Ying and Yang: Between remote work and remote integration
In the era of remote and hybrid work, our face-to-face contact with coworkers is limited. Because of this, it’s quite easy to get sidetracked during meetings. In the course of our work, we also had this problem: our daily meetings were casual and our discussion was often out-of-place and too long. This resulted in a situation where plans for the day were seldom discussed.
And now close your eyes and imagine there was no pandemic, and you are still going to the traditional office…
You get in, say hi to your colleagues and open your laptop. The whole team sits together or in close proximity to each other. It’s easy to simply ask your team member a few desks down to help you with an urgent issue. Random grab a coffee and talk meets divide a whole day of concentration into smaller pieces, providing a much needed break from work and a chance to bond with your teammates.
And now open your eyes… to the different (but not worse) reality of remote work.
When we switch to remote work, teams don’t have many chances to spontaneously meet and talk about random topics, and scheduled meetings can easily get sidetracked into casual conversation. The key is to find the right balance between daily planning and team bonding.
Daily meetings in the remote reality? More important than you think.
In the remote reality, daily meetings can serve two purposes. The first crucial point is to form a plan for the day (you can find out how to do that here). The second is to smoothly kick-off work. Although to some team members starting the day in a formal way can be difficult at first, it’s crucial not to let dailys run astray. And without further ado, how to structure these meetings?
The idea of extending daily meetings may not be pleasant for some leaders, or even agile coaches. “15-minute” dailys are a paradigm that many managers don’t feel comfortable drifting away from. Rest assured, we’ll make it easier.
Our Agile Coach (Scrum Master) extended daily meetings from 15 to 30 minutes, and facilitated the daily meetings so that the “organizational” part went swiftly, while the team still got the chance to chat.
First half of the meeting (15 minutes)
The first part of every daily meeting was spent on random subjects and off-topic discussions. This allowed the team to have a small substitute for random meetings by the coffee machine. At first it was the coach that started the discussion on random topics, so the team didn’t feel stressed about interfering with the agenda. However, there was one caveat: the loose chatter had to stop around mid-meeting in order to switch into the “daily planning” mode.
Second half of the meeting (15 minutes)
In the “planning” part of the meeting, the process went like this:
#1 Starting on the right side of the Kanban board
First person on the far-right end of the Kanban board – the person whose task was on the top of the far-right column – started.
#2 Keep the focus razor-sharp
It was crucial for each team member not to dilute what they wanted to present. The most important was to show the current progress on each task with any possible issues the developer had or might potentially have. No descriptive presentations in the lines of “what I did here..” were allowed.
#3 Avoid getting sidetracked
The next person was the one who had the next task going left and down. If anyone spotted a dependency between their task and other developers, they had to stop the current presenter. If the plan for both developers couldn’t be altered in a maximum of one or two minutes, the issue was moved to the end of the meeting.
#4 Everyone has to get organized
Everyone had to present their plan for the day, and there was no “later” narration allowed, such as writing what one has to do later or finding a reviewer for an issue. As a distributed team, it’s difficult to make on-the-go plans later in the day.
#5 It’s “back of the line” for some
If anyone had an issue with their task and did not know how to process, their plan was pushed to “the back of the line” and discussed later.
# 6 Finish with a safe and sound plan
After everyone updated their tasks, and the plan was sound (meaning there were no dependencies that could stop any developer in the team), the daily was finished.
Striking a balance is the key to success
All these tips are useful for both remote and on-site teams, but particularly for the former. It is much harder to plan “as-you-go” during the day when everyone is working remotely. You can’t simply stand and talk with your teammates while sipping coffee… you have to write to them on chats, often not getting a prompt reply. Imagine any random day at work, think about all these spontaneous breaks over coffee or off-topic discussions happening throughout the day in open-space. How long do you think they last? 10, 15, 20 minutes? If you guessed more than 20, you are right. That said, if you are managing a remote team and you think adding 15 minutes to daily meetings just for idle chit-chat is too much, think about how much team dynamics can suffer.
Structuring meetings with your team is a wide topic, and depends on many factors. The way we did it works for many teams, but the most important thing to do while in “organizational” mode is to work out a structure that works well for your team, After all, it’s your team and you know them best.
And now you have two things to think about: What meeting structure would best work for your team and what they like to chat about. And it’s certainly not the weather.
Get actionable product building tactics in your mailbox, monthly.