Note: This article is updated at Ten at Ten Meetings.
Ten at Ten are a very simple tool for helping teams stay focused, connected, and collaborate more effectively, the Agile way.
I’ve been leading distributed teams and v-teams for years. I needed a simple way to keep everybody on the same page, expose issues, and help everybody on the team increase their awareness of results and progress, as well as unblock and breakthrough blocking issues.
Why Ten at Ten Meetings?
When people are remote, it’s easy to feel disconnected, and it’s easy to start to feel like different people are just a “black box” or “go dark.”
Ten at Ten Meetings have been my friend and have helped me help everybody on the team stay in sync and appreciate each other’s work, while finding better ways to team up on things, and drive to results, in a collaborative way. I believe I started Ten at Ten Meetings back in 2003 (before that, I wasn’t as consistent … I think 2003 is where I realized a quick sync each day, keeps the “black box” away.)
Overview of Ten at Ten Meetings
I’ve written about Ten at Ten Meetings before in my posts on How To Lead High-Performance Distributed Teams, How I Use Agile Results, Interview on Timeboxing for HBR (Harvard Business Review), Agile Results Works for Teams and Leaders Too, and 10 Free Leadership Tools for Work and Life, but I thought it would be helpful to summarize some of the key information at a glance.
Here is an overview of Ten at Ten Meetings:
This is one of my favorite tools for reducing email and administration overhead and getting everybody on the same page fast. It's simply a stand-up meeting. I tend to have them at 10:00, and I set a limit of 10 minutes. This way people look forward to the meeting as a way to very quickly catch up with each other, and to stay on top of what's going on, and what's important. The way it works is I go around the (virtual) room, and each person identifies what they got done yesterday, what they're getting done today, and any help they need. It's a fast process, although it can take practice in the beginning. When I first started, I had to get in the habit of hanging up on people if it went past 10 minutes. People very quickly realized that the ten minute meeting was serious. Also, as issues came up, if they weren't fast to solve on the fly and felt like a distraction, then we had to learn to take them offline. Eventually, this helped build a case for a recurring team meeting where we could drill deeper into recurring issues or patterns, and focus on improving overall team effectiveness.
3 Steps for Ten at Ten Meetings
Here is more of a step-by-step approach:
- I schedule ten minutes for Monday through Thursday, at whatever time the team can agree to, but in the AM. (no meetings on Friday)
- During the meeting, we go around and ask three simple questions: 1) What did you get done? 2) What are you getting done today? (focused on Three Wins), and 3) Where do you need help?
- We focus on the process (the 3 questions) and the timebox (10 minutes) so it’s a swift meeting with great results. We put issues that need more drill-down or exploration into a “parking lot” for follow up. We focus the meeting on status and clarity of the work, the progress, and the impediments.
You’d be surprised at how quickly people start to pay attention to what they’re working on and on what’s worth working on. It also helps team members very quickly see each other’s impact and results. It also helps people raise their bar, especially when they get to hear and experience what good looks like from their peers.
Most importantly, it shines the light on little, incremental progress, and, if you didn’t already know, progress is the key to happiness in work and life.