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What could go wrong

What could go wrong? That was the question my own manager asked me when I proposed to replace standups with weekly checkins. That question was a powerful one. It got me to think. I contemplated what could go wrong, and more importantly how to mitigate the risks. I eventually came out feeling much more confident, and I would go on to ask myself what could go wrong many more times.

The risk

With less frequent meetings, projects could go off-track longer before someone took notice. Not only would we lose precious time, but also it could create wasteful work that required more time to clean up. Things would be worse if said project is on a critical path for many other teams to depend on.

Regardless, there appeared to be an upper bound. A project could go off-track for up to a week. That seemed acceptable. Would I want that to happen? Absolutely not. Would I be okay to deal with the consequences if it did happen? Of course.

To gain more confidence, I turned to my previous manager and now peer, Anders Conbere. His response? Nothing would go terribly wrong in a week. Managers also need to take vacations!

The mitigation

Feeling good about the maximum downside, I started sketching ways to mitigate the risk. That turned out not to be too hard as soon as I accepted the risks:

  • I did some calendar shuffling. The sprint checkin was on Fridays, so I moved my 1:1s to Mondays through Wednesdays. I did not need to go into project details in the 1:1s, but a quick what-is-holding-you-back was always helpful.
  • I created the policy Project Buddy, which provided another regular checkpoint to examine if projects were on track.

Between the 1:1s, the project buddy sync, and the sprint checkin, we would have three checkpoints per week for each project. That was not too bad compared to the three standup meetings we had before. Two out of the three were 1:1 meetings, which meant that we could dive into problems if any without alienating other people. It was actually pretty good, I thought.

With the potential downside limited, I would go on to confidently replace standups with weekly checkins. We would continue to reap the benefits from the seemingly unlimited upside, and that was made possible only by the simple question: what could go wrong?