Join Doug Rose for an in-depth discussion in this video Staying lightweight, part of Agile at Work: Driving Productive Agile Meetings.
- Many Agile teams call their meetings scrum activities. These activities are well structured and scheduled. They're also baked into team's overhead. The scrum activities shouldn't be confused with the spontaneous chatter that's part of a shared workspace. These impromptu meetings are what the developers need to sort out problems and hammer out details. The shared workspace heavily relies on osmotic communication. Osmotic communication is similar to dinner party chatter.
It means that you can listen in on other conversations, even when you're working on something else. Human beings are wired to take in a lot of information in a shared space. This ability to take in conversation while in the same space is called osmotic. In a sense the Agile team is always meeting. Osmotic communication has been fine-tuned over millennia. Your Agile team should take advantage of this natural ability and prioritize team colocation. Just sitting together in a shared workspace is enough for the team to get an idea of everyone's progress.
Human beings are naturally inclined to take in conversations. Scheduled meetings try to make up for unnatural messages, like voicemail and email. Think of the times you needed a face to face meeting to finally understand what someone was saying. The combination of osmotic communication and a shared workspace should keep the team out of most scheduled meetings. Most scheduled meetings are considered low value work. The management consultant Peter Drucker once said meetings are a concession.
Either meet or work, you cannot do both at the same time. This is particularly true of status meetings. These are the meetings familiar to anyone who's worked in a large organization. It's usually the presenter with a slide deck updating a small audience. The challenge with these meetings is that they don't deliver customer value. Remember that Agile emphasizes working software. Anything that's not working software is considered low value. In modern teams working software requires some internal collaboration.
A status meeting is not collaborative, it's usually one person presenting to an outside group. I once worked for an organization that emphasized what they called project socialization. It was the organizational equivalent of you tell me what you're doing and I'll tell you what I'm doing. Because of these meetings the Agile team spent a lot of time presenting their work to other work groups. These meetings took days out of the spread. The team was socializing their work with four or five other work groups. Each work group had around five people, so there were many new channels of communication.
To fill these channels each team spent several hours in meetings every day. It was a friendly exercise. Everyone got to know everyone else on the floor, but from an Agile perspective it was a time waster. Each team produced about 20% less work per sprint. Keep in mind that some of these meetings are deeply ingrained in the organizations culture. That means you have to pick your battles. One thing to try is to be completely transparent about the time the team is losing. The Agile team at this organization decided to create a meeting white board.
This board showed all the hours that they spent each sprint in socializing their work. The product order could do the simple math and figure out the lost productivity. Each organization is different, some of them will not give up their meetings without a fight. If you're the scrum master for the team explain that Agile is lightweight. Too many outside meetings will weigh down the rest of the team.
In this course, agile expert Doug Rose outlines how to make agile meetings as productive as possible. He provides guidance on common activities such as release planning, daily stand-ups, sprint planning, and product demos. Throughout the course, learn about common meeting pitfalls and the challenges of keeping activities on track.
Watch more courses in the Agile at Work series by visiting Doug Rose's landing page here on the site.
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