Weekly 3-step procedure
This text is based on chapter 6.9 in booklet
How Quality is Assured by Evolutionary Methods
Based on the experience gained, starting with the weekly
team meetings we found in most projects, we arrived at a weekly 3-step process,
which proves instrumental for the success of Evo planning. In this process
we minimize and optimize the time spent in the project. Selecting what to do and what
not to do (we don't do things nobody is waiting for).
The steps are:
- Individual preparation
In this step the individual team members do what they can do alone:
The team-lead, or a peer also prepares for the team what (s)he thinks are the most
important Tasks, what (s)he thinks these Tasks may take (based on their own perception
of the contents of each Task, and the capabilities of the Individual), and how
much time (s)he may need from every person in the Team.
- Conclude the tasks of the current week-cycle
- Determine what probably are the most important Tasks for the next week
- Estimate the time needed to do these Tasks
- Determine how much time you have available the coming week
- 1-on-1’s: Modulation and coaching
In this step the team members meet individually (1-on-1) with the team-lead, architect, peer, or coach.
In an Agile environment the self-organizing team will decide how to organize this among themselves.
In this meeting we modulate on the results of the Individual preparations:
Now we have the work package for the coming cycle.
- We check the status, and coach where people did not yet succeed in their intentions
- We compare what the individual and team-lead/architect/peer/coach thought to be the
most important Tasks. In case of differences, we discuss until we agree
- We check the feasibility of getting all these Tasks done, based on the estimates
- We iterate until we are satisfied with the set of Tasks for the next cycle,
checking for real commitment.
We use an LCD projector at every meeting, even with the 1-on-1’s. Preferably we
use a computer connected directly to the Intranet, so that we are using the
actual project files. This is to ensure that we all are looking at and talking about
the same things. If people scribble on their own paper, they all scribble something
different. The others don’t see what you scribble and cannot correct you if
you misunderstand something. If there is no projector readily available for
your project: buy one! The cost of these projectors nowadays should never be
an obstacle: you will recover the cost in no time.
figure: ETA - Evo Task Administrator tool
There is not just
one scribe. People change place behind the computer depending on the subject
or the document. If the Project Manager writes down the Task descriptions in
the Task database (like the ETA tool, see figure or download), people watch more or less and easily
accept what the Project Manager writes. As soon as people write down their own
Task descriptions, you can see how they tune the words, really thinking of what
the words mean. This enhances the commitment a lot. The Project Manager
can watch and discuss if what is typed is not the same as what’s in his mind.
And when we are connected to the Intranet, the Task database is immediately
up to date and people can even immediately print their individual Task lists.
- Team meeting: Synchronization with the group
In this step, immediately after all the 1-on-1’s are concluded, we meet with the whole
team. In this meeting we do those things we really need all the people for:
- While the Tasks are listed on the projection screen (as in the figure), people
read aloud their planned Tasks for the week. This leads to what we call the synergy effect:
People say: "If you are going to do that, we must discuss ...", or "You can’t
do that, because ..." Apparently we overlooked something. Now we can discuss what
to do about it and change the plans accordingly. The gain is that we don’t together
generate the plans, we only have to modulate. This saves time.
- If something
came up at a 1-to1 which is important for the group to know, it can be discussed
now. In conventional team meetings we regularly see that we discuss a lot over
the first subject that pops up, leaving no time for the real important subject
that happened to be mentioned later. In the Evo team meetings we select which
subject is most important to discuss together.
- To learn and to socialize.
At every step of the process we try to minimize the number of people involved.
First we added the 1-on-1’s to the process. The aim was to relieve the team
meeting from individual status reporting and from too detailed 1-on-1 discussions.
We found, however, that these 1-on-1’s easily took about one hour each.
Project Manager said: "Niels, with 6 people in my team, I can just manage in
one day. But what would you do if there are 15 people in the team? I want these
meetings to take not more than 30 minutes". Watching closely what was happening
in the 1-on-1’s, we saw that there was a lot of thinking and waiting: "What
are you going to do the next cycle?" Pause for thinking. "What effort do you
estimate for this Task?" Pause for thinking. "How much time do you have for
the project this week?" "I don’t know. I have to discuss with the Project Manager
of the other project". Sigh. Why didn’t you check before the meeting? Now we
This led to the Individual Preparation step, where people prepare
these issues before the meeting. The result was that the 1-on-1’s went from
one hour to 20 minutes. That was much better than we expected. The reason is
probably that now people come to the meeting much more prepared, so they can talk business right away.
Having optimized the 1-on-1’s this way, Project Managers
invariably say that these 1-on-1’s are one of the most powerful elements of
the Evo planning approach. Team meetings usually take not more than 20 minutes. Do we
discuss less than before? No, we just discuss the right things effectively and
Some people complain: "I'm afraid that all this planning will take way too much time.
I have better things to do!"
We now know how much time people
actually spend for this type of planning: just 1 hr per person: 20 min for each step.
Of course Project Management spends more, but shouldn't they have been doing this all along in order to
save time in the project?