Many of the teams I’ve worked with have some kind of regular team update – often a daily session.
In the team update, each person in the team talks about how things are going, and they can raise any questions or issues.
These can be really useful but it’s important to steer them a bit. Here are a few tips for how to do that.
How to implement these tips
A team should agree to try a new approach and see if it helps.
Changes should be trialled one or two at a time. If you make a lot of changes in one go, it’s easier for the team to push back purely because it’s more disruptive.
With smaller increments, you can try things out, get used to them, and keep them if they feel like a good change. Then you move to the next change.
Onto the tips…
Timebox the session
The team update shouldn’t be an exhaustive rundown of everything. Long drawn out updates can lead to people switching off. Keeping it high-level will help everyone digest the updates.
15 minutes is a pretty good timebox to use – if you’re using Scrum then this is already how long the Daily Scrum should be.
Nobody wants to prematurely end the session at exactly 15 minutes if someone is speaking. Someone can call out when the time reaches 5, 10, and 15 minutes if it’s useful.
Plus, the change can be gradual – if a team is routinely taking 40 minutes to do their update, getting this to 20 or 30 minutes is a good start.
Nominate the first/next speaker
Giving updates in the same order gets repetitive, and can make people at the end feel that their updates aren’t valued. Varying the order can help with this.
Don’t ask “who wants to go first?” – as this can also lead to the same order every time. The first person to speak could be the first or last to join the update, or they could be nominated.
When a person has given their update, they nominate the next person.
Make sure everyone in the team has a chance to speak – don’t miss anyone out.
Take discussions offline
It’s ok to ask someone a question about their update, but don’t let this take over the whole session.
If it needs a wider discussion, this should be taken offline – i.e. discussed outside of the team update – but it’s important to make sure this happens.
The person asking the question or the person giving the update could arrange a discussion with the relevant people if needed.
Try not to stay on after the session
Whether it’s in-person or virtual, it can be tempting to “stay on” to have the offline discussions there and then.
That can work if there’s only one discussion – but will get messy if there are more.
The risk is that the discussions will feel like they are part of the shorter team update, and may end up being discussed as they come up instead of afterwards.
Plus, people may have other things to do, or they may need a quick break.
Your approach may vary, but my view is it’s best to give people the opportunity to leave the current meeting before getting into further discussions.
Avoid talking in-depth about process
It can be tempting to talk about the team update in the update. After all, you’re doing it there and then, and any thoughts are fresh in your mind.
It’s ok to hear the comments if you have time, and give a quick answer if possible. Anything more and it’s often better to set up a dedicated time so the topic can have sufficient space for consideration.
Refine and conquer
The team may come up with small tweaks to the team update (and other parts of your process) as they get used to it.
Refining the team update as people think of improvements helps to remove pain points and keep things fresh.
Keep doing this as much as you need to.