Reflection week 5

What a week! I gave a talk on Conflict Resolution to the company and created a tech talk on psychological safety and learning how to take interpersonal risk. Heavy stuff.

It’s been another busy week for my team. We’re experimenting with using the karma commit format for meeting names. It’s pretty cool, I’d like to see what the Google Calendar API can tell me about how we spend our time.

This week surfaced a few approaches to work I take for granted and are worth sharing.

Running effective huddles

My team had a few huddles1 this week on various topics. They all finished on time, participants had equal-voice, and we generated do-able actions – basically what I’d call a success.

It reminded me that facilitating a huddle, or any meeting, can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.

Successful meetings are often chalked up to good luck or group dynamics, when actually there are specific nudges which can encourage things to run smoothly.

1) Use essential collaboration hygiene

Include an agenda. Follow it. Ensure there’s a scribe and that it’s not always the same person.

2) Create clear invites

Include a Context explaining why the session was created. People forget, especially if meetings get moved around.

A Goal section is useful to provide direction and intent. It also helps facilitators bring the group back if conversational drift occurs.

Always be brief.

3) Stay mindful of inclusion/exclusion

Take the time to ensure the right people are included. Not everyone has to be in a session.

As a team, discuss preferences for session inclusion/exclusion. Establish guidelines. Follow them. Apologise when lapses occur.

4) Use Occupy signals

My team uses the Occupy hand signals and they’re brilliant. Communicating intent is clear and support/dissent surfaces effectively.

It also limits interruptions and speaking over teammates, two behavioural patterns I find irksome and which can be detrimental to group social dynamics.

5) Time-box…ruthlessly

A huddle is 20 minutes or less. I mentally break that 20 minutes into sections: intro (1m), context (3m), discussion (10m), action (5m), closing(1m).

These section/times are guides, not rules. There is wiggle room in that 20 minutes.

If we’re 10 minutes in to the discussion and a decision is not clear, I call “point of order”, remind the group of the goal, and ask if this huddle needs to be turned into a meeting.

6) Close with gratitude

It’s important to say thank you to everyone. Thank the scribe, thank the action volunteers and make sure they know their actions, thank folks for participating.

Be authentic.

But it doesn’t have to be an Oscar acceptance speech.

Team lunches

I created a monthly Team Lunch reminder because we’re sometimes so busy we forget to socialise. And we typically have a lot of laughs together anyway.

Team lunches are surprisingly critical to nurturing a healthy team dynamic. They re-affirm social bonds, provide an opportunity to get to know each other, build trust, and a bunch of other psycho-social wins.2

However, they can be a pain to organise.

For my team I thought of a quick win to make things easier: BYOL picnic in our office space with sparkling apple juice in champagne glasses. It was irreverent and amazing.

It also sparked an animated discussion about how we handle our puppet deploy mutex and how we could improve it.

This discussion led to a spike.

The spike will provide data about how our users deploy puppet.

We can analyse this data and build better tooling.

All from a team lunch, in the office, on a picnic blanket, with mis-matched champagne glasses of sparkling apple juice.

Can’t Let It Go

This talk on “Being Glue” by Tanya Reilly is so important to watch. My colleague organises fortnightly Lunch and Learns where we watch conference talks and have a discussion afterwards.

She showed this talk last Friday and I can’t let it go.


1. A huddle is a short team meeting to discuss a topic. Huddles are no longer than 20 minutes. Topics usually require a decision and relate to the team or the team’s work.

2. See “The Key Role Food Plays In Building Team Spirit”, “Team Building in the Cafeteria”, “Eating lunch with colleagues can boost productivity”.