Development Organization Town Hall

This week at Redacted Financial we had a “town hall” style meeting that included the entire software engineering organization. The meeting was run lean coffee style. No work-related topic was off limits. Our director made himself available for 2 hours to answer any questions about why our organization is run the way it is.

We discussed:

  • Why we have a separate project management group.
  • The rationale behind our work-from-home policy.
  • Why we tend toward project teams rather than product teams.
  • How we can address technical debt & product direction using project teams.
  • Why our teams are sized the way they are.
  • Maintenance and dissemenation of current best practices, standards, and guidelines for different kinds of softare.

This meeting is similar to a retrospective at the end of a project or sprint. It is different in that there are things that we can’t change because they are constraints imposed on us by the business, but understanding where those lines are and what we can change was valuable to everyone. One of the things that we are changing is our work-from-home policy. Those who advocated for a more liberal policy are involved in a small team working with the Director to write up a new policy.

Our Director offered to have a version of this meeting annually. The team immediately objected “We should have this meeting quarterly!” So we are. We’re going to allocate 1hr per quarter for this style of meeting.

The value-add as I see it is that the team can be involved in changing how their organization works within the larger enterprise. Where there are barriers, the team can be informed about what they are and why they’re there. For those who feel strongly that a given barrier shouldn’t be there, they can direct their attention to problem-solving how to remove the barrier while still accomplishing the business objectives that caused the barrier to be erected in the first place. A side-effect of empowering team members to make change is that it reduces the amount of work management has to do to identify opportunities for change and push the through.

The town hall meeting was a very positive experience for our team. I wonder if anyone else has done anything similar and what their results have been.

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