How to Address and Solve Team Issues Quickly and Effectively?

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Over the past 6 months our team expanded from 15 people to over 30+ and, as one can imagine, we experienced the entire range of issues that can stem from such a growth. Not only did we have a lot of new names to learn, we also had to find the solutions and tools that would make our collaboration smoother and more effective.

One of the new solutions we ended up implementing was the Scrum methodology. We were pretty new to this topic, so we had to learn a lot: we took part in the workshops, met with coaches, and discussed it internally to compare notes and share the knowledge with our coworkers.

We constantly strive to improve our Scrum and use a range of different tools for that particular purpose, including weekly meetings in the Lean Coffee format. Originally, they were supposed to help us address and solve pressing issues, mainly Scrum-related. However, over time people other than developers started attending those meetings and now it appears we’re discussing much more than just Scrum stuff. We also use the meetings to share our thoughts on a plethora of other issues: office matters, marketing, design, or any other Macoscope-related topic.

What Is Lean Coffee?

Lean Coffee is a meeting (something most developers don’t like that much, I guess) with a traditional structure, but no agenda. Participants meet and build an agenda together, and later discuss all the issues they decide to cover. With the agenda devised by all attendees, a Lean Coffee meeting proceeds in a much more controlled and productive manner.

Such a format makes it easier to obtain effective results: actionable points in some cases and deeper thoughts on specific issues in others.

How Do We Run Lean Coffee at Macoscope?

Attendance is voluntary, but anyone can join in and participate actively.

We meet once a week with everyone bringing the issues they would like to discuss to the table. After briefly outlining them we take a vote and start with the ones that receive the most attention.

For each topic we set up a 5-minute timer. Once it runs out, we decide whether the topic should be discussed for another 5 minutes or should we move to the next one. The time box for the entire meeting is 1 hour.

Oh, and we decided to change the generic name, Lean Coffee, to something that we could relate to a little bit more – we chose Dynamic Discussions on Scrum (or DDoS in everyday conversations).

What Do We Use DDoS For?

To give you just a brief overview of what we discuss during the meetings, let me share some of the topics we explored this month:

  • Scrum backlog – we have no qualms about questioning the tools we use on a daily basis, one of them being JIRA: we discussed whether we should keep using it and how can we make the most out of its capabilities.
  • Attending conferences and other events – some of our team members are really keen on traveling around the world to give talks and share their knowledge, while others approach the idea with a degree of reluctance. We were discussing how to divide the conference budget to make equally available to all members of our team.
  • The Macoscope Wiki – with over dozen people joining the team in last few months, we decided to overhaul and improve our current onboarding process. We were discussing whether using a wiki as a supplement to our current new employee guidebook actually makes sense.
  • Christmas charity – our Chief Wellbeing Officer wanted feedback on her idea to do something more ambitious and helpful this year instead of just running the usual Secret Santa gift exchange for Christmas.

As you can see, the range of the topics is pretty wide and it reflects the diversity of people attending the meetings. Each one usually gathers a mix of developers, designers, our Chief Wellbeing Officer and me, the Marketing Manager. We bring quite different perspectives to the table, which allows us to cover the discussed topics pretty exhaustively and come up with oftentimes surprising approaches.

Why Do We Run DDoS?

Our weekly DDoS meetings are a pretty good reflection of our team culture. With each team member being able to bring their own issue up for discussion, the meetings help us keep the company transparent and open.

Additionally, the meetings have an undoubtedly positive influence on team spirit. They encourage us to really care about company-related issues and give us an opportunity to speak up and be heard out.

What’s your experience with Lean Coffee format meetings? Have you tried it with your team?

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