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I am a solo developer working on a decently small project with about 3 other people (non-developers). These other people are involved in the project in non-development ways and one is also my manager. Everyone is pretty open to ad hoc discussions, too.

My manager just gave me what seems like a dream come true - I was tasked with determining what meeting structure would work best for the project. This seems like a wonderful way to deal with meeting overload and/or pointless meetings.

With great power comes great responsibility, as now, if I suggest something which ultimately results in much wasted time it's my fault.

I have never had such a blank slate to think how I would structure meetings. My thoughts are:

  • Daily "touch base/status update" meeting for 15min or less (similar to standup meetings) to communicate daily objectives and review previous day. Or, it seems I could just get a whiteboard and put it at my desk to communicate this info.
  • As needed meetings to make specific decisions or address questions any of the team has

... I don't see the need for a weekly "status" project meeting. I'm also not sure the second bullet would require many formally scheduled meetings.

My concern is these "developer focused" (ie me) might cause alienation with others or make my manager feel a loss of control on the project, as this structure would be considerably different than most projects are run.

What project meeting structure should a single developer choose?


Addressing comments:

What are the other people contributing? Are they the intended users of this project? Working on non-development aspects of it (such as website themes & images or a DBA, or QA testing)? Other levels of management/administration?

They are some of the eventual users and are interested in the overall workflow. They are also contributing to several areas of forms/documents (the format of which will not affect any development work).

Are you able to get feedback from the other two members? Some managers need to have a regularly scheduled meeting or they'll never be able to fit it into their schedule.

Getting time does not seem to be a problem going forward.

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What are the other people contributing? Are they the intended users of this project? Working on non-development aspects of it (such as website themes & images or a DBA, or QA testing)? Other levels of management/administration? –  Bobson Sep 3 '13 at 21:33
    
Are you able to get feedback from the other two members? Some managers need to have a regularly scheduled meeting or they'll never be able to fit it into their schedule. –  JeffO Sep 3 '13 at 22:56
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2 Answers

As a sole developer, your biggest issue is visibility. My recommendation is to do full sprint cycles, like in an Agile project. Every two weeks, demo a little bit more functionality (this could be in a half hour to hour long meeting. Every day have a standup explaining what you did yesterday, what you'll be doing today and any roadblocks you have.

By doing this you will be communicating to the others exactly where the product is at at any one time. They will feel involved, everyone will know exactly where the progress of building the product is at and decisions can be made to scrap/introduce features as necessary.

And a 10 minute standup on a daily basis only "wastes" an hour a week. Having an hour long demo once a fortnight limits your meeting exposure to an average of 1.5h per week, which isn't a lot.

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... and decisions can be made to scrap/introduce features as necessary. <--- This. Since you're going to be scheduling these meetings with the users, being able to show a mockup and immediately get feedback on whether it'll meet their needs or will need revisions will save everyone time all around. –  Bobson Sep 4 '13 at 12:58
    
A 10-minute standup on a daily basis "wastes" an hour a week for four people; this is not insignificant. If you're delivering in iterations, you do not want to reconsider the chosen features every @#$% day, that way lie madness ;) –  Steven A. Lowe Sep 4 '13 at 17:13
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The 10 minute standup has two purposes - to increase visibility and to allow the project manager to be as informed as possible about timing. If you wait until the fortnightly meeting to let them know that you're running a week behind because you had this really annoying bug that took a week to find and fix, well that is really bad for everyone else on the team and it weakens their trust in you. The daily standup manages the human side of software development, which is something that can be overlooked by some developers. –  Stephen Sep 4 '13 at 23:03
    
@Stephen: if you hypothetically wait 2 weeks before informing your manager/team about project problems, there are bigger issues in play than meeting agendas. There's this marvelous thing called "telephones" and "email"... :D ...wait, developers are human? –  Steven A. Lowe Sep 5 '13 at 14:44
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None

Unless you have something that requires a highly interactive group discussion (such as demonstrating an iteration), or just need to be seen working, tying up 4 people in a meeting, even for 15 minutes, will be wasteful.

In-person meetings are the highest-bandwidth form of communication available; they are also the most expensive form of communication. Use them wisely, and only when necessary.

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I disagree; if a project is important enough to be launched, it is important enough to have a daily standup. These things hardly ever last longer than 5 min; especially if there's only one dev and one PO. If you refrain from any updates at all, you will be bitten in the ass by all the "wait, that's not what I had in mind" conversations, happening far too late in the process, resulting in expensive, long-winded changes. It's shortening the feedback loop you should be after, not lengthening it. –  Stefan Billiet Sep 4 '13 at 8:09
    
@StefanBilliet: if you want to shorten the feedback loop, deliver working software and pick up the phone. Often. Not a fan of daily standups, especially for a team of one; the overhead is too high (meeting time + prep time + travel time + context-switching time + opportunity cost) x 4 people x 5 days/week = $$$! –  Steven A. Lowe Sep 4 '13 at 17:05
    
I think we're talking about different things here. My/our standups consist of me getting up, waving at the PO and walking over to our scrumboard, every morning, at the same time. The average travel time is about 2 seconds, prep time is none, context switching time is none (do it before you start working) and as for opportunity cost: you've lost me. Picking up a phone can work, but is still less efficient than a short face to face moment. –  Stefan Billiet Sep 5 '13 at 6:50
    
@StefanBilliet: yes we are talking about different things here. You're talking about the effort required for you to attend a standup, and implying that there is no one else involved (or that you waste no time paying attention to them if there are) ;) The OP says there are 3 other people on the team, and is suggesting a 15-minute daily meeting for no obvious purpose. –  Steven A. Lowe Sep 5 '13 at 14:42
    
Like I said, if all people involved think that a standup is worthless, then that means that the people who signed off on the project, don't care about its progress. It shows they don't care wether or not everyone is still on track and if there are issues or misunderstandings (which there always are). If those people don't care about it, then that project should be cancelled, because it means they don't know how to deliver meaningful, lasting value from it. And I know you'll mention picking up the phone, but a daily standup is much more conducive to meaningful arguments than a phonecall. –  Stefan Billiet Sep 6 '13 at 7:35
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