Every single one of us in software development has received a Triage Meeting invitation and thought or even responded with, “I don’t have time for this.” Why is that? I have noticed that some, if not most, people don’t feel these meetings have significant importance or value. Let me share why people have these reactions. Because often these meetings do not impact their contribution to their project or add value to their agenda. Worse than this, people have discussions and debates that provide no actionable results.
So let’s take a moment to review a simple definition of a Triage Meeting, its purpose, and the results one should expect: Triage meetings are held for the arbitration of work and to determine the next actions to be taken.
Allow me to be totally clear and honest on this — Triage Meetings should not be a silo in which bugs/defects are the only topic under discussion. Often times your Triage is designated for bug talk, yet the discussion veers to features, timelines, and enhancements. That’s because feature changes and iterations have an impact on your roadmap in the same manner unknown bugs can have.
A Part of the Decision: Why Am I Here
You should send invites to contributors and influencers. Not a large group, but a group that can assist in contributing to the main segments of the project. The meeting agenda should be defined and distributed before people attend so that they come prepared to discuss, give insight, and share information. Following the process below which you probably, and should abide by for your project requirement gathering, are the ingredients for success:
- Why are we doing it?
- Explain why resolving or implementing the issue has an impact.
- Describe the bug/feature and why it should be resolved during a certain release.
- How are we doing it?
- Detail, as best possible with your attendees, how this can be achieved.
- Assign, give priority, and additional details are given.
- What will be achieved?
- Define the desired end result and include it in your acceptance criteria. This part is the easiest after defining a good why and how
Following this formula can at first seem difficult and perhaps overly indulgent. However, when followed, it allows people to stop and think about the issue being brought forth. Your meeting attendees will be more engaged if you start with why you want to fix or implement than they will if you start with what will be done. If your team contributors believe in the why of this particular issue, and of course your project as a whole, you’ll have much greater success and product quality. You should be following this for your entire project, so why wouldn’t you follow it in the day to day triage?
Schedules and Attendees: Who Has the Time for This
Although colleagues are typically very busy, it is important for meeting facilitators to be mindful of schedules for all your attendees. It is valuable in many ways to be aware of their schedules — they might have a task deadline that is coming due, be under stress of product delivery, or simply have a full calendar. Numerous factors can cause their attendance to have a negative impact on the outcome of the triage:
- They might not be someone with a contributor or influencer role for the project.
- They might have a conflicting agenda — with time or resources.
- They might be uninspired to contribute.
Individuals who attend a Triage meeting should be contributors and influencers. The reasoning behind this smaller group is so that you move away from endless discussions which lead to fewer or any actions taken afterward. Invite people who have the insight required to make decisions.
Actionable Results: What Are We Doing Next
The goal of your Triage Meetings is to arbitrate work. Your objective is not only to decide who will work on what, but rather, and more importantly, why work is being done, and how it is best implemented. As most everyone should know, it is not what you’re doing but why you’re doing it that motivates and gets the buy-in from people. What we are doing next is the goal of your Triage Meeting, and that is arrived at with the actions that will be taken following the open discussion.
How many times have you asked, “Alright, we know the ask on this issue. Who’s going to take this one?” and the room is filled with silence? With a motivated team that believes in your why definitions, individuals will eagerly volunteer to assign themselves action items.
Following the why, how, and what formula, will inspire your team to participate in your Triage Meeting. These get-togethers will inspire success at the base level of your project. As people understand why better, they are much more involved and contribute. Colleagues will ask you for an invite to your meetings! Consider large debates over what your objectives are and who is going to be assigned gone. It’s time to celebrate.