One of the challenges of working in a web team is ensuring adequate communication among team members. It is the nature of the work for it to be fairly isolating — especially if you’re coding away with your headphones on so you can concentrate.
However, lack of communication is one of the primary causes of disfunction within a team. It’s often critical that all the members of the team are on the same page as far as a project or methodology is concerned — not only to avoid screw ups but also to leverage the knowledge and skills of each person.
One way we ensure proper communication within our team is to have a quick meeting every morning, which we call our “morning huddle.”
Everyone gets in between 8:00 and 8:30 and has a chance to get settled, check email, organize their day and get a few tasks out of the way.
Then, from 9:15 to 9:30 the team gathers in my office and we all go over what we are doing that day – what we plan to accomplish, what meetings we will be attending, and so on.
Each person brings his to-do list and rattles off what they plan to tackle from it. We go from person to person, usually ending up at myself — although I too am expected to outline what I will be doing. It’s a group check-in, not just reporting to the manager.
Each team member is expected to come to the meeting with a clear idea of what they are going to accomplish that day.
The morning huddle is a great tool for me to stay up on what everyone is working on each day and also for our project manager to make sure an individual’s tasks are appropriately prioritized.
For example, she might ask that task B be completed before task A in order to be certain to hit a deadline.
The huddle also helps ensure that everyone knows what everyone else is doing and provides a means for input and direction to be provided before it’s too late — “Oh, you’re working on X today? Well, we should have a chat about a few things related to that first.”
We try to keep the detailed conversations to a minimum so as to respect the time of all those present. However, it’s not uncommon for us to spend an extra 10-15 minutes discussing something that affects us all.
If a longer conversation is warranted, we try to table it for our weekly hour-long team meeting where we will have an opportunity to discuss the issue in more depth.
On Mondays we also finish off the huddle by discussing what’s happening during the week — whether there are any big events or milestones or whether anyone is going to be out of the office. This helps us make sure we are prepared for the week to come.
My team has been doing this for about three years now, and I couldn’t imagine starting my day any other way.
The idea of everyone coming in and just getting on with their work without any kind of team check-in is simply alien to me now. The value gained from this meeting is well worth the time spent each day.