NOTE: this is an open, straw person draft in search of your feedback, edits, love and interrogation. Please comment and ask questions so we can refine and turn this into a polished piece of documentation.
We’re coming up on a new year and a fresh start. We’ll start using some shiny new tools, double down on distributed leadership, and streamline our processes for getting shit done. Part of that is about refining our two-week “Heartbeat” process for planning and communicating. This post outlines some proposals for doing that.
Where do we want to improve?
- Openness. More visibility for all stakeholders. Easier to see what we’re working on. Plus: easier to get your own ideas and work into the queue.
- Continuous improvement. Move faster, work smoother, work better.
- Putting 2015 plans into action. In Portland we crafted a solid set of quarterly milestones. Next we’ll refine the process for putting those milestones into action — one heartbeat at a time.
- Cross-team collaboration. We need to co-ordinate well across all teams to succeed (in 2015 more than ever).
- Build on what works. Small teams that know what they’re accountable for and have the freedom to move. With two-week chunks as the atomic unit of work.
A typical heartbeat
Here’s what a typical two-week process might look like (TL;DR version):
- Monday: Clean up from the last Heartbeat. Decide and prioritize what we’re doing next. Publicly share out that plan with the world.
- Tuesday: Project Kick-Off Meetings. Get together in small project teams around those priorities. Brainstorm, plan and whiteboard together. Make sure all the required stakeholders are on the same page.
- 2nd Monday: half-way point. How we doing?
- 2nd Friday: Finish line! Demo what we got done. Review what we learned. Make proposals for the next Heartbeat.
For really important (“P1”) work: layer on daily 15-minute stand-ups. To make sure questions and problems get answered fast.
That’s it! Layer on whatever other meeting, communicating and dance parties required. Rinse and repeat.
Here’s the more detailed version of that same process:
- Clean up. Tie off any loose ends from previous week. Push to production, write blog posts or documentation, communicate out, etc.
- TPS meeting. TPS meets to review heartbeat proposals. Communication and horse-trading happens. TPS sets priorities for the heartbeat: P1 / P2 / don’t do.
- Publicly document and share priorities. At build.webmaker.org/now. This is the finalized set of priorities for the Heartbeat. It’s publicly visible, shareable, and always up to date. Plus includes owners and roles for each project.
- Kick-off meetings. Project owners and teams get together to plan and communicate up front. Co-leadership, consultation and white-boarding happen. Good kick-off meetings are essential; here’s a template we can edit together to make them awesome.
- Ticketing. All tasks are created as tickets and assigned.
- Resourcing. Review for bottlenecks. Who’s got too much on? Who can help?
Wed – Fri
- Daily stand-ups. On all P1s. 15 mins max. Status check: red, yellow, green. All issues with the “needs discussion” label are reviewed together as a team.
- Halfway point. Project teams meet to review progress. Reality-check. Includes a check-in for each team member about the issues assigned to them. What adjustments do we need to make?
Tues – Thurs
- Daily stand-ups. (Same as previous.)
- Demo. Cross the finish line together. Review completed work, including all P1s. All interested stakeholders (that means you!) are welcome to attend — it’s a chance to see what we got done together. (note: new time for demos = 11am PT / 1pm ET)
- Retrospective. Together and in small teams. What are your personal highlights from the past two weeks? Something you’re proud of? Something that was hard? What’d you learn that you commit to address next time around?
- Proposals. Plan for next Heartbeat. Given the milestones we’ve set together for the quarter, where should we focus next? Some structure and planning will already exist — but take the afternoon to review, consult with colleagues and make proposals.
More visibility and distributed leadership
- Better inputs and outputs. This is the single biggest improvement you’ll notice in how we work going forward. There will be much greater visibility into the current scope of work, in terms of what the priorities are, and how to get your own ideas and work into the queue.
- Clear links to quarterly miletones. Each heartbeat will orbit around and tie back to the quarterly milestones we set together in Portland.
- Meet and communicate as needed. This heartbeat flow is just a skeleton. Flesh it out and layer on however you see fit. Our hope is that this gives you more time and freedom to meet, communicate and collaborate with colleagues as needed. You’re the expert on that.
New tools and dashboards
- New project intake process. Coming soon, anyone will be able to propose a piece of work at build.webmaker.org/new. It will provide a project intake process and template that will help us put distributed leadership into action. (NOTE: There’s a bug that’s breaking this right now. We’re working on it!)
- See what we’re working on. This new alpha prototype: build.webmaker.org/now shows our priorities for the current heartbeat. Plus what’s been proposed so far for the next one. (Janky alpha version, improving daily.)
- Using GitHub issues. Moving forward, we are embracing GitHub issues in place of Bugzilla for much of our work. Of course, we’ll continue to use and support both. We think you’ll like the GitHub interface and ways to make the work more visual. And we’re offering Git Hub issues training to anyone who wants it. Also: feel free to ask in #webmaker IRC any time you’ve got questions. We’re all noobs. We’re all learning together.
Fewer, better meetings
- Demos. We’re changing how and when we do demos. We’ll do them every other Friday, add the end of each heartbeat, at 1pm ET / 10am PT / 6pm GMT. The goal: add weight and ritual, and add emphasis to what we’ve accomplished each heartbeat. Note: *all* P1s will be expected to demo.
- Daily standups on P1s. Stand-ups are quick, 15-minute check-ins. They start *precisely* on time, and are designed to carefully respect your time. These ensure you get any help and answers you need quickly.
- Project Kickoff meetings are an art. They’re a big part of distributed leadership, collaboration and minimizing headaches. There’s more detail on tips and tricks for Kick-off Meetings coming soon.
Changes to TPS
- TPS will meet bi-weekly. TPS will no longer meet weekly. They’ll meet every other week instead, at the start of each heartbeat.
- TPS will get a new name. Something clearer, more natural language and friendly. (“Tactical Priorities Syndicate” sounds Darth Vader-ish.)
- Program Managers will join TPS. Beginning in 2015, Program Managers from Engagement and Mentor Networks will join TPS meetings to help document and share out each heartbeat’s priorities with their teams.
The goal: collaborative production for happy MoFos
What do you think? How do we do all this better? What questions does this leave unanswered? What examples or stories do you have around how others are doing smart, agile collaboration in the open? Please share as comments here, in #webmaker IRC or via whatever channel works for you. This is all meant to spark dialogue and put fresh wind the sails for 2015. So let’s talk!