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Ours is a software concern and we have a team structured like so: manager->team leads->team members. We are following the agile programming model and trying to develop a product in a collaborative fashion. We have daily morning meetings with team members and their team leads to discuss progress and issues.

When it comes to TL->Manager, most of the time they do not have items to discuss on a daily basis since TL goals would be for weekly plan and such. Most of the time, we just discuss about resources and it is less technical. I just want suggestions on how the manager & team lead interaction should be and whether the current system we have is fine. Please share your thoughts or ideas.

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An agile team is self managed right? Why you need a manager then? Looks like the only persons that want to follow agile principles is the team, not the company. –  user2567 Dec 8 '10 at 8:34
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@Pierre 303 - (a) Doesn't Scrum have scrum masters? You may not call them managers but they're doing many of the same things, and (b) Methodology doesn't cover off management tasks such as appraisals, reviews, disciplinary, admin so no methodology removes the need for management as a task. –  Jon Hopkins Dec 8 '10 at 11:46
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@Jon: (a) Scrum Master are only managing the (Scrum) process, certainly not the team. (b) I'm not talking about that either. I'm talking about managing the product development. Not managing employee administrative tasks. In short: team is responsible for the conversion of a user story into a functional software increment. –  user2567 Dec 8 '10 at 11:47
    
@Pierre 303 - But (b) at the very least does exist and does have to happen and to do that they need some on-going exposure hence the managers. But your initial point is correct (and +1-ed) - that the team are working in an agile way without the company really buying in. –  Jon Hopkins Dec 8 '10 at 11:53
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remember, especially if you're "following agile" : people are not resources! –  azheglov Dec 8 '10 at 12:04
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5 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

As often as is needed. Some projects - those where requirements might be fluid or political reasons mean that regular updates are critical - require more on-going communication than others.

As a minimum I'd suggest that it would be a very odd week in which some meeting / discussion (possibly informal or in passing) wasn't needed.

Similarly I'd suggest any sort of regular daily meeting lasting longer than a few minutes would almost certainly be over the top.

Things to think about:

  • Regular meetings can benefit all parties - if you know when they're going to be you can plan round them and if a PM / Team Lead knows when he's getting his next update he's less likely to pester.
  • If you have a meeting make it clear what the purpose of the meeting is so people can prepare and/or opt out (though they should always give a reason why they're opting out, not just that they don't want to be there - though that is a useful sign that the meeting isnt' being seen as productive that you might want to look at).
  • Often the meeting time is more intrusive than the meeting length. 11am and 3pm are dreadful times for meetings as the break up the productive stretch morning or afternoon. First thing or last thing are often better (or first thing in the afternoon).
  • You can cover off a lot of what's covered in meetings in e-mail. Outline a template for regular updates (and timings). This allows the programmer / team leads to adjust the timing of the updates to their own schedule.
  • The more people in a meeting the longer it will go on and the greater the proportion of time that is wasted.
  • Face to face meetings to achieve things that other communications find difficult. Whatever you do have some - just keep them small and focused.
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If TL doesn't need to discuss (voice, skype, email) with PM more than once a week, I'm wondering what kind of job the PM is doing all the time. How is it possible that they don't need to exchange information? –  Uberto Dec 8 '10 at 13:32
    
@Uberto - I don't say that, I say "as needed" - it depends on the work but it's very unlikely that it would be once a week for all developers. Managers should spend their life keeping people away from the team - managing changes, providing updates and fielding questions from interested parties. When I left my last development manager role the guy who took over said he'd had no idea what I did all day until he had to do it - see this: programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/19267/… –  Jon Hopkins Dec 8 '10 at 13:41
    
I agree with your list, and I think that ideally PM and TL should communicate several times a day to keep everybody happy. –  Uberto Dec 8 '10 at 13:52
    
@Uberto - I'd agree that frequent is good but if the TLs have hands on coding responsibilities (or other work that requires concentration) then that may be disruptive. –  Jon Hopkins Dec 8 '10 at 13:55
    
that's why we try to do at fixed time (standup meetings). Still part of my job as TL is to shield the rest of the team from interruptions, taking them on myself. –  Uberto Dec 9 '10 at 11:15
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The best way to provide feedback would be to use the agile practices that already exists:

  • Iteration demo. This is where the team demonstrates actual working software and explains how the iteration went. Everyone is invited and are free to ask questions.
  • Big Visible Charts. Progress about the current iteration should be transparent and visible for all to see, including managers. They should only have to glance at the status board to get a feeling for how things are going.

That should be enough, really.

Besides, there is no "team lead" role in XP or Scrum. The fundamental roles are team members (programmers), customer (product owner) and coach (scrum master).

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I'm in the same situation: teamleader with a 8 people team and a manager.

I discuss with the manager on a daily basis, and we go together to some meetings. Most of the meetings anyway either are political and I won't participate or are strictly technical and he won't participate.

I got a lot of insightful information from the book "The Effective Executive" of P.Drucker. alt text

Note that in the book definition every programmer is an executive, because he have to take executive decisions.

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So you go to meetings where one of you is always a non-participant? That sounds inefficient (and runs contrary to Drucker's principals outlined in that book). –  Jon Hopkins Dec 8 '10 at 11:58
    
No... where you got that? Technical meetings -> I go Political meetings -> he goes Technical-Political meetings -> we go together The point of the book is not being efficient anyway, it's about being effective. Actually I think that would be more efficient skip 90% of the meetings, but that would irritate other teams and managers and ultimately would cause our failure. –  Uberto Dec 8 '10 at 13:23
    
Ah, not clear from the way you phrase it. From you comment where you're attending meetings to keep people happy it still sounds like a bad situation. People should be in meetings because that's the best use of their time, not because other people expect them to be there. –  Jon Hopkins Dec 8 '10 at 13:43
    
I'm speaking about meetings with other teams, basically in every organization there are things you can change and things you cannot. If it's needed that me or the TL attend the meeting for PR with other team I'd say it's a useful use of our time. Anyway I feel this is going far from the original question. –  Uberto Dec 8 '10 at 13:48
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once per week, as per The One-Minute Manager

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Depends upon if you are referring to project management or personnel management. From the personnel management I've heard that most good managers will usually have a standing meeting once a week with their subordinates so there is time for to make sure everything is running smoothly and to provide an opportunity for mentor-ship.

From the project management standpoint, the team leader should meet with the manager as often as is needed to keep them up to date on the status of the project. Generally having a standing meeting is a good idea as it keep the upper level management from being surprised if there is a delay in the project.

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