As a Program Director, I often get asked how I decide on what goes into the Mainstream Conference program each year. While finding the people and organisations with the best stories is an important part of putting the event together, what many people don’t realise is that the research process starts long before the event planning even begins – usually 6 months out from the conference – when we get the community together in a series of roundtable discussion groups (or RTDs). It’s in these RTDs that we uncover and unpack the most pressing issues that are facing the Asset Management community. The challenges that keep them up at night and often prevent them from moving their teams and businesses forward.
Each roundtable discussion group involves around 20 people who sit around a… well… a round table! These people are real practitioners in the industry – Asset Managers, Maintenance Managers, Reliability Professionals – we want to speak to the people in the thick of it who are managing teams, driving strategic thinking, leading transformation projects and living the complexities that come with that every day.
Getting to the Core of the Problem
Our discussion groups are facilitated by a subject matter expert – this year we were lucky enough to have John Searls who is a fantastic facilitator and brings his unique experience and perspective to these groups (read his excellent LinkedIn post about the themes of this year’s roundtable discussions).
It is John’s job to draw out and interpret the pain points people are experiencing by asking probing questions and capturing the ideas that come out.
The process works like this:
- Participants break out into small groups to talk about their main pain points which they capture to share with the wider group
- The group then explores the points each team raised and expands on common themes
- The group then focuses on a few areas that are most important to the wider community and expands the conversation to help the group delve deeper into these issues- participants share their experiences and challenges they face in these areas and the group discusses ideas to enable improvement.
- At the end of the session (usually lasting around 3 hours) our RTD participants vote on which issues are most pressing for them and their organisation.
We run different discussion groups in multiple cities around Australia and repeat the process above – this year we travelled to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. It’s important for us to get a good cross section of what’s happening in the industry and speak to a wide variety of professionals in different sectors across the country.
It’s also a great opportunity for our roundtable participants to network. We often hear them saying things along the lines of “It’s good to know we’re not the only ones experiencing these problems” (with a definite sigh of relief!).
What do we do with all this information?
Throughout the round table discussions, I capture all the ideas that get put forth. This information is collated captured in a research report which you can download here. It is from this information that we can then start to find the thought leaders, innovators and organisations out there that can share their stories to help answer some of the challenges raised in these discussion groups and start to form the agenda for Mainstream Conference 2017.
About the Author
Simon Yeowart is the Program Director for Mainstream Conference. He scours the globe for the most inspiring stories, case studies and thought leaders to showcase at Mainstream Conference each year.
If you’d like to be involved in next year’s roundtable discussion groups, email Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org.