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6 RULES TO RUN A SUCCESSFUL DEVELOPER TEAM MEETING

As developers, we’re routinely on the forefront when it comes navigating the tension between big dreams and limited resources. Our teams are engineers of great user experience and architects of implementing a bigger vision.

We love what we do but it’s not always easy balancing time and effort to our primary tasks, tracking success, testing, and debugging and deploying … all while meeting deadlines!

Like most teams, our greatest tools to steer our team’s efforts towards the future are effective meetings. Along the way, we’ve learned 6 things that can help you run your meetings more efficiently.

Rule #1 – Everyone should talk.
– Even if it’s just as simple as telling the team what you did, what you’re doing, and what is blocking you—it’s important that everyone shares.
– All team members should be prepared to contribute to the meeting. If someone doesn’t have anything to say, they shouldn’t be in the meeting.
– Everyone’s contribution adds momentum to the meeting and prevents people from feeling like they are unable to speak about what’s on their mind.

Rule #2 – Protect against tangents.
– Standups are called standups for exactly that reason: they’re usually done standing up to keep it short and keep it moving.
– If a topic arises that isn’t contributing to the achievement of the bigger vision, the leader should make the call of letting the person know it’ll be addressed individually. But for the sake of the team, it won’t be discussed in that group setting.
– If a tangent gets a lot of airtime, the whole meeting can lose momentum pretty quickly.

Rule #3 – Have an agenda coming in and actionable tasks going out.
– If the involved parties don’t know what the meeting is about, it doesn’t directly affect them, or they shouldn’t have been there, then there shouldn’t have been a meeting after all.
– Try not to bring up new topics or things your team wasn’t expecting. New topics generally deserve a meeting of their own, either with a smaller group, or a different agenda.
– Share the meeting agenda with all parties beforehand and provide action items at the end. No one should leave the meeting without something to accomplish.

Rule #4 – Meetings should be face to face.
– Even if you’re remote, use video—there’s just something about sharing a moment that increases energy and connectedness!
– Slack and other chat tools are great for communication and keeping the ball rolling, but pale in comparison to a video conference.
– In the age of digital silos, take the time to be personable. 

Rule #5 – Don’t look at code!
– There are times when screens should be shared to demonstrate something. It’s okay to share items like notes, view a slide deck, or look at a document, but don’t dig into code on a developer team meeting—ever!
– Before sharing your screen, ask yourself does everyone here need to see this? Or better yet, does everyone here benefit from seeing this? If not, it is probably a distraction for the group and a good candidate for a sidebar or separate meeting.
– If something needs to be demonstrated, record a video or a screencap and share that and nothing else. Coders love to look at code and we become easily distracted with what we love—and our opinions about it! 😉

Rule #6 – ODA (Only Developers Allowed)
– Developer team meetings aren’t the place for users, vendors, or upper management. Keep it to the team that can write the code.
– Project owners should be having meetings with the other parties to collect strategy, feedback, user stories, etc. outside of developer meetings. Then take the time to bring that information, as needed, back to the developers.
– Failing in this area is a sure-fire way to end up on tangents/sidebars and lose momentum.

Some of these lessons were hard to learn, but all of them have contributed to the overall effectiveness and happiness of our team!

What rule surprised you the most?