Joe Blogs: Meetings (Hiccupps)

On May 10, 2016, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing

Neil Younger spoke about using Lean Coffee for his test team meetings at last night’s Cambridge Tester Meetup. Inspired by the Cambridge Lean Coffee meetings – which are also part of this meetup and which he has hosted at DisplayLink since the earliest days – he replaced a failing monthly team meeting with Lean Coffee. And he hasn’t looked back. Here’s a few bullet points pulled out of the talk and subsequent discussion.

The monthly test team meeting was failing for various reasons, including:

  • As the company transitioned from waterfall to agile there were other forums for people to report status
  • … and these were generally more timely
  • … and the monthly meeting became mostly repetition.
  • With a cross-site team the physical constraints of the meeting rooms – round a table at each end, with a monitor onto the other team – seemed like a barrier to interaction.

They changed the Lean Coffee format in several ways, including:

  • Cross-site means that post-its are impractical so they use Trello for their proposals, voting and to record the Kanban (To Do, Doing, Done).
  • Often discussions will need to produce actions and these need to be recorded. They have an additional column on their Kanban for this.
  • They felt the need for a way to inject topics that would be discussed without voting – announcements from management, for example. Over time, they’ve found other ways to disseminate this information instead.
  • A facilitator is nominated to keep track of time, but also sometimes keep discussion on track.

There are some other changes from the earlier meetings too, including:

  • They use bigger screens to view the other site.
  • They sit in a semi-circle facing the screen so that everyone on both sides can see everyone else’s face.
  • The Lean Coffee is optional.
  • No topic is off-limits (and topics have included salaries and concerns about the direction the business is taking).
  • The focus is no longer status and more: are we doing the right thing? can we get better? what do others think of this?

Neil’s been very happy with how it’s working and shared a few observations, including:

  • They experimented with different time limits and found that between 7 and 10 minutes work well.
  • They tend to have few project-related discussions because there are other forums for that, including another meeting where testers share information about feature work.
  • Dot voting is a kind of self-policing mechanism, preventing people from riding their hobby horse every week or descending into office politics
  • … and the facilitation means that anything going too far off-topic can be brought back.
  • The monthly cycle gives a chance for issues to be resolved before the meeting takes place.
  • The location of the facilitator changes the focus of the meeting – whichever site facilitates tends to lead more of the discussion.
  • Almost certainly some other format would work just as well
  • … but the physical changes, optionality and voting are probably key to it working for Neil.
  • Other teams in DisplayLink are taking the format and tweaking it to work for them.
After the talk and questions we ran a Lean Coffee session. Details of that are in Joe Blogs: A Meeting.



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