It’s been a little while since we started our experiment on the team.
Our latest one started in March this year, and was focused around more regular one-to-ones.

For Pete’s sake, not another meeting!

I’m sure this was the unanimous reaction from the team when I said that I wanted regular one-to-ones with each of them.

Up until March, we would have one performance review a year, and maybe a six-month touch point, but that was it. Other than the informal chat over coffee and our Friday retrospective, I didn’t have any alone time with each of them individually.

Those weekly one-to-ones were meant to solve this grey area of communication.

It’s a time for both staff and project leaders to reflect on the work done, ensure everyone’s happiness, and think about how we work.

One month grew into two

When we started our experiment we said that we’d limit meetings with individuals to one per week only, and then decide if we’d learnt something or not.

After the first month, doing a weekly one-to-one, we quickly learned that it was far too much.

So we’ve decided to run the same experiment for another month, trying one-to-ones every two weeks.

What we’ve got out of it?

After two months, I can attest that it’s hard to sustain unless you set some rules.

Here is what worked for us:

  • Two one-to-ones per month.
  • Keeping the same day for each team member (ex: Rob on Monday, Julio on Tuesday and so on).
  • After lunch catch-ups seem to work better.
  • Keeping it short and informal. This is also a time for everyone to chat a bit. We limit them to 20 minutes max.
  • Focus on solutions. Since you’re doing regular catchups, there shouldn’t be any surprises on the points that each party brings to the chat. If there are things to improve, don’t waste your time on the why, but more on how to resolve the issue.
  • A box of legos makes a good conversation ice breaker!

In terms of results, there was no, yet, clear enligthment moment. At times, it was certainly very helpful to have some personnal chats, but on lot of occasion, it kind of felt like little bit waste of time, when nothing needed to be said. This is why we’ve moved them to a twice a month schedule and try to keep them as flexible as possible.

Our May and June experiments

These are the ones I’m really looking forward to now. We’ve decided to let our experiments run for two months, and are happy to run two in parallel.

The Cookies pulls the plug on the internet

Yes, you’ve read that right! We will ask each member of the team to force themselves to work internet-less for half a day each week for two months. Can we do it? Place your bets!

As a developer it’s too easy to Google and click stack overflow to find an answer, and I want to see how it affects our problem-solving brain area, to be forced to find an answer by ourselves before we Google for a solution.

For the non-developers in the team, we want to measure if radically disconnecting from the net transforms into lateral thinking, blog post generations, or simply some stress level reductions.

I know that three-quarters of the team are scared about this, but I’m really excited by this test!

Friday afternoon retrospective and planning

We’ve decided that Friday afternoons will be (almost) dedicated to planning, feature cards writing and sprint retrospective.

Those retrospectives will be held in silos, managed by each team PM, starting at 3pm and then followed by our ritual end of week team catch-up around 4.30pm.

We hope that it will allow us to get a better iteration retrospective feeling, and help us plan our cards in more details for the weeks ahead.

It’s all fun!

Really. Experimenting things as team, improving processes, workflow, communication and productivity as a group is actually super fun, and it should stay like this. At first our one-to-ones could feel a bit like a chore, until we just took the pressure out of those, and added a bit more flexibility and fun elements to them.

We should keep that in mind for the next few months.

Image from RogersView