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Participating in pitches is an essential way for agencies like dmcgroup to reach out for new business opportunities. Invitations to pitches are usually given on short notice, so the time for preparing concept, design and presentations is short. That’s why specific methods are needed to support teamwork and enable maximum creative and productive output within a short period of time.

Written by Philipp Brunner

dmcgroup in the war room: Ingredients for focused teamwork – for maximum output (and fun)

For a pitch, dmc group tested and established a set of methods for focused teamwork and help maximizing creative output. The task was to propose a redesign for multiple portal sites of a municipal company.

Dedicated space – a “New Business War Room”

The team must tune in on complex issues in a very short space of time, and so an environment that provides little distraction from outside and enough space for the project work is needed. The term “War Room” has been used to describe this kind of project environment for a while now:

War Room (or command center) is any place that is used to provide centralised command for some purpose.

War Room
One of the decisive criteria for a good war room is it’s flexibility and adaptability: different working stages and groups need different spatial configurations. Also, it’s important that the room offers enough free walls or white boards for sketches, notes and thoughts (more on this later). Depending on the tasks and topics needed, different teams and specialists can be integrated into the war room.

The Project Hearbeat: Daily Huddles

Daily Huddles are daily (held mostly in the morning), short and emphasised meetings regarding the status of the project. Originally a method in agile software development, stand-up meetings and huddles have long been used in the agency sector.

The term “huddle” is derived from sports: in American Football, a “huddle” refers to the common gathering of a team’s players right before the play to strategise and motivate each other. The players literally put their heads together.

Team Work
In the agency world, the Huddle serves to discuss the upcoming tasks and operations as well as paramount strategies for the forthcoming day. The Huddle offers some essential benefits for the project work and the team:

  • The team works out the day’s schedule collaboratively
  • All available information, knowledge, solutions and problems will be shared in the team
  • A common understanding of the project and its status within the team can be reached
  • In this way, mistakes or problems can be recognised early and be avoided

Huddles work perfectly to stimulate a team for the upcoming day, because they are all about the personal encounter – the focus is on direct face to face communication and strengthening of team spirit. Daily Huddles have proved as an extremely effective method to start the day during our pitch project.


A space filled with ideas – wall space & Post-It notes

As mentioned above, one integral part of a good project room is the availability of free and useable wall space.

When pinning work documents and results such as project goals, notes on business models of the client, tag clouds with relevant ideas, sketches and final design screens to the walls, all team members will have them fresh in their minds. Nothing can get lost and any deviation from the main concept will come to the team’s attention.

Post it
There were 3 project stages in the course of our work for the pitch presentation:

  • Gamestorming & Innovation Games: First, the main task was to properly understand the tasks at hand, to work out business and user goals and develop a common project vision. We did so, using playful innovation techniques
  • Definition & concept: In the next step we focused on important insights and neglected less important ones. Then we defined story maps and user tasks for relevant user groups (User-centered Design!) and outlined our ideas. The definition of key elements helped to further focus the project vision.
  • Design, Prototyping & Presentation: Wireframes served as the basis for the creative implementation of the vision by our designers. For the pitch a click dummy and a multimedia-enriched presentation were prepared.

Throughout all phases it helped to keep the entirety of our project vision in mind – on the walls. Towards the end of the pitch process, we had to use ladders to use the last available wall space.

Emotional monitor for the team – mini retro & retro

Two weeks of concentrated teamwork is a long time – and an emotional challenge for every team. That’s why open communication at any time of the project is a must.

The Method of Retrospective is widely known and used in agile software development. It is a team meeting that aims to reflect on what went well and should be ready for future project work. The team discusses what to do and how to improve our working methods.

Retro Event
Daily mini retros (no longer than 15 minutes at the end of each working day) proved to be a very valuable tool to react timely to occurring problems and keep up the team’s motivation. Mini retros also increase the team’s common understanding of the project and improve communication, security and quality.
After the pitch we chose a special form of retrospective: the “Emotional Seismograph.”It’s goal was to find out which events during the teamwork triggered certain emotions. It helped the team to better understand the various changes and adaptions during the project.
In most cases, it’s very hard to openly talk about emotions during the project. The “Emotional Seismograph” leads the team towards this goal. It reveals at which times during the project, several team members shared similar emotions. In this way, it becomes easier for team members to talk about their feelings because common emotions get visible. Beyond that, certain patterns of working methods or actions, that work great for the team, can easily be identified. Also, the team can decide which methods they want to avoid for future teamwork projects.

The insights acquired from this process have been established in our team’s daily work and are still valid today.



Everyone participates in the end: this kind of structured and focused teamwork is highly productive and therefore a lot of fun. The team’s motivation during the project was always high (except for some temporary fluctuation), the team members identified with the project and gained some entirely new experiences in teamwork.

dmcgroup did not win the pitch unfortunately. Nevertheless, today, everyone involved in the pitch fully supports the resulting concept and design as well as the process that helped to develop it.

Book Recommendations

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers 
By Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

Visual Teams: Graphic Tools for Commitment, Innovation, and High Performance
By David Sibbet

Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great
by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen
Foreword by Ken Schwaber