How These LA Tech Companies Structure Effective Sync-Up Meetings

Written by Alton Zenon III
Published on Oct. 06, 2020
How These LA Tech Companies Structure Effective Sync-Up Meetings
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A team huddle without focus or structure can feel like a waste of time, so leaders have to be intentional about how they build them. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to meetings since they can serve different teams with different goals. 

For instance, product-driven scrums at advertising and marketing technology company Gimbal take place every other week and have comprehensive agendas. Insights are then shared with the rest of the company, and shareholders especially. Product Manager Alex Steady said that structure works well because it keeps everyone in the org informed about the product roadmap and feature development.

That meeting looks very different from the engineering huddles at cloud-based accounting software provider FloQast. Developers sync daily and their meetings are designed to be short and sweet. The team discusses roadblocks and whether work might affect others on the team, all under 10 minutes. Engineering Manager Vinoj Zacharia said that to-the-point structure is ideal because it gets devs back to their important “deep-focus thinking time.”

While these two meetings differ considerably, they also share some commonalities. The meetings deliver news that allows attendees to continue their work, knowing how it might impact or be impacted by others. Each sync also has room for discussing non-work topics to build a greater sense of community. 

 

Alex Steady
Product Manager • Infillion

What does a typical sync-up look like for your team?

Our product sync is structured biweekly, aligned a day after each of our engineering teams’ Agile sprints. This structure allows every sync’s timeline to be in cadence with our incremental, feature-driven development. The agenda consists of a roadmap review epic and feature ETA updates, reviewing bugs or tasks created in the last couple of weeks, features released in the last sprint, what the team is currently working on and what we’ll be up to next.

There’s also a Q&A, competitive intelligence and market trend exploration. The sync is intended to get all Gimbal employees up to date with the tech and product team. Conversely, it ensures our product team stays situated within the needs of our various stakeholders. The meeting is recorded, and it, along with associated shared data, is posted in our internal Wiki. Lastly, I send out an email with high-level updates for those that need a “TL;DR.”

 

I hold a product session at the end of each sync where we go over a hot topic, a future initiative or an existing framework.”

What’s one thing you’ve done to improve the effectiveness of your stand-up meetings? 

We start with exciting updates on the roadmap and sharing good personal or professional news instead of beginning with issues like we used to. It allows us to begin with wins and positive dialogue from all colleagues who want to share. Then, we can go into issues and roadblocks that have recently come up, where the conversation can get a bit more involved.

 

How do you keep employees engaged during sync-up meetings?

I hold a product session at the end of each sync where we go over a hot topic, a future initiative or an existing framework. The session gives internal stakeholders more in-depth knowledge to understand the underlying architecture at Gimbal and can also help with a seller’s go-to-market strategy. For example, a recent product session we led was on iOS 14 and how that affects our business. 

We also try to have questions ready for teammates to assess work-related product or market fit and existing prioritization. And we discuss non-work-related subjects, like how the MLB playoff picture will play out or recently binged TV shows.

 

Vinoj Zacharia
Engineering Manager • FloQast

What does a typical sync-up look like for your team?

I look at a morning standup through two lenses: discussing things that can affect someone else and listening to whether team members are blocked or need assistance.

Those two focuses put a structure in place to share the context needed for the team while also creating an environment where anyone can ask for help. Team members are great about offering to put their work aside to help someone else, because it’s core to our culture.

 

We have a ‘parking lot’ after the standup where people can stay based on a given discussion.”

What’s one thing you’ve done to improve the effectiveness of your stand-up meetings? 

It’s totally normal that sometimes people get “status-y” in their updates, sharing details like, “I had my one-on-one with Vinoj, then I got lunch, then I found this really neat npm package…” We are pretty good about cleaning what doesn’t fit our first lens of “things that affect someone else.”

There are other times where there is a topic that affects someone else, but a subset of people need to stay. So we have a “parking lot” after the standup where people can stay based on a given discussion, or leave if it doesn’t affect their work. By keeping these guidelines in place, the standup tends to be focused and effective.

 

How do you keep employees engaged during sync-up meetings?

All our standups are virtual now, so the Zoom room opens up a bit early most of the time and people will chat about non-work stuff and build camaraderie before we begin. I get going at the meeting time, and by following the steps above, standups typically take about five to 10 minutes. People stay engaged by continually building relationships with each other while also discussing things that matter for the entire group in a short amount of time.

We’re big believers in deep-focus thinking time for engineers — which I like to call “headphones time” — because we see it as the best way to get the right product to our customers. Standups serve as a way to quickly share context to springboard into deep-focus thinking time.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Photography via Relativity and Chris Murphy.

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