October 31, 2022

Those 15 Minutes Will Save You 15 Hours

Nobody likes sitting at an unproductive meeting. You know what's worse? Cancelling what would have been a having it. productive meeting.

By Itay Pahima, harmon.ie VP of R&D

Who doesn’t LOVE another meeting on their calendar? (Sarcastic tone intended!)

I wear headphones, as most ninja coders do, in order to make it very clear that when I am in the zone I am not to be disturbed. When you are in the zone your brain is sorting out algorithms, architecture, possibilities and solutions. The last thing that you want is for someone to ask you how your weekend was or if you are enjoying the weather.

The headphones do the trick in letting your colleagues know that you are busy. Especially when the headphones are paired with laser eye focus and some vigorous keyboard action.

But. Headphones will not save you from that daily 15-minute standup. I used to DREAD a daily check-in. It felt unnecessary. It interrupted my day.

Then, I became a manager. Now, I treasure those 15-minute (or less!) meetings. Here’s why:

  1. Want to have a functioning software development team? You need to gather! You need to have productive, powerful discussions. You need to benefit from the wealth of experience, skills and perspectives of your entire team. If you don’t have those meetings, you are wasting a tremendous amount of potential added value.
  2. Want to deliver a product on time? Employ a concise, effective daily meeting. That’s how you find out If you are offtrack very quickly and respond very quickly. Nothing to address? End the meeting early!
  3. Want to ensure that the RIGHT baby steps are being taken towards a milestone goal? Setting a daily goal at that meeting will ensure that you are moving, and that progress is being made. Why not a weekly goal? Daily goals prevent miscommunications that result in investing a lot of time in an area that isn't important or critical for the primary task. By having a daily and allowing people to raise their issues including where they are stuck, you reach the place you want to go optimally and without friction or frustration.
  4. Those 15 minutes can save you 15 hours—literally.

I came to appreciate the necessity and bottom-line value of a 15-minute daily soon after becoming a manager. After the fact, I found out that one of my team members had spent a lot of time on an element of the edge cases on a project. They came to me once they had reached a major level of frustration. Not only did I feel bad that my team member was defeated, but I was also disappointed because we didn’t need that element that they had been stuck on in order to close out this edge case. It was unnecessary and, honestly, a waste of time. Had I known... if this team member had told me that they were stuck on this feature that would’ve been fine to have but wasn’t necessary, I would’ve said “No problem, move on!” The developer could have spent those 15 hours focusing on what was actually needed.

Your 15-minute daily agenda should have team members addressing these three questions:

  1. What was I supposed to finish by today?
  2. What will I focus on today?
  3. Am I stuck? 

That’s it. Keep it tight. Make sure that no blame or accusations arise. Nobody should feel like they are being reprimanded for slacking. Trust is key if you want this (and your team) to work.

Don’t problem-solve during dailies because it will stretch it out and become a time-suck. You have your whole team there and do not want to waste anyone’s time. During the meeting provide the prompt and space to raise issues, and then you can follow up afterwards to identify ways to resolve it, sidebar it, or postpone it. Save the brainstorming or resolution for a follow up one-on-one communication.

This model of work allows you to deliver products and goals expediently. Your 15-minute meeting keeps you and your teams’ eyes on the prize and focused.

Whether you are nodding in solidarity with what you’ve read or whether I have now opened your eyes as to why your team has that daily, I hope that you have found value in these few minutes. Get ready to bank many saved hours of your life, most probably wearing those noise-cancelling headphones to drown out the chatter while you are rocking that algorithm.

About Author: Itay Pahima, VP of R&D

Itay brings broad experience with cutting edge technologies across an array of business scenarios, from native applications to high-scale cloud apps serving enterprise customers worldwide.

Itay is skilled in databases, full-stack development, web applications, front-end development and agile methodologies. He is a strong product management professional with a BS in Computer Software Engineering from Jerusalem College of Engineering.

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