub in the city center of Den Bosch for some fun, beers, and reflections on the week.
We look forward to this great event. We will keep you updated about the R&D Summit 2015 and share lessons learned with you.