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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 what’s been learned, what’s been fixed, 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 contributing today, and what problems may crop up.

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

Assessment

  • Team Sync takes less than 15 minutes (+5pts)
  • Team members feel they are “in the loop” and aware of each other’s progress and impact on their own work (+5pts)
  • Team lead/manager actively notes and works on clearing blocking issues (+5pts)

  • Team lead/manager ignores blocking issues (-20pts)
  • Team Sync takes longer than 30 minutes (-10pts)
  • Team Sync is used as a status report to leaders (-10pts)

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.
  4. Team members only, no outsiders may participate.

Trial

  1. At each team sync, go around and have each team member give quick answers to these questions. See below for detailed explanation of each question
    1. What did you discover/learn* yesterday?
    2. What did you ship/fix* yesterday?
    3. What’s the most important thing to work on today?
    4. What do you need (what impediments are blocking you?), and what might break?
  2. The team lead or project manager keeps track of the “what do you need” 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 get a good sense of progress and momentum, or lack of it
  3. Is anyone going dark? Working on the same old thing, or not shipping?
  4. Is learning and discovery happening regularly?

What Does it Look like?

By now this practice might look familiar to you as the “Daily Standup” from Scrum. The TeamSync is not the same thing as a Daily Standup. So to avoid confusion, we’re using a different name to clarify and to emphasize its purpose: this is a sync point for the team. It needs to helpful to the team. It’s not a status report for management or stakeholders. The actual questions don’t need to be set in stone. It does need to be quick and helpful.

The first item is critical: what did you discover yesterday? What did you learn, or conversely, what did you share and teach to others? Everyone should probably have an answer for that at least several times a week, if not every day. If weeks go by without anyone learning or discovering anything new, then you have an obvious problem.

The second item is a more pointed version of “what did you work on yesterday.” The actual question being asked here is “what value did you create today,” but that’s too abstract for daily use.

So instead we ask “what did you ship?” In this case, ship does not necessarily mean “deployed to all end users”, but asks what was actually completed: finished to a shippable state. Or, what did you fix, in terms of process, broken tooling, environment, etc. It’s important to report on what’s finished, not just 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, ready to deliver value.

Third is a variant on what will you work on today. Can you confirm that it’s the most important thing you could be doing? Is that still true? Has anything changed?

Finally, the good old impediments question, with a twist: not only is there something blocking you, but are you planning on breaking anything today? Is there a risk there we should know about?

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.

In fact, any sort of “status report” is a side effect at best. The Team Sync is by and for the team. Other interested or managerial parties may watch if curious, but may not speak or actively participate.

In a frequent/continuous delivery environment, observers should not be getting their status from this meeting, but instead should be getting a sense of progress from actual delivery, and also from any Big Visible Charts in the team area.

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. This get-together is necessary, but not sufficient. You’ll still need other conversations.
  • Stakeholders never attend and listen. Instead, they schedule status meetings later in the day so everyone can repeat themselves. If they are interested, they should listen in.
  • 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.
  • It becomes a report to the manager/team leads, not to each other.
  • Feedback is discouraged to save time, people just state a few words about what they are working on. The point is to share state and raise awareness. Say what needs to be said, but don’t hog the team’s time with a lengthy monologue. Stay concise, but above all stay useful to everyone, not just the team leaders.

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