Lunch And Learn

Lunch and Learns provide an effective way for individuals to share new technology, new learnings, and new ideas. They cross-pollinate the organization so it can grow. Traditionally a developer leads the Lunch and Learn on a technical topic, but folks across the organization are welcome to present on any relevant topic that may be helpful.

Pain Points

  • A different language/framework/stack shows great promise and would make the work easier and faster, but no one knows it
  • Teams are too busy with “real work” to take time to learn
  • Improvement activities are only local within the team, and don’t propagate to other teams or departments
  • No one knows whats happening in other parts of the company
  • Knowledge is treated as a precious commodity, no one is willing to share with others

Benefits

  • Developers become more comfortable presenting to their peers
  • Developers get to share new technologies and learnings
  • Opportunity to improve employee engagement
  • Information flows informally through the company
  • Innovation results from ideas and information intertwining and cross pollinating, which will increase the company’s effectiveness and overall capabilities

Assessment

  • Lunch and Learns are held consistently and provide meaningful, relevant content that helps to increase the team’s capabilities (100pts)
  • Lunch and Learns are occasionally held, and sometimes provide something valuable (10pts)
  • No one volunteers to present a topic (-25pts)
  • Lunch and Learns are never held (-100pts)
  • Lunch and Learns are consistently canceled due to higher priorities (-150pts)

Application

❑ Critical ✓ Helpful ❑ Experimental

Adoption Experiment

Steps to first adopt this practice:

Setup

  1. Announce Lunch and Learns will be held for the next 3-6 months as an experiment to share information and ideas between teams
  2. Have the potential participants pick starting topics

Trial

  1. Started holding Lunch and Learns
  2. Track topics/presenters and participation
  3. Repeat for 3-6 occurrences
  4. Do a quick exit poll on value to the participants. A Return on Time Invested chart can gather this type of data.

Evaluate Feedback

  1. Has participation remained about the same? If so, how might you increase the number of participants?
  2. Have the topics covered both theoretical and practical aspects of the job?
  3. Are the participants interested in keeping the Lunch and Learns active?

What Does it Look like?

Knowledge doubles every 12 months or less. Knowledge doubles even faster in software development where we deal with both theoretical knowledge its application. Even if we practice intentional learning, we’re losing ground. By not learning at all, we’re planting the seeds of our own destruction.

Lunch and Learns offer an avenue for people to get together and share new information, ideas and to innovate. Some companies chose to support Lunch and Learns by paying for the food. After all, the person participating in the Lunch and Learn is donating some personal time.

Formats vary, but there’s generally an assembling time to find food, get seated, and engage in informal chit-chat. Then the speaker presents the material. This is usually followed up with a questions and answers period or larger debate.

Start by asking participants what they’d like to cover during the Lunch and Learns. Have several ideas to suggest just in case the participants are reluctant to initially add items. They’ll be happy to let you know what interests them. Find someone who can share ideas and experiences with the session material.

Anchoring the meeting time (second Tuesday of the month) and location (conference Room B) makes the Lunch and Learns easier to remember.

Warning Signs

  • Vendors line up to present at your Lunch and Learn
  • The same people present at all the events
  • Participation starts high, and eventually dwindles to just the organizer and presenter
  • You come up with the list of topics every time
  • Topics are viewed as boring or irrelevant
  • New and exciting topics and opportunities are discussed, but never experimented with or implemented

Growth Path

Lunch and Learns start the path to larger organizational peer-to-peer meetings such as internal open space conferences, hackathons and more in-depth presentations and workshops.

How to Fail Spectacularly

  • One person decides all the topics
  • The meeting location and time changes every Lunch and Learn
  • Someone from HR sits in and takes attendance
  • Lunch and Learns regularly get canceled due to “higher priority” tasks.
  • Lunch and Learns become “religious wars” such as Vi vs Emacs, AWS vs Azure, OO vs FP, etc.

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