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Mihnea Simian
Mihnea Simian

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I've led a Frontend Chapter for three years and this is the idea I'm most proud of

A chapter is different than a squad or a team, especially when it comes to collaboration channels and time spent together.

Let's see how each type of these teams have the privilege of a collaboration scene:

Squad Chapter
Agile Ceremonies Repositories and Projects
Backlog Working Guidelines
Product Owner Technology
(Production) Incidents CI/CD procedures

If we take a two-weeks sprint, the squad has a net advantage on time spent together: 1 hour planning + 2h grooming(s) + 1h retrospective we get 4h, not to mention the daily stand-ups, 10 x 10mins equaling almost another 1 hour and a half.

The chapter has its own chapter meeting which can be weekly or once per sprint .. and, that's it. I needed to address two issues the chapter faces in the tribal model, that no one talks about:

  1. The chapter is disadvantaged on time spent together. It can never compare to the time spent in squad. The squad takes first place in the hearts of the people. It's hard to compete with people striving together in the same sprints, same backlog, and that get to hear one another every. single. day.
  2. When domains of ownership fall short in between squads, the Chapter (Lead) is the one all people reach to. I've seen it too many times - the Chapter Lead becomes a proxy for any chapter inquiries from other areas.

I needed something that can address both, so I created a public, free-to-attend, 2-hour weekly meeting with all frontends, having them work in one big room, which I called Frontend Open Office Hours. When we transitioned to hybrid work (read "remote work"), we switched to an online Teams get-together meeting which proved to be well-suited for code sharing and live peer programming with an audience.

In order to make it successful, you need to tick the following boxes:

  • make it accessible for anyone in your organzation. I organized the meeting under a public Teams channel, and the chat is also visible to anyone.
  • invite other people to join, but don't push the meeting in their calendars. Simply advertise it every time they have a question - "Why don't you come by during our Open Office Hours? And ask us there, I bet my colleagues can help you even better". Make it grow organically. People will talk about your Open Office hours!
  • invite your chapter to bring up questions or impediments in their work. Create the necessary psychological safety to ask any questions.

This is the exact wording of our Open Office Hours, which runs weekly, on Wednesday, from 3 to 5 pm.

Weekly, during this interval, the Frontend One chapter is available to all colleagues, in this Teams call, to answer any frontend-related questions.
Best to send us your questions beforehand, but we also welcome spontaneous walk-ins.
If there are no questions from guests, we'll just mind our own business and share our project-related issues during the call. You are nevertheless welcome to attend,
Thank you,

Frontend Open Office Hours Chapter meeting ad

Things I observed after running it for so long:

  • don't expect too many visitors. People will get very excited that they too can join this get-together of developers, and that they can ask any questions - but they won't :) We're all very busy with our own work
  • some will be crazy short. It's not a problem, some weeks are dull, others are more eventful
  • other times people will take the opportunity to chit chat. Let them be; people need rapport, especially when working with remote teams.
  • take the opportunity to spice up the series with interesting talks and showcases. Show them interesting cut-scenes of online classes, or short conference talks on youtube. Show them the Wat talk. Have fun as a team!
  • every one in the organization will talk postively about the transparency and the collaboration of your chapter. Great teams are teams that make room to help others.

If you lead a chapter, let me know how else you encourage efficient collaboration and transparency. If you're not doing it already, would you dare create a recurrent call for Open Office Hours and advertise it to the other chapters?

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