PUM today, PUM tomorrow

We recently introduced PUM or Personal User Manuals during a monthly hybrid team meeting. The intent was to glean more jewels of information about how people work over the obligatory small talk that might happen just before a video call swings into action.

What is PUM?

For those not initiated into the world of PUM, in its purest form, it’s a way of helping people understand how you work, by answering a set of questions based around working style, preferences and how you may react in certain situations.

There are many articles on PUM and how to get started, but my personal favourite is one by Cassie Robinson, purely due to its simplicity.

Why bother Using PUM?

In a hybrid and often remote working world it can be hard for people to get to know a team and really understand how each other work. Yes, you might work in the same team but how often do you articulate your needs as a human, especially in a new hybrid world.

In Service Transformation we work in teams we call disciplines, but a lot of our work is collaborative. Our work cross’s many teams and directorates in the council, but also, we work with partners, suppliers and contractors, with this in mind, any help working through the storming, norming, forming, performing, cycle is a bonus.

When do you use PUM?

Quite simply any time you want to get to know one another, and you need a mechanism to help you do that. In a hybrid world, contact and random meetings can be few and far between. Long gone are the days of chatting in a corridor before a meeting starts or standing at the water cooler where nuggets of information, were often learnt.

Service Transformation was a newly established team just before the pandemic hit, so we did not know each other well, when we shifted to remote working overnight. We are continuously looking to build and maintain our relationships within the team, so PUM has worked well for us.

How do you use PUM?

Building PUM into activity is a sure-fire way to bring the information alive over just having static information shared on a board (which we have as well).

Asking people to complete a PUM and leaving them in a shared space is fine, as people can refer to it when they are directly working with a colleague, but the real magic comes alive when people explore the content of the questions and build connections.

We did this by asking the team to use the PUM to explore what they have in common and what differences they share. An example of this is two people could like water-based activity as something they like to do in their spare time, but one might like swimming while the other enjoys sailing.

If you have any different activities, we can try we would love to hear from you.

How did we know if PUM was a success?

Quite often you don’t know unless you ask people, but when a colleague who took part in the activity asked for the template and instructions to use when starting a brand-new project, you know you had an impact on one person at least.

Where do you get the questions?

If you search ‘Personal User Manual’ template or visit the article I shared earlier, you will see that there are a few versions out there. This is the version that we created in Service Transformation.

Personal User Manual Example Question for participants

We felt that it was a nice balance between personal and work-based information, but like any template its up for tweaking and changing with the users using it.

PUM usage notes

It is important to point out that meeting the preferences of all of your colleagues all of the time might not be realistic, but any good employer and colleague, must be willing to at least explore the needs being articulated.

Finally, you do have to remember to remove any personal data when people leave the team or organisation.

Let’s revisit PUM!

It’s been a few months since we last used PUM as a team activity, but the intention is to use it more widely.

It has already been built into our onboarding process for people joining the Service Transformation team, so new members can read up on the existing team and the team can get to know any new members.

As leaders and team influencers you do have to encourage people to continually revisit it or build in additional activity so that it stays with people to use it as a tool.

Sharing is caring

PUM is not a new concept and we would love to hear from you if you have used PUM. Let us know what questions you used, how users interacted with it and how you are incorporating it into working practices.

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Andy Webb posted on

    This feels like a great idea at a time when it's hard to make the same depth of connection with so much remote working. I can imagine it would feel a bit alien as a concept to some - but then many things that are new to us can feel that way.


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