Case Study — Managing a 28.5 hour Hackaton


Developing a toolbox that brings cross-functional teams together
Summary: HIteamweek was collaborative project between Hyper Island MAs students and Team week to create a toolbox for cross-functional teams to collaborate better.

My role
: Project Manager

Client: Hyper Island (UK) / Teamweek
Duration: 1,5 days (28.5 hours hackathon)
Team: 45 students of the DMM and DXD programmes at Hyper Island

This work was made with guidance from Hyper Island's industry leader Matt Kendall founder @Retrofuzz
Teamweek identified a problem with cross-functional teams being dysfunctional.

So they ask Hyper Island UK's MA degree students to collaborate together to build a toolbox that provides teams with the knowledge and tools to successfully set up a team and respecting culture to improve efficiency.

"Teams need help to make time for feedback and reflection, they need tools to quickly onboard new members to build culture and align goals and remote teams need tools to help keep the team aligned."
Community Manager at Teamweek
How we did it — Design Process
Problem Statement
Cross-disciplinary teams are becoming more common. Nowadays having exclusive teams with only designers, strategists, coders, researchers, etc working together is very unusual. Nevertheless, in the origin of the identified problem, is that people from different backgrounds and with skill sets have a narrow focus of their roles and tasks, having trouble to communicate and collaborate with people from different silos.

Understanding this is essential for modern organisations if they want to grow and adjust to the current dynamic and fast changing markets.

So, how might we make the best of out of the contrasting skills and backgrounds teams have?
During this project we had challenges at three different levels:

Operational — Coordinating 60 people, with 28 different nationalities and contrasting backgrounds and experiences was an exciting test. To have a more comprehensive understanding, read the "Setting up the project and the project teams" below.

Content management and QA — Having multiple teams creating content can easily affect the overall consistency of the outcome. So we defined a Content Management team (Kara and Radina) to align the content tone and style. This team was also responsible for the quality assurance and control.

Design and Development — At the design and code team we had Davis and Davey. The idea of a sudden change of requirements, due to specifications of the content teams, was something we wanted to avoid all cost. So, to avoid any scope creep, we defined the project workflow and kept the communication flowing between all teams.
We adopted Kanban as the (agile) project management methodology for this project. Kanban is focused on the work that's actively in progress, which suited the project's needs.
Design and Code, Project Management, Operational Support, Content Management, Facilitation teams during a meeting
During the project the teams were invited to document their journey as they would prefer. Some teams decided for a visual approach using Instagram, some others decided sharing their own reflection in written form in Medium.

As a personal note, I learned that in a short and demanding project like this, the risk of miscommunication and not meeting expectations is scaringly high. To avoid this risk we have set up the team culture and the project scope before the project kicking off.

As the project manager for this project, I learned that planning, assigning and monitoring tasks is rather important. However given the specific context of this project, I also had to focus a lot on the communication flow between teams and peers to ensure we were all on the same page and assuring the milestones were met.

Because no effort is valuable if the team doesn't know what goals to achieve. I encouraged my peers to take decisions in the areas for which they were responsible. Also, invited them to ask for help when needed and to communicate early and often.
The lean approach adopted for this project proved to be the best approach. The project was goal-oriented instead of opinion oriented. We were efficient because everyone had a sense of ownership and responsibility of the work to be done. The collaboration was permanent because we trusted each other as the best person to do the job at hand.

Industry Feedback
"Your project with Teamweek is so impressive! Just shared the site and your post with the NOBL team. Keep up the good work and please continue to share your projects and insights with us! This is awesome stuff."
Leading member at NOBL
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