Oct 03, 2011

How does your team stay on the same page? Weekly meeting, shared status, campfire, other?

Looking for a better tactic.

This question was Tweeted by Brent Huston, security evangelist, Microsolved

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Back in my ExtremeTech days, we used to have a weekly meeting. I generally hate meetings, however, this one was usually well run and was kept quick. I hate meeting blabbermouths that won't shut up and suck up everybody's time and attention. Fortunately, our weekly meeting was mostly free of that.

You really just have to have somebody who can keep things focused and shut up the blabbermouths when they try to take over the meeting.

Email, voicemail, and text messages are the enemy and as much as we like to use them in our daily jobs, I find that they get in the way of effective communication when IT staffers employ these methods rather than meeting people face-to-face. A lot can get lost in the translation of the message, including context and mood. And for our socially-challenged technical staff, it's just good business to force people out of their cubicles into a meeting room. We've tried using a wiki and before that, sharepoint, but pretty much everyone just publishes their MS Project files on Sharepoint so I can look over their shoulders to ensure that milestones are being met on time, or at least adequately addressed when they do not. Sure, we use email but it's less effective than our weekly staff meetings for calling everyone to attention to insure that their deliverables are on-time.


While the loosey-goosey management style may be all the rage now, it's important that tech workers behave in a clear-cut, responsible manner because our role is so important to a corporation's success. That's why I always hold a formal staff meeting at 9AM on Mondays, followed by a monthly or every-other-monthly team lunch-and-learn where we discuss new trends, things we've learned from our user base, and cover whatever skunkworks projects we may be working on in the background that may or may not be of use in the coming months. I find that even with tight budgets, it's well worth the investment in my employees to lead by example and help to engender the kind of environment where they will be challenged yet feel that they're receiving thanks and support. It's far more difficult to replace a critical knowledge-worker than employees in other positions because of the institutional knowledge which gets lost when they leave the firm. By reducing staff turnover, we're able to work more cohesively as a unit, even when my staff are charged with many individual responsibilities.


How effectively a team of employees communicates depends a lot on chemistry. I've worked some jobs where we had daily departmental meetings from 8AM, and at other companies where we had a change control meeting every Tuesday at 2pm. At others, we kept in touch using Sharepoint and email and through our help desk ticketing system (Track-It), because our offices were geographically dispersed. The most important step is to bring everyone together at least a few times a year for some team-building, and then to clearly let employees know what is expected of them as far as communicating project status to their boss and to their peers, so that whichever tactic is employed, everybody follows it.

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