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Meeting-avoidance for self-managing developers

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How and when to avoid meetings and have more time to write code

Meetings are a problem for any organisations, because they dull the attention-span of otherwise intelligent people, and prevent otherwise productive people from getting any work done. Software developers suffer more than most, because they can’t even pretend that they’re getting any work done when they’re sitting in meetings. After all, getting your laptop out and writing code during a meeting is (rightly) considered rude.

This presentation introduces various approaches that software developers can use to reduce the number of meetings in their organisation, so they have more time to write code. In particular, developer contributions to project management can drastically reduce the number of meetings.

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Meeting-avoidance for self-managing developers

  1. 1. @PeterHilton http://hilton.org.uk/ Meeting-avoidance for self-managing developers
  2. 2. M A N N I N G Peter Hilton Erik Bakker Francisco Canedo FOREWORD BY James Ward Covers Play 2 Play for Scala
 (Manning) 
 Peter Hilton
 Erik Bakker
 Francisco Canedo http://bit.ly/playscala2p
  3. 3. Agenda (for this meeting) 3@PeterHilton • The problem with meetings. Getting out of meetings. Positive approaches. Reducing project management cost. Sharing management tasks.
  4. 4. Justin Ennis / CC BY 2.0
  5. 5. 5@PeterHilton • ‘M&Ms, 
 managers and meetings’ Why work doesn’t happen at work, according to Happy Melly http://www.happymelly.com/why-work-does-not-happen-at-work-the-mms/
  6. 6. 10@PeterHilton • Although we cannot avoid all meetings, developers can greatly reduce the number of meetings they have to attend. It isn’t good enough to make meetings more effective.
  7. 7. Getting out of meetings
  8. 8. Tactic 1: Don’t turn up 12@PeterHilton • You can avoid wasting time in meetings by simply not showing up. Pros: extremely effective way to avoid pointless meetings. Cons: passive-aggressive behaviour is considered rude. Worse: likely to cause follow-up meetings with your boss.
  9. 9. Tactic 2: take a laptop to the meeting 13@PeterHilton • You can avoid wasting time in meetings by doing work in the meeting. Pros: you get to attend the meeting and write code - the best of both worlds. Cons: using a laptop in a meeting is also considered rude. http://randsinrepose.com/archives/the-laptop-herr/
  10. 10. Tactic 3: sit back and relax 14@PeterHilton • Instead of fighting it, you can accept the meeting, relax and enjoy the time off work. Pros: avoids confrontation with colleagues that may lead to more meetings. Cons: not productive and can become an unbreakable habit (i.e. company culture).
  11. 11. Tactic 4: make sure there’s beer 15@PeterHilton • If you’re stuck in a long meeting, then beer can make the experience more enjoyable. Pros: even if the meeting drags on for hours, you won’t care. Cons: you have to throw away any code you write afterwards.
  12. 12. Tactic 5: sneak out of the meeting 17@PeterHilton • You can limit the damage a meeting causes by sneaking out after it has started. Pros: disguises your unwillingness to attend the meeting. Cons: it is extremely difficult to sneak out in plain sight and get away with it.
  13. 13. Negative tactics considered harmful 18@PeterHilton • Negative tactics for avoiding meetings are ultimately counter-productive. These tactics will not help you or your project. More constructive approaches are needed.
  14. 14. Positive approaches
  15. 15. Positive approaches 20@PeterHilton • Reduce project management effort. Share project management effort. Hack the working environment.
  16. 16. 21@PeterHilton • ‘Project management is communication’ Basecamp Manifesto, 37signals
  17. 17. 22@PeterHilton • ‘Programmers are typically stereotyped as non-communicative individuals who like to sit in darkened rooms alone with their computer screens. ‘It is not a true stereotype, though. Programmers just like to communicate about things they like to communicate about.’ Agile Software Development, Alistair Cockburn
  18. 18. What developers can contribute 23@PeterHilton • Communication skills. A wide selection of communication tools. More efficient information-sharing. Developers are good at solving 
 information problems.
  19. 19. Reducing project management cost
  20. 20. Project communication tasks 25@PeterHilton • Planning: communicating what you are going to do Tracking: communicating status
 Reporting: communicating with external stakeholders
  21. 21. Planning refactored 27@PeterHilton • Reduce planning cost by making all task information fully accessible. Publish on a wiki. Use a task tracking system, e.g. Trello. The plan is visible (to all) and flexible. The plan is therefore easy to update.
  22. 22. Tracking refactored 29@PeterHilton • Reduce tracking cost with status visibility. Annotate published task list with status. Use a capable (but simple) tracking tool.
  23. 23. 09:06  You  joined  the  channel   09:01  <phb>  meeting!  we  need  to  discuss  the  status   09:05  <phb>  @#!   09:06  <dev>  it's  in  Trello   09:06  <phb>  oh   09:06  phb  [phb@dilbert.com]  left  the  channel.  
  24. 24. Reporting refactored 31@PeterHilton • (see above)
  25. 25. Sharing project management effort
  26. 26. 33@PeterHilton • ‘Management is too important to leave to the managers’ #Workout, Jurgen Appelo
  27. 27. Planning refactored 35@PeterHilton • Participate in task planning. Understand what the planning is for. Self-assign tasks.
 Self-manage the development process. Beware planning that is just time wasted managing predictions.
  28. 28. Self-managed software development 36@PeterHilton • XP, Scrum, Kanban… Agile software development has reinvented development management. Smaller iterations and continuous delivery reduce project management effort.
  29. 29. Tracking refactored 37@PeterHilton • If tracking is hard, you’re doing it wrong. Continuous delivery makes project tracking so easy it feels like cheating. Counting completed items of work is easier and more useful than estimating progress.
  30. 30. Reporting refactored 38@PeterHilton • Continuous delivery reduces demand for reporting to external stakeholders. If you continually deliver results, you get more trust and fewer status questions. Working out loud (continuous reporting) helps too…
  31. 31. 39@PeterHilton • ‘If a day goes by, and I haven’t done something that was publicly visible to someone in the world, then I get really nervous... I feel like I haven’t done anything that day’ Jeff Atwood, Stack Overflow podcast 15
  32. 32. Hack the working environment
  33. 33. Workspace hacks 41@PeterHilton • Meetings without chairs Meeting-avoidance hardware Outsourced meeting facilities
  34. 34. Stand-up meetings - no chairs 43@PeterHilton • No chairs – therefore short
 Fixed agenda – no chair(person) required More effective - no longer work-avoidance Discourages people from sitting in pointless meetings (which leads to meeting-avoidance)
  35. 35. Helen Cook / CC BY-SA 2.0
  36. 36. Alix Guillard / CC BY-SA 2.0
  37. 37. Improve It / CC BY-SA 2.0
  38. 38. Summary
  39. 39. Warning! 49@PeterHilton • The purpose of a meeting is not always communication and collaboration. Beware organisations where meetings are used to assert status and power. Organisational change management is an altogether different topic.
  40. 40. Meeting-avoidance 50@PeterHilton • Find cheaper alternatives to meetings. Use good tools. Talk to each other. Cancel recurring meetings. Find other ways to talk regularly. Hack the working environment. Get meeting-avoidance hardware.
  41. 41. Project management 51@PeterHilton • Reduce the cost of project management. Use better development methods. Don’t try to eliminate project management Understand what it is needed for. Take on project management tasks. Increase your responsibilities.
  42. 42. @PeterHilton http://hilton.org.uk/ (end of meeting)

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