Top-performing engineers are people who aren’t afraid to break out of their silo to innovate and experiment with new ideas. And they sure aren’t afraid of working in a fast-paced, agile environment either. Since engineers are inclined to put their ideas to the test quickly, they are more likely to run into blockers and they’ll be required to further experiment or go to their team for support.
This is where engineering team meetings and strong engineering leadership comes into play. Here we’re diving into the details of what you can expect from an engineering team meeting and how to get the most out of these meetings so your team can continue to innovate!
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What happens in engineering team meetings?
Engineering team meetings are when the full department gathers to discuss ongoing projects and processes. The idea is to align the team on the roadmap, create solutions to blockers, and receive organizational updates from management. Often, technical leads will start by sharing progress updates in their respective fields. Following, independent contributors may share demos on their areas of specialization. Since the engineering team can vary widely in skill set, experience, and areas of expertise, being able to see what’s going on in other segments of the department is helpful for knowledge sharing, team development, and process improvement.
How to prepare for engineering team meetings
1.Create and share a meeting agenda
Your meeting agenda is the underappreciated asset that will keep your discussions flowing at the right pace and on topic. For engineering team meetings, consider blocking out 10-20 minutes for announcements or updates that are related to the group and meeting purpose. Next, it might be ideal to have several technical leads take turns presenting progress on their projects and raising any challenges or blockers that might need to be addressed during the meeting. In between, you may choose to have time for brainstorming, problem-solving, or more progress presentations. Finally, close out with time for making decisions, assigning action items, and creating the plan for the next meeting date.
2.Assign meeting roles
Meeting roles drive value in a meeting as individual participants are assigned unique responsibilities to contribute to the meeting. All meetings will have an organizer or host, time-keeper, and note-taker. Additionally, engineering team meetings might have project leads (the main person or moderator who will lead the conversations) and product managers (who provide the voice of the customer or sales/marketing insights). Remaining attendees are optional, general attendees. Though, even general participants should still have some useful purpose for attending the call (for example, they need to be informed, they have relevant knowledge to contribute, or they are representing another stakeholder).
6 tips for running productive engineering team meetings
1.Follow your agenda
Any engineering department likely has a long list of projects ongoing at any given time. In a meeting, it can be easy to get sidetracked and start discussing other projects that relate to the current conversation. However, if these side conversations aren’t part of your agenda, then you’re losing time that could be used for discussing the purpose of the meeting, and this loss of time might impact the team’s ability to assign action items or make decisions during the meeting. Having a timekeeper present in your meeting is a helpful way to nudge your team when the conversations begin to stray from your planned agenda.
2.Allot time for demos
In many engineering teams, your colleagues are going to be working independently on projects in or around their specialized area of expertise. Allotting time for demos is a great way to help your team learn from each other by creating an opportunity to ask questions and showcase new areas of work. Additionally, this is a positive way to connect your team to solve blockers or provide feedback that can further improve the project.
3.Assign action items
Meeting action items are the to-do’s following any meeting. Assigning these to meeting participants is a helpful way to make attendees feel included and to hold them accountable on those tasks in future meetings. When assigning action items, be clear if the requirement is flexible or if there is a specific structure or boundary tied to the action item. Also, determine if there’s a completion due date or required project review date. Giving the engineer as much information as possible will help them with their planning and completion of the task.
Great engineers are the first to ask questions because they’re curious to learn more about technical requirements and gain insights on how to better improve a product. When problem solving in meetings, ask engineers questions about the situation to get their wheels turning and empower them to find solutions to their own blockers. Probe deeper into things like:
- What is the deepest root cause of the problem?
- Why is this problem happening?
- Have we tried anything to fix this?
- What resources are still needed to fix this?
- How can the rest of the team support?
5.Give feedback on recent team projects
Providing team feedback in a group setting is a great way to boost team morale and connection. To start, ask your team how they feel the project went. This will help gauge any differences in team member feelings, and may change how you perceive the feedback that you were aiming to share with the group. Sharing feedback in an open setting can allow for discussion on successes and challenges, as well as enable a conversation on how to better optimize processes for the next project. When building solutions together, the team will become more aligned.
6.Ask for meeting feedback
Meeting feedback is important to help understand the value that your team is pulling from your meetings. While some team members may feel comfortable speaking out if something is wrong during a meeting, others may not be so comfortable. It also might be helpful to provide your team with an opportunity to reflect following a busy or information-packed meeting before sending out a meeting feedback survey. This reflection will enable your team to provide the best insights to improve your next meeting.
As your team grows, it can get harder to create team alignment. The most important part of building productive team meetings is building an engineering culture where team members can be inspired to question, innovate, challenge the status quo, and collaborate with others. Through this, your team can maximize their knowledge sharing and solve blockers faster than ever!