Improving Flow

Meeting load, Interviews and Page Load are three of the most common disruptors to flow for engineering teams. They are required activities for well-functioning teams but require careful management to stay efficient. Left unchecked these activities tend to take up increasing amounts of time and become more costly for the productivity of your team.

Best pratices to reduce fragmentation and meeting load

  • Align 1/1s to the team's schedule instead of the manager's: As a manager, there's always the temptation to batch your 1/1s into chunks so that they work well for your schedule. 1/1s can be a big source of calendar fragmentation on a given day if they’re not carefully scheduled. They also typically happen every week so getting these right can have recurring benefits.

  • Increase team awareness and autonomy around managing meetings: Sharing data with teams about the cost of meetings and giving them the support and autonomy to move, change, or cancel meetings is critical to a healthy meeting culture that encourages Maker Time. Once the team understands the cost of context switching, and has your support to improve it, they will take action.

  • Optimize ad-hoc meeting scheduling: Typically, 20% of meetings are scheduled last minute (a few days or less in advance) and many of them are organized by the team itself. The best time to schedule meetings is adjacent to existing meetings (or at the beginning/end of a day). This minimizes the chance that it will break a Maker time block for one of the attendees.

Best practices to reduce Page Load

  • Assess the signal-noise ratio of every alert your team receives. Cut the noisy alerts aggressively. For those teams that are in central parts of the stack (e.g. database), you might need to create much larger rotations and train more people. The volume of pages might be naturally higher due to the sheer scale of these services.

  • Prioritize solving the root cause behind the instability of your services.. Quantifying the page load of the team both in terms of work interruptions and work-life balance will make it easier to prioritize root cause investments. By slowing down to fix root causes your team will move faster and more sustainably in the long term.

  • Establish goals around a maximum number of pages / week for team members. Make yourself accountable to meet these goals, not the engineers.

Best practices to reduce Interview Load

  • Make sure every interview question has enough trained interviewers.

  • Make interview training part of your long-term onboarding program (typically 3-6 months after joining).

  • Establish an upper bound of interviews/week per person (usually 2 or 3 max.).

  • Include interview participation in performance reviews.

Identifying other sources of context switching

High meeting load, interviews and paging are some of the most common causes of context switching that affect software teams today. However, there are many other types of interruptions out there, so the ability to determine the highest leverage problem affecting your team is important. Here’s a framework you can use to discover what to focus on:

  • Collect the data: Metrics, Surveys, 1/1s, Sprint retrospectives, exit interviews are all great ways to collect data on what factors are most impacting your team’s ability to spend time in an effective way

  • Involve the team in exploring the solutions that will have the most impact

  • Set a goal that you and your team take on to improve this problem.

  • Rinse and Repeat

Time is a scarce resource and there will always be headwinds that will chip away at your team’s time. If you hire a new engineer, time will be needed to train them and get them up to speed, coordination costs will also increase. If an engineer leaves, on-call/interview load is shared between less people. Tooling tends to slow down as the software stack gets larger and more complex.

Edit this page on GitHub Updated at Wed, May 24, 2023