At BBC Worldwide I run a weekly meeting primarily aimed at engaging the development community in a number of ways such as organising dojo’s, presentations, study groups and the like. This changed recently to alternating sessions focusing on the needs of developers and testers. With the success of the meetings other groups such as Analysts and PM’s were expressing an interest in discussing topics pertinent to them.
Whilst attending the Agile Coaches Gathering [twitter tag – #acguk] I attended a session on running continuous open space meetings. This sounded like an effective, open and inclusive approach to getting things done and raising awareness within the weekly meeting above.
The first meeting was limited to planning the agenda for the next session. The group was given time to write titles of topics they wanted to address on sticky notes. People were asked to include their name and informed that if they proposed a topic that they should be prepared to referee.
Each person was then invited to come up, announce their most important topic and place it on the board. The group then voted and the top three proposals made the agenda for the next session. The meeting also served a couple of other purposes. It acted as a useful introduction to the concept of open space meetings. My impression was that people felt comfortable with the style of the meeting; this was backed up by the fact that all attendees raised topics and were involved. It also emphasised the importance of a feedback mechanism. People started talking about the challenges and ways in which the meeting could be improved. This was completely unprompted. As a result the improvement suggestions were captured and prioritised in the same way as the session proposals.
The next meeting was split into two parts. The first ten minutes was used to raise session proposals and vote on the most important. The remainder of the hour was used to host the three sessions. The sessions were held in meeting rooms adjacent to each other to encourage footfall. Each session is responsible for collecting output which is circulated to the whole group.
After the agenda has been set for the next meeting all other suggestions are simply ignored for that week. By getting people to think about what is important each week from fresh allows people to concentrate on what is important now and reduces the effect of distraction from an existing backlog. By proposing sessions at the start of each meeting people have some time to prepare and some time to change the topic. Sessions have already merged and changed in the first two weeks. This structure has given us a very flexible and engaging way of addressing the most pressing issues we face.