Technical huddles

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Technical huddles are known by many names, tech huddle, dev huddle, dev meeting or daily huddle. These are all nothing but quick discussions amongst the team members to talk about design approaches, resolve technical blockers etc. They can also be used to do group code reviews and code walkthroughs.

Tech huddles should not be used for story grooming, estimations or any other team ceremonies, otherwise they lose their importance and benefits.

Tech huddles become part of the DNA of agile teams once they start practicing it often and see the benefits of it.

Benefits

Tech huddles are a recommended practice because it has many direct and indirect benefits. A few are as follows:

  • Early feedback: Developers get early feedback on changes being made
  • Collaboration: Team works together to come up with solutions to problems and innovate
  • Better technical design: Makes sure that the best design decision is taken.
  • Resolving blockers: A forum to resolve technical blockers without waiting for scheduled meetings
  • Knowledge sharing: It is great way to share knowledge about a certain area of code or system
  • Fosters innovation: Candid and open technical discussions encourage new ideas and approaches.
  • Break silos and create alignment: Regular tech huddles make sure that everyone on the team is aware of changes being made in every are of the system. It is a great forum to get the whole team on the same page
  • Collective ownership: Whole team feels accountable for the success of the product

Participants

The whole technical team, including QAs and sometimes BAs/POs must participate in the huddle so that they get context.

In an agile team, any team member can initiate or propose a tech huddle.

Things to keep in mind

Identify the need of the team

Mostly tech huddles are quick on-demand meetings to solve day to day technical challenges.

But depending on the nature of work, team’s experience in product area, need to connect with SMEs, additional scheduled tech huddles may be needed for the team. Few examples of schedules tech huddles are as follows:

  • Periodic group code review
  • Knowledge sharing around new/existing tech
  • Frequent technical scope change
  • Discussion with experts or SMEs

The agenda is not fixed. It may change based on the need of the team.

Decide frequency

Frequency of tech huddles should be decided by the team guided by their technical leader, based on their needs.

On demand/Ad-hoc:

On-demand tech huddles are recommended to solve day to day technical challenges. In a well connected team, you don’t need to look up calendars to just call out for a quick huddle, gather up around the table and discuss.

This can be achieved in distributed/remote teams as well provided the time zones match and the team has an active chat group.

Scheduled:

Tech huddles can be scheduled in the following cases.

  • If a topic comes up during ad-hoc tech huddle which needs a longer discussion.
  • For group code reviews.
  • In case of distributed teams
    - blocking an hr or 2 daily for tech huddles
    - recurring discussions with a technical expert, SME etc.

Steps to facilitate an effective tech huddle

  1. List the topics of discussion: This is important to keep focus and avoid digressing from the urgent topics of discussion. Other side topics can be discussed in another huddle or session.
  2. Give quick context: Make sure that everyone understands the context and related history if any. This is especially important if there are new team members or folks who have been out of context for some reason.
  3. Discuss the topic: Have an open debate and discussion on the topic. Make sure all participants are given equal opportunity to express their thoughts.
  4. Assign a scribe: One team member should be assigned to act as a scribe to take notes.
  5. Use visual aids: Its very important to use aids like white board, stickies or projecting the code on the screen to help in the discussion.
  6. Reach a conclusion: Many a times a long discussion may lead to no conclusion. But in tech huddles its important to conclude with next steps.
  7. Summarise: In the end of the meeting, summarise the discussion along with decisions made and action items
  8. Document: Document the decisions made in the relevant story cards, wiki pages, ADRs etc. This also includes emails sent for communicating minutes of meetings etc.

Start your tech huddles today!

To summarise, in my personal experience, tech huddles have been highly helpful for as a forum for developers to align. It’s a small investment of effort and time with long term benefits.

Find the need of the team and a setup that works for everyone and try it out.

All the best !!

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Developer @ Thoughtworks

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Shilpa Goley

Shilpa Goley

Developer @ Thoughtworks

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