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Submitted by suedavis on


I sit with my team around an agile project table; we all work together (on a software development project) in one big room, with our customer surrogate here with us. I'm [i]constantly[/i] talking with my team members; we have a ten minute stand-up at the beginning of each work day, and I spend half my time pairing with someone on a technical task.

I recently did quarterly performance reviews for everyone, and got a lot of feedback that I hadn't gotten from other conversations; clearly, I need to get O3's going at some rate, but weekly is clearly too frequent, since I'm constantly in contact with them anyway. Should I schedule them once per two-week iteration? Monthly?

WillDuke's picture
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Do them weekly and you'll get the time back from the other meetings. Promise.

The nice thing about O3s is that they're special. For 30 minutes that direct is the center of your universe.

you will absolutely gain time by having them every week.

jhack's picture

I'm constantly in contact with my team (we all sit together) and I've found the weekly one-on-ones to be critical to my understanding what really motivates them. It's a different kind of conversation.

Do them weekly. You won't regret it.


ehyde111's picture

I thought the same thing "weekly is clearly too frequent." I was wrong. There is something about sitting down 1:1 with your directs that allows all kinds of things to be discussed. We're much better off because of it.

James Gutherson's picture

..and it let's them put all those niggly little things into a bucket that they can bring up once a week, giving you more time in between. A week just works, two weeks is to long and people feel that an item will be missed so they go back to immediate interuptions.

TomW's picture
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I'm in contact with most of my directs on any given week, but it's usually about an immediate project or concern. It's also possible that one or two slip through and I don't see them all week otherwise.

The O3 gives you a chance to make sure you see them all and that you have a chance to talk about important but not urgent issues (Quadrant II, for the 7-Habits folks)

madamos's picture
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You can give feedback in the room with everyone present. At the Manager Tools Conference in DC Mark showed how you could give feedback to a single person in a big room. Just lean in close (or over the persons shoulder) and give the feedback in a low tone.
Also, you could give feedback right after the daily standup meeting before the individual sits down. You could also give some of the feedback during the one on ones.

Definately do the one on ones on a weekly basis. It can be made to work in an agile environment. I would guess the constant contact you have with the team now is focused on the specific task they are working on at that moment. The one on one will allow your directs to bring other long term or non task related issues to you in a formalized manner.

Good luck.

Mark's picture
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Thanks for the great question, and sorry this took me so long.

Your argument is the most common one I hear: "I talk to my people all the time."

And it's proven unfounded repeatedly, hundreds of times every month. Just because you talk to them a lot doesn't mean you've created a forum for individual time, which allows for more expansive discussions about careers, or for coaching (you can't do that in an agile meeting), or for feedback (can't do that in a meeting), or teammate communications (can't do that fully in a meeting.)

Also, when you have all the conversations you're having, I'd bet it's almost always about work. One on ones aren't about work, they're about people (who often end up talking about work, but know that they're the focus.)

I promise: weekly works best.


jeffh's picture
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Mark is absolutely correct (as usual).

I had a great O3 example just this morning. For the last two weeks I've been working with one of my team-members on a high-profile change in our plan. This was a strategic change that involved management 2-3 levels up. Basically we've spent 2-4 hrs per day working together for the last two weeks. This morning I called to remind her of our O3 (she was 3 min late, and had forgotten).

I told her that I know she is busy, yet we should still spend time together discussing topics that are important to her. She came over to my desk and we had a great conversation about how to address a particular problem created by management's decision.

She opened with "I wanted to pick your brain about how to ...". We discussed her technical challenges, how they fit within the constraints that management has imposed, and decided upon a course of action to satisfy her technical curiosity and still meet the deadlines. I think it was the best 25 minutes we spent together in the last two weeks.

In retrospect, I realized that I forgot to ask about her dog. She doesn't have children so we usually discuss her pet every couple of weeks. C'est la vie.



tlhausmann's picture
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I promise: weekly works best.


Confirmed. In this weeks one-on-ones I learned about a major concern for one of my directs. I have talk with him every morning for 5-10 minutes plus technical discussions once or twice a day.

One key, as Mark and Mike indicate in the casts, is that for your direct it is *their* time to talk about what is on *their* mind.


suedavis's picture
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[quote="tlhausmann"]Confirmed. In this weeks one-on-ones I learned about a major concern for one of my directs. I have talk with him every morning for 5-10 minutes plus technical discussions once or twice a day.[/quote]

Over the course of the few months that I've been doing the weekly meetings since starting the thread, I've come to the same conclusion. People will say things to me that they won't to each other, and I've learned -- and been able to steer and allay fears about -- a lot that I otherwise wouldn't have.

Now I need to figure out the other two legs of the trinity....

bflynn's picture

Yay You! :) Your hard work makes you a better manager.

Its almost like M&M have done this before isn't it?