If you’ve never encountered the concept of Team Office Hours there are plenty of reasons to get excited. It increases communication, reduces the overhead of communication and brings order to a chaotic world.

With an introduction like that, do we really need to revisit what the exact problem that Team Office Hours are meant to solve? Well, Ya!

The Problem:

When your talking about an company with several teams, you typically have teams that specialize in different areas. Think a UI team, DBA’s, maybe an Analytics team, maybe even a Doc or User Experience team. Cross communication between these teams usually starts with one person walking over and talking to the other.

Sometimes this communication begins to happen so often with so many people that your getting a lot of overhead, you find that developers aren’t able to bear down and code without being interrupted. Also the team may want to present something for comment, or just let people know what they are planning to do in the next month and a scheduled meeting can take down several development teams all at once.

Now, we can all agree that people walking over and talking is the greatest thing on earth. I do not want to discourage cross team communication but sometimes applying a time box, and an open forum can limit scattered, redundant and unnecessary conversations that add extra overhead to employee performance.

The Solution:

Office Hours are usually held in meeting rooms.

The concept of Team Office Hours is to have a recurring time in which anyone can talk to the team about anything and conversely the team can incite dialog about topics they wish to present. One of the things I love about this is that its an Opt-In model. If you want to present the different color pinks of the pigs on your farm, people can make the decision on whether they care about that and either not attend or remove themselves from the meeting.

Heres some guidelines we typically follow for office hours.

  • The meeting is optional, but not restrictive to any one group. Anyone who wants to talk to the team can at this time.
  • You can have a topic, or presentation, like reviewing the latest ui mockups, but I wouldn’t suggest taking up the whole meeting with it, the conversation will flow and thats where most of your benefit will come from.
  • Have people suggest things to talk about ahead of time. Even better would be to email the itinerary before hand so people can decide to come or not based on what will be discussed.
  • Make sure someone is attending who has some skin in the game from the group hosting the office hours. It won’t do to have a bunch of people come with questions when your intern is the only one from the team hosting. Unless of course thats the plan and is intended.