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Team Sync

Every day, the team gets together for a quick synchronization point: a short, informal chance to make everyone aware of who’s doing what today, if we’re on track, what problems we may be facing, and what business value tasks we’re completing.

Pain Points

  • Stovepipe / Silo software, where different members on the team duplicate effort
  • Developers go dark and fall far behind, and no one knows
  • Team lead/manager isn’t sure what progress the team is making

Benefits

This is a simple exercise in shared communication. The whole point is to have each team member quickly share what they’ve accomplished, what they plan on completing today, and what problems are cropping up.

Airing this information helps reduce risk and increase collaboration, and increases transparency to executives and other areas of the organization.

Application

✓ Critical ❑ Helpful ❑ Experimental

Adoption Experiment

Steps to first adopt this practice:

Setup

  1. Schedule a time and place when everyone on the team will be in the office, for example, at 10am by the coffee machine.
  2. Do not choose a location with chairs, such as a traditional meeting room. Remain standing.
  3. Limit the time to a maximum of 15 minutes.

Trial

  1. At each team sync, go around and have each team member give quick answers to these three questions:
    • What did you finish yesterday (i.e., the last working day)
    • What are you planning on finishing today?
    • What is in your way?
    • (optional) What are you going to break?
  2. The team lead or project manager keeps track of the “what’s in your way” answers, and that becomes their TODO list

Evaluate Feedback

  1. Keep track of surprises that come up that wouldn’t have been noticed otherwise
  2. Team lead or PM can also keep track of what’s finished each day, which might be too low-level for project reporting directly, but can at least provide a good sense of progress and momentum, or lack of it

What Does it Look like?

By now this practice might look familiar to you as the “Daily Standup” from Scrum. We are calling it by a different name here, simply because a lot of folks have their own ideas about what is appropriate for a daily standup and what isn’t. So to avoid confusion, we’re using a different name to indicate our version of it.

It’s important to report on what’s finished, not what you’re working on. The idea is to break tasks down to a small enough granularity that there’s a sense of accomplishment every day: something’s finished and ready to go.

Remember this is not a status report to your manager or team lead. This is a peer to peer activity to help keep everyone aware and “in the loop.” The manager’s role is not to evaluate status, per se, but rather to note the obstacles that are slowing or blocking developers, and start to clear those obstacles away.

Warning Signs

  • “I’m still working on xyzzy…”. Not useful, report what’s finished.
  • People sit down, meeting keeps getting longer. This isn’t that sort of meeting; it’s a quick snapshot to keep everyone connected and on the same page. Schedule other get-togethers as needed, but do not extend the team sync.

Growth Path

While this practice is laid out here for one team, of course you can extend it to a hierarchy by sending a representative from each team to for a higher-level, multi-team sync. However, that is a more advanced stage, and we do not recommend attempting that until all the teams are already highly functional at at ‘Working’ stage or better.

How To Fail Spectacularly

  • Holding a team sync or “Daily Standup” once a week. Daily means daily.
  • The only time the team talks is during the team sync.
  • Stakeholders never attend and listen. Instead, they schedule status meetings later in the day so everyone can repeat themselves.
  • Everyone is at the same location, but everyone talks over the phone or video chat. Co-located teams that don’t talk are asking for trouble.
  • Report to the manager, not to each other.

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