I’m now a part of a newly formed team and team procedures are still being defined. One of the questions discussed was how often would we hold team meetings. Suggestions varied significantly – from daily to less than weekly. In this post I’m going to think aloud (think visibly?) about few things that may be good to consider.
We should always ask whether a meeting brings a higher value than the time it costs. I’m sure that everybody sometimes finds himself in utterly useless meetings – and it’s absolutely right approach trying to eliminate this waste of time.
But just getting rid of all meetings is not the answer – if a team should work together, then people need to meet each other, understand what to do, how they can help the rest of the team and so on. Instead of refusing all meetings as valueless, we must make some of them valuable. If we waive often (daily) meetings because people consider them “waste of time”, we’re not only losing opportunity to work closely as team and identify problems and opportunities early, but it often means resigning to any improvement at all – we would have meetings less often, but they would remain equally useless.
The previous paragraph assumes one thing that is not automatically true for every “team” – that the individuals really work as a team, therefore they are interested in what others do, have a reason to synchronize with them and plan together what’s needed to do. If everybody has his own work and don’t collaborate with others, there is no reason to meet – such a group may be called a team, but it doesn’t work as team, so it won’t benefit much from collective meetings.
Agile methodologies such as Extreme Programming or Scrum use daily meetings heavily – but it’s a common mistake to hold daily status meetings, call them “Scrums” and automatically expect better results. That’s just a receipt how to waste a bit more time every day.
Agile methodologies concentrate a lot on building teams that work together to achieve a common goal and on removing communication barriers. People are often impelled to work closely together – to plan work together, to estimate together, to pair program and so on. That also helps everybody to know what the team is working on, because the whole team analyzed, decomposed, estimated and accepted every single piece of work. Because individual tasks are small enough, there is measurable progress (or measurable lack of progress) every day, therefore it really makes sense to ask what was achieved yesterday and what will be done today.
Sometimes people have their “own” items to implement and don’t care about what others do. Sometimes people are willing to collaborate with others but they don’t know what others are exactly doing and don’t get this information even in the meeting. Sometimes people repeat for many days that they work still on the same task. Sometimes the whole purpose is to give Project Manager feeling that he’s managing anything.
It may be better to get rid of such meetings. But even better is to change the way how we work.