During October I spoke about Bytesize Architecure Sessions at the Global Software Architecture Summit. I got some interesting questions in the Q&A. We didn’t get through all of them, so have grouped them and answering in smaller posts. This one is about the team attitude to collaboration.
Other posts on the series
- How this series started
- Questions about number of participants
- Questions about team’s attitude to collaboration
- Questions about the goal of a session
Some collaboration anti-patterns and can Bytesize Architecture Sessions can help?
When people are disengaged or interrupt each other often, these can be signals of team issues, some chaos is to be expected when many people attend a meeting but the patterns are something to pay attention to in the long run.
The questions asked were:
- How to avoid people talking on top of each other?
Bytesize sessions are created to be short, the idea being that a group of people doesn’t tend to stay engaged for very long. So, set expectations about interruptions and the duration of the session at the very start of the session, and if you see behaviour you didn’t like say it during the mini retro at the end of the session. I find that these are useful guidelines for all successful meetings of more than three people.
- Are there any recommendations for when a team is very apathetic and low energy? How to infuse this energy and willingness to change?
When it comes to apathy, sometimes that happens because people feel like their ideas are not represented. Daniel Minor and others, including myself have experienced that the Bytesize Architecture Sessions can be a great way to have ideas raised by all participants in the session. If you find that the whole team mood is low it might be worth running retrospectives on that particular issue, and act on the feedback received there.
- One of the hardest things to do is to interrupt a developer passionatelly explaining their piece. Normally everyone gets too excited during discussions. Any tips on this?
My first instinct here is to focus on setting expectations. If this question is more general and not just about people talking at lenght at the “wrong time” then I am curious: Is this a behaviour everyone in your team exhibits ? If so, it seems that they are modelling their behaviour on someone they are learning from, is that the culture you want in your team? Alternatively, if this is one person, it might be worth having a 1 to 1 and try to explore how they communicate and help them learn about effective communication patterns.
- When people in the session have different levels of expertise, how can we make this session work? Less experienced people might fear participation or might get stuck with their design.
I love this question! Bytesize sessions work especially well when there is high diversity of knowledge types.
The time Alone together is where each participant works individually on the same task, allowing them to focus and formulate specific questions. This quiet time is crucial as it provides an opportunity for participants to realize the gaps in their understanding and identify areas for further investigation. Inmediately after that, there is the Consensus part, where the participants pool together to create one model that pools all the knowledge just displayed individually, participants here can choose to be more or less vocal, however their input was seen (and heard) by everyone attending
As I was answering these questions I kept thinking about two references that might interests those who are interested in these questions
- Collaborative Software Design. How to facilitate domain modeling decisions By Evelyn Van Kelle, Gien Verschatse and Kenny Bas-Schwegler. Great book to learn more about collaborative modelling, especially chapter 4 and 5 if you are interested in these types of questions.
- Common Ground and Coordination in Joint Activity Klein, Gary & Feltovich, Paul J. & Bradshaw, Jeffrey & Woods, David. (2005). This paper, especially the sections where common ground, joint activity, the basic compact are defined helped me gain better insight into what I see when I see people collaborating.