July 25, 2012

Team Meetings

I think one of my favorite parts of my job is how I get to try new things and experiment with tech. We get to pilot new processes, and we try to find better ways of doing things -- even if that sometimes means everything is terrible for a little while.

One of the things we tried (which I am increasingly grateful for, over time) is the Community Team changing the frequency of our meetings. We went from a twice-weekly afternoon call to a daily morning/afternoon call. Furthermore, we stopped using Skype (which would slow down my machine) and switched to Google Hangouts, which are low-res but fast.

Switching the frequency of our calls changed a lot of things. It reminded me of the early-run CHAOS roundups, which were daily and featured us talking about what we'd accomplished in the last 24 hours. Those were weirdly stressful; I always felt like I had to have something to show for my time. However, over time, that feeling faded, and by the time Community Team switched to their daily meetings, I think I had a decent idea of how those should go.

The nice thing about Community Team is that we're not quite so...achievement-oriented in our mission. This isn't a good or bad thing; it's just how the teams' responsibilities are by nature. This means our meetings are more about planning, coordination, and policy. Plus, with the team shifting towards project-orientation, daily meetings mean I at least know who's working on what without necessarily having to be in a meeting that I don't feel I can contribute to.

The daily meetings were tough at first; we had a lot of stuff that we'd all been putting on hold to talk about, so the first two weeks were spent with us getting a better sense of what the meeting rhythm should be. We managed to work through the backlog (which frustrated some of us, I know, because the meetings would run an hourish) but once that was done, the process got much better. Nowadays, we usually have twenty-minute roundups, and we'll stay "after" to chat about project-specific things as needed. Beyond that, we meet less frequently now, all of us working on our own things and not needing team input at much.

Intra team communication is a tough rap. It is a struggle to find the right thing to do. I think the most important factors to making it work are: (1) buy-in from everyone that there's a problem; (2) a willingness to stick to the plan, even when it's tougher and less efficient at first; (3) an understanding of what needs to be communicated and how. I think the second is the toughest; when things get annoying or break or people forget, it is sorely tempting to abandon ship and return to the status quo. DON'T DO IT! A little pain early on will save everyone tons of headaches later down the road.

We hold regular events in chat with our moderator staff. Lately, these haven't gone quite as we'd hoped, so we're going to try something different: mod-casts! Stay tuned....

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