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Archive for August, 2011

Knowledge sharing is key to cross-functional teams. It drives self-organization, minimizes risks and can be energizing and motivating at all. But how to get through valuable topics for the team? Recalling the old way of working where “leaders” assign tasks to workers – and we know that this is not as efficient as work could be – it’s the same with new topics to learn. Dictate the topic and no one will learn at all. So here is a nice way to introduce new topics to the team – from the team as well!

Hot topics – from the team to the team

So how it works? It’s more like a variant of an Open Space meeting. You have a market place to promote topics, a limited number of votes and that’s it!

The market place

There is nothing really special about. You can use a simple flip chart paper, where every team member can publish a topic he or she is interested in. Maybe using a sticky per topic. If you are going to publish a topic there should be some further information available:

  • What is it? A lecture? A hands-on workshop? A discussion? A code kata? Something else? Just let every one know what to expect.
  • For whom it is? What’s the right audience for the topic? Developers? Business unit? So I can see if this is for me or not
  • Any details about the topic. So you can see what’s in for you.
  • Recommendations: Is there something I should know before the topic? Anything to bring along?
If you provide such information it’s easier to vote for or against a topic.

“Dot” voting

Here is a simple rule I prefer to use. Every team member has an amount of three votes (signatures). You are allowed to place your vote randomly (through signing a topic) – only one vote per topic. So you can vote for three topics at max. But you don’t have to use all your votes. If you’re fine with less than three – keep the leftovers. The topic with the most votes is the upcoming “Hot Topic”. If a topic is going to be the chosen one the related votes are going back to the amount of those team members who’ve voted for it. As long as you have three votes on the topics in the market place you’re not allowed to vote for a new one.

Timeboxing

Set a clear time box for the “Hot Topic” sessions. I prefer to use an hour but if you need more – go for it. I prefer to set up a recurrent date (same time, same length etc.) and the place where it will be so everybody can schedule it. A schedule is also nice because we as companies and higher management pay less attention on knowledge sharing and this might be a way to highlight this as well. For example you go for a rhythm of 2 weeks we might have a Hot Topic Session every wednesday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

A sample hot topic board

The first time

I don’t know who named this Hot Topics but the first time we used this thing was in a big agile transition supported by 9 agile coaches: Andrea Tomasini, Brad Swanson, Richard Lawrence, Bob Sarni, Dave Sharrock, Paolo “Nucso” Perrotta, Roberto Bettazzoni, Ralf Kruse and me. I would like to thank all of them for the great time we had and the great contributions to the agile community made by them over the years…

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