This is part of a series where we share how we work at LloydsDirect.
Every Friday morning we get together for Show & Tell. It started out as a way for the product team members to share with each other what they’d worked on in the past week. Before COVID-19 shifted us all to work from home, this meeting took place with people haphazardly strewn across the sofas on the mezzanine of our Shoreditch office.
For a long time, the permanent host was Alex, a principal engineer, who kicked off every meeting with a short presentation about some aspect of coffee. Mike, our head of data at the time, hated this! One of the regular features of Show & Tell of that era was “Latte art”, where staff would submit photos of their attempts to create presentable cups of coffee on the office espresso machine, which Alex would then rate.
But things change: the business has grown twenty-fold since those days, and most of our current staff have no idea who Alex or Mike are. Yet every Friday, we still get together for Show & Tell. Here’s why.
Show & Tell does three jobs for us. It allows us to:
Show & Tell, now run via Google Meet, lasts about 30 minutes, and is open for anyone in the business to join. Since moving to Google Meet, we now record the meetings so they can be watched at any time. Because it is organised by the Technology team, the updates can be quite technical, but we try to make things accessible by avoiding jargon and providing context for the work.
Who hosts each week’s meeting is managed via a rota that anyone in Technology can sign up for. Tradition has it that the host adds a few personal touches in choosing the music that plays while we wait for everyone to join, and, in a nod to Alex’s coffee lectures, that they open the meeting by sharing some trivia or interesting facts of their choice. A memorable one that comes to mind was the quiz where we were asked to tell if a quote was a Taylor Swift lyric or from ancient Greek philosophers.
In Scrum, sprints end with a sprint review or a demo of the work achieved. When I first joined LloydsDirect, Show & Tell felt to me like an end-of-sprint demo.
Sprint reviews do many other things, of course: they’re used to seek acceptance and feedback from stakeholders, delve into what wasn’t completed, evaluate if the work should be released… none of which is applicable to how we work at LloydsDirect.
But sprint demos give a sense of conclusion and provide an opportunity to take stock of the work we are doing. They help establish a sense of progress.
In this way S&T serves as a kind of surrogate for sprint reviews. While not a like-for-like replacement, it does act as a regular moment for team members to celebrate each other’s work.
Being able to understand why we are doing something, evaluate potential approaches, and to explain all of this is a vital skill for every member of a product team, be they designer, developer or data analyst. Show & Tell is a great venue to practise writing and presenting the story behind the work.
For example, coding isn’t the only skill required to be a successful software engineer. Software engineers are expected to be good at “problem solving”. But you can’t solve problems without understanding the context of the problem. And you can’t get good at understanding (or conveying) context without being able to communicate effectively with other humans (sometimes called “non-technical people” by engineers).
This is why we believe it’s so important for people to be able to explain what they’ve done and why it matters. It’s a skill that not only benefits the business (through more effective communication), it also benefits the individual in their future career.
Show & Tell is a great way to share work in progress and recent developments in the product with the wider business. While it doesn’t fully supplant the need for cross-team or departmental run-throughs and briefings, it’s still a nice way to build familiarity into the product development process and give people from other parts of the business a peek behind the scenes.
One of my favourite Show & Tell updates was where we saw video clips of user testing and then the designs that were updated based on the research findings. Seeing real people struggle to use something, followed by how it had been improved, was such a powerful illustration of how a product team works.
These demos are also a way for the product teams to learn what the other teams are working on. We find that even a casual, ambient awareness of new features and changes are incredibly useful.
The subtle genius of Show & Tell format is how loose it is — it’s a one-size-fits-all format that tolerates almost any manner of update.
Most updates are three minutes or less. Show & Tell isn’t really the place for in-depth presentations, though occasionally someone will share a longer presentation.
While each update is typically given by one person, it almost always reflects the work of many. Recognising this helps emphasise the team effort and makes it easier to find opportunities to present (it’s not about presenting only your work).
There is a tendency for people to prefer to demo only finished work, which can make it difficult to figure out what to share. To help with this, one team I was on devised the rule: “If there’s nothing to show, then tell.”
Come Friday, you never know what you’re going to get — it’s a grab-bag of updates, and yes, some weeks are more interesting than others. But the simple act of getting together to share something we’ve done or achieved or learned is powerful. It’s an act of community. Show & Tell is my favourite meeting of the week.