Thomas McDevitt

happy hour vs agile stand-ups

Developers work best in teams and for effective teamwork, the team members need to be able to communicate well and stay up to date with each other’s progress. Different teams use different approaches; two that I’m familiar with are Scrum and a daily meeting whimsically named Happy Hour which is how we stay connected at MetaBroadcast.

happy hour

We’ve written about the format of Happy Hour before but as a recap, here’s a quick account of how it usually works. Starting at midday sharp, we spend up to an hour on the following…

  • 15 minutes for everyone to deliver a 30 second update on what they’re working on, what they’re going to spend the rest of the day doing and how it’s going.
  • A 10 minute slot for a review which depends on the day of the week (infra, blog posts, etc) to keep the whole team up to date on these matters.
  • Another 10 minute slot for a demonstration from any member of the team; either to show what they’ve been working on in a bit more detail, a weekly company update from Chris or just to show something that might be of interest to others.
  • The rest of happy hour is divided into 5 minute slots for discussion of individual topics to avoid the need for disruption later in the day. Individual people’s concerns and blockers are usually raised in one of these chats.

5 minutes isn’t always enough to cover some topics; they’re sometimes extended when an important topic is being discussed but the idea is to have everyone involved in these chats so everyone stays up to date.

agile stand ups

Whilst the happy hour format works great for us, it’s obviously not applicable to larger teams; I can’t imagine big companies are able to seat their entire team in an enormous circle let alone all have time to give updates in 15 minutes. Agile’s approach is thus to divide into smaller sprint teams which usually meet once per day at a time of their choosing to give their updates then. This meeting is sometimes called a stand-up.

  • Usually once per day, the members of an individual sprint team gather in a meeting room to quickly update each other on what’s going on and the general direction of the sprint team.
  • Everyone stays standing for the whole meeting to make sure it stays short.
  • Everyone gives a quick update on progress and concerns. Individual updates may take longer than 30 seconds but concerns and blockers are discussed when they’re raised rather than moving straight onto the next person’s update.
  • Often, team leaders and members that contribute to multiple sprint teams can attend each others’ stand ups to get updates on how other teams are doing.
  • That’s it! Other issues — particularly those concerning members of multiple sprint teams — are brought up in separate meetings arranged throughout the remainder of the day.

Whilst the update meeting is faster, it results in more disruptions throughout the day to discuss other matters and results in less transparency between the teams on everyone’s good work. Of course, this won’t be avoidable for big teams so as long as communication between teams is handled well, individuals can stay sufficiently informed.

unusual but fun

Whilst it’s not a format that will work for all teams, happy hour works great for us. Do share your approaches on how your team stays connected. Better yet, you could always see happy hour for yourself by checking out the vacancies and coming and working with us. There’s a number of other quirks which we’re sure you’re going to find awesome. 🙂

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