Active Meeting Assignments

If people do not have active assignments, if they only attend meetings to hear reports and ask questions, truly professional work cannot be accomplished. 

Management: The Essence of the Craft. Pp 217. Fredmund Malik, Campus Verlog (c) 2010

Malik was speaking specifically of an institution’s supervisory board. But it strikes me as equally useful in other standing meetings. 

An Irritable Programmer Calls 911

Operator: Please state the nature of your emergency.

Programmer: I need immediate assistance.

Operator: Are you injured?

Programmer: Look lady, I don’t want to turn this into a status meeting.

Status is Not Stupid

I’ve noticed people saying the word “status” with scorn: “Now, instead of getting work done we’re just reporting on status.”

In fact, I’ve heard people use the s-word to complain about stand-up meetings that had team mates reporting to each other on what they got done and what they were going to work on.

Teamwork: It’s Better Together

I’ve particularly noticed this sort of dislike on teams that are really more like bundles of developers: I work on my thing, you work on yours, and each has nothing to do with the other.

However you describe it, the daily stand-up (or scrum) meeting is for the team to understand where they are, see what needs working on, and make a plan for the next day of work.

I’ve found that a team really shines when teammates work on related things together rather than independent things apart.

If you find yourself dreading stand-up then maybe your team is in a rut. In late 2011 I felt like my team’s stand-up had lost their edge.

It seemed that people felt an obligation to talk for a certain amount of time just to justify what they did yesterday. I also felt like we were spending time in the meeting doing bookkeeping that could have been done before hand.

I was the scrum master at the time so I wrote up this guide to shake things up for a few days.

Stand-up For Today

Don’t Do This:

  1. What I did yesterday.
  2. What I’m doing today.
  3. How I am blocked

Do Do This

  1. What did I do or learn that will probably affect others?
  2. What will I do that affects others?
  3. What is impeding me?
  4. How can I help others today?

Assumptions That Make This OK

  • Everyone is working their hardest.
  • We’re all keeping the scrum board up to date.

Insist on Fast Paced Status

You can absolutely have a productive stand-up using the traditional questions (The ones I struck out above.) I just found we were in a rut. We were talking about ourselves individually in a group setting instead of focusing on the team aspect.

Quotpourri: Listening, Safety, and Leadership

From an SSCA Newsletter (and the linked to Desktop Coach article).

Active Listening

Listen with the absence of thought. Listen without a filter. Listen without inserting your own viewpoints, paradigm, personal experiences, or belief systems. Listen without feeling the need to provide an answer.

Build a Circle of Safety

[The] best organizations foster trust and cooperation because their leaders build what Sinek calls a Circle of Safety that separates the security inside the team from the challenges outside.

Lead Consciously

[Ask] yourself, “What is the goal of this meeting?”, “What is the outcome I am wanting?”, and “What is the leadership behavior I must engage in to invite this outcome?” Ask yourself which is more important: your actions as a leader or your team’s reactions to your actions?

I Can’t Accept Every Meeting

Some time last year I realized that if I scheduled every meeting I’m “supposed to” schedule, and accepted the standard meetings others are “supposed to” schedule it would add up to more than 40 hours in meetings every week.

Up to this point I had been scheduling, accepting, and rejecting meetings in a one-off way. Realizing that I couldn’t possibly attend all the meetings I was expected to attend I decided that I need a rule — some guideline I can believe in to help me put limits on the time I spend in meetings.

The One Third Rule

In college they told me to plan on two hours of homework for every hour in class.  I started there with my standing meetings:

Spend no more than a third of your time in standing meetings.

The Chains of Standing Meetings

A standing meeting is like a mortgage payment: slavery. Continue reading I Can’t Accept Every Meeting