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Lean Coffee - Lean Voting

I don’t have any data to prove that this statement is true, but most people agree that having data is the best way to disprove your assumptions, and that disproving your assumptions is the best way to make good decisions. :)

Now that Infinity Works has become a larger organisation, we’re starting to think about how we share information across our growing teams and train our people using Guilds (a la Spotify).

I wondered whether it’s a worthwhile thing, when anyone can go to conferences, events, or setup a local user group, so I decided to ask the team whether they thought it was worth it, and what they would want to get out of having a Guild / Community of Practice.

One of the most common ways to get data is to send out a questionnaire, using something like Google Forms or Survey Monkey, but sometimes the answers you need to hear don’t fit into multiple choice or even free-text boxes. Also, sometimes someone comes up with a great answer that everyone would choose if only they’d thought of it before they filled in the survey.

At Infinity Works, we have a Lean Coffee [0] session once a month in each office (OK, the London folk have Lean Beer) where we get together and talk about whatever it is that we’re interested in.

It’s a great opportunity to gauge opinion on a topic, so I came up with a new idea, riffing on how Lean Coffee works. The process is like this:

  • The asker asks for permission to ask the question (since it takes time out of the meeting).
  • If a vote passes, the asker asks the question.
  • People write down summaries of their answers on sticky notes on the wall.
  • The asker de-duplicates the answers and gets clarification on unclear answers.
  • Everyone gets 3 votes on what they think are the best answers (by putting a dot on the relevant sticky note).
  • The asker summarises the results.

I used it to ask my question, so what do we want out of Guilds at Infinity Works?

Interestingly, you can see from the voting, no-one voted for “tech talks”. Discussion on what “Explore New Tech” actually meant showed that we want hands-on sessions, whether that’s hack nights on tools or languages, or practical sessions focused on how to use particular techniques (e.g. Value Mapping, VMOST).

We want to know more about what other teams are doing within Infinity Works. It’s our quarterly mini-conference this week, so getting this feedback has allowed us to get someone from each of our teams to do a short talk on what they’re doing which might help with this.

We want to have a unified front on topics. I found this interesting, because everyone having the same opinion is not something I would have associated with Infinity Works. Consensus building on this is probably achieved by practical sessions followed by feedback and discussion.

Finally, opportunities for Career Progression, we’re looking for feedback, training and mentoring within our Guilds.