Friday, November 4, 2016

Standups every 90 minutes at a Startup Weekend? Why?

Tonight, I am facilitating another Startup Weekend. It will be my 55th startup weekend event. When I do a startup weekend, I try to engage the group in regular standup status meetings every 90 minutes. 

Startup Weekend is a business sprint. Trying to get from idea to revenue in a weekend, with a group of strangers. The surprizing thing is that 11% of these teams formed over the weekend are alive a year later moving money. ( I suspect that the teams made up of people who have been to several startup weekends because we have such a high return rate for participants. )

If we are able to get the teams formed, seated and working by 9:00pm on friday, that gives us time to get two standups. One at 10:30 and one at midnight.  And then over Saturday, to do standups at 10:30am, Noon, 2:30pm, 5:00pm, 7:30pm.....

I just read the article by Jason Fried on Medium - Status meetings are the scurge -

And I am sure that the Technical coders in the room feel somewhat unhappy about all the interruptions. So.... Why would I want to continue this practice?

* Help people get to know each other
     It is frequent that teams hole up and never get to see others. By having to stand together, they at least get to see other people and to engage with them. All 100+ people stand up and circle up to do the standups. When they work right, 13 teams can be done in 8 minutes. 

* Use teams progress to focus the work of other teams
     When teams report out things that the other teams have not thought of, often they are able to get those things one the task list and going much much faster. 

* To break attention to "too big to do" tasks into smaller pieces
      It is frequent that people have big fuzzy ideas and have not figured out how to drive them down to small manageable tasks. By breaking things into very small sprints, we are able to get people to focus on things that move the ball forward faster. Instead of being lost in the midst of a fuzzy swamp of ill-formed ideas. 

* To force people to physically move and increase productivity
     When people get up, move, push the blood around, they come back a bit more energized and a bit more focused. Without these breaks, people tend to get a bit fuzzy headed. A weekend is a long sprint without breaks. 

* To enable people to interact between teams more over the weekend
      By actually physically seeing everyone together, it creates many more relationships over the weekend, than when people are only talking the whole weekend to their 6 team members. 

* To help team leaders be seen as leaders
       By having the team leaders report out, we help them be better known in the community and help them reenforce their role on the team.

* To build a sense of urgency
      If every task you are doing has to be small. Think Pomodoro (25 minute tasks), then the need to do something now gets stronger. The whole "No Talk, All Action" motto is focused at this idea of doing instead of discussion. If you can't decide in 5 minutes, flip a coin. If you can't get the task done in 25 minutes, break it up into smaller pieces. 

     With Pomodoro (25 minute sprints) and a team of 8 people, with 20 hours of real working time, you should be able to get 8 * 40 = 320 tasks in the weekend. For many this is more progress than most people make in a month. 

* To really drive forward the sense of small rapid iteration
      If all of you tests are designed to be answered in 90 minutes, you will learn much much quicker than if your tests are designed to be answered in a day. By using the Build-Measure-learn process with very quick iterations, you make much faster learning.

Most people have habits that make it hard for them to make rapid progress. By doing standups, we drive some of those habits away , at least for a weekend. 

This weekend, I will experiment with using Slack + Trello as a tool and see if this helps any of these areas. Perhaps there are some ways to get people to be more effective with less interruption. However, moving your body and meeting other people are in some cases more important that staying in the current task that is taking way way too long to be effective.

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