Heartbeat: Engagement Style?

On a recent Webmaker call, I learned about the proposal to have the Webmaker teams start operating on a regular schedule, which has been dubbed “heartbeat.” Each heartbeat lasts two weeks, and includes planning, retrospection, heads down working, a mid-point check in, and demos.

I dig this. I was a Scrum Master in my former life, and the heartbeat idea echoes Scrum, which I know to be a super effective tool for creating rhythm on a team.

In addition to the benefits/goals cited in the presentation, I would add that rhythm is also good for:

  • syncing between teams
  • increasing accountability and trust within a team
  • ensuring continuous improvement
  • increasing velocity/productivity
  • improving morale

Here are some thoughts on how we might implement a heartbeat within the context of the Engagement team:

  • Identify the right heartbeat duration. Does two weeks make sense for the highly responsive and externally-focused work we do?
  • Incorporate planning into our team meeting. This might just mean making sure the answers to the question “what will get done this week?” are in bugzilla and/or on the workbench. I’ve found that planning works best when teams are operating from a shared, continually updated backlog of items. If you have this, “planning” can be very low effort: it’s simply pulling a set of items from the top of the backlog and labeling them with the upcoming heartbeat.
  • Add demos to our routine. This could be part of the weekly team meeting, or perhaps could be done in an ad-hoc way. Creating the expectation that each part of the team will demo something during each heartbeat would lend even more intentionality to the planning.
  • Incorporate retrospecting behaviors. This might mean a 10-minute debrief at the end of every heartbeat, either for the whole team, or perhaps divided into the different functional areas. It might mean building a virtual suggestion box for people to share ideas about how to improve our process, or cultivating a weekly “One thing I will do differently this week is…” habit. There are lots of ways to build a culture of action-oriented retrospection!

Curious to know what others think about adopting the heartbeat model for the Engagement team.

One thought on “Heartbeat: Engagement Style?

  1. Lynn says:

    Looking forward to trying this out. The retrospection is also a way for us to celebrate progress — something that we sometimes forget to do in the speed to get the next things done.

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