… something on upping the number of meetings

TheCodeCleaner
Oct 22 · 4 min read

In this blogpost I describe the advantages for a software team of having dedicated ‘chewing the fat’ time whilst working remotely, which maintains the coherency of a team which can be looser than when co-located.

A team not staying in touch enough can fall back to being a ‘Working Group’.

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Cambridge Chalk Pit

Who would want more meetings?

Who on earth would want to introduce *more* meetings? Well, I would.

With caveats of course. As long as they deliver value; either in terms of ‘work done’ or just in terms of helping or strengthening the team.

Not surprisingly since March my team have all worked from home, I can’t say it has particularly affected the ‘output’ of the team as such, but what I can say is that it has affected the ‘teamness’ of the team — it’s coherency.

To begin with my team had some fairly ‘meaty’ tasks to come together on, and we did a fair bit of Mob Programming, however the tasks since have not been that conducive to working like that.

… we still stayed in touch

But I didn’t feel the team were getting together to really chew the fat.

Two opposing trends

Interestingly the other ‘Zeitgiestey’ trend is quite the opposite, for Mob Programming. Everyone one in the room together, working on the same thing at the same time.

The danger is that each member of the team carves out their own niche of work, unconsciously (or otherwise) so that there is no overlap in activities between them and their team-mates; everyone just works by themselves effectively. This is what is known as a Working Group.

“Working-group members don’t take responsibility for results other than their own” — ‘The Discipline of Teams’, Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith

The Ceremonies weren’t enough

If there are comments that come back from a code review is it down to the author (and only the author) to address any concerns? If they’re off ill does it sit there until they come back? Or does someone muck in and see it through to completion?

Obviously you don’t want people competing to finish it off and racing to check in their updates, but with some simple coordination, some one could step in and see work to completion — that is cooperation if not collaboration.

…it all started from a retrospective

After three or four of these, it turned out they were really useful, and that it was great to get the whole team in a conversation and review in depth what the data was telling us.

This also gave an opportunity to see if there was any data missing that we weren’t collecting, or a graph of the existing data that would tell us something.

…let’s turn up the good

A third opportunity was when we were asked to fill in a Team Practices survey, this was about aligning best practices across Redgate, with each team giving a traffic light status against a number of criteria; eg do we hold post-mortems, are we compliant with Open Source Licenses, do we have a warning and error-free build, etc.

We were actually encouraged to do this ‘async’ but it just felt too much like this would end up falling on one person’s shoulders — which a similar previous initiative had — so I suggested we got together for an hour and talked through each category.

This had the advantage that the knowledge was shared across the team, and responsibility for actions could be taken on at the team level, even if one person did ultimately do them.

As it happened an hour wasn’t enough, so we’re about to do a second session, but as I argue in ‘…something on Minimum Viable Process’ better that than having a single interminably long meeting where everyone loses interest.

…let’s turn up the good

Sometimes you do just need to thrash things out in a way that is not possible in a slack/email/twitter thread.

By getting the team together to have deep discussions, and not just to have ‘overview’ meetings and ceremonies, a better team can be forged.

Ingeniously Simple

How Redgate build ingeniously simple products, from…

TheCodeCleaner

Written by

@TheCodeCleaner agile consultant, committed clean coder, slayer of complexity and harbinger of tea. Remourner. Now 'part of the team' at @RedGateProdDev

Ingeniously Simple

How Redgate build ingeniously simple products, from inception to delivery.

TheCodeCleaner

Written by

@TheCodeCleaner agile consultant, committed clean coder, slayer of complexity and harbinger of tea. Remourner. Now 'part of the team' at @RedGateProdDev

Ingeniously Simple

How Redgate build ingeniously simple products, from inception to delivery.

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