Pulse meetings are a stand-up meeting in front of a Pulse board conducted in 5-20 minutes. The purpose is to apply real-time management and take care of problems that have arisen during the work. Pulse meetings have become popular in all kinds of businesses.
The pulse board
The pulse board is a whiteboard covered with up-to-date information that help the team understand the current situation so that they can decide what actions to take. A project Pulse board contains visualized goal and plans that the project team has prepared together:
- The project goal scenario describes what is to be achieved and the project’s mission.
- Synchronization plan with sub-results to be delivered and in what order.
- Activity plans for the sub-results that the team is currently working on.
- Problem log where problems and unexpected events are documented.
- Decision log where decision is documented.
- An activity window where upcoming and ongoing activities are visualized as post-it notes. The activities are generated from the activity plans.
It is mainly the post-it notes in the activity window that the team processes during the Pulse meeting. The activities are linked to individuals at the Pulse meetings. The team member that has the time and enough knowledge takes the next activity. This will level out the workload in the project, which will reduce lead times.
- The activity window (or kanban board) on the pulse board is divided into three parts:
- The “To Do” area with activities to be done next. The activities here are not yet linked to any person.
- The “In Progress” area contains ongoing activities with names of the individuals working with them.
- The “Done” area with completed activities during the current week.
Teamwork means teamwork, not coordination of individual work
Pulse meetings are simple, but they can be performed in the wrong way and lose their agility.
Pulse meetings are performed standing up in front of a Pulse board. Activities are distributed based on the pattern on the pulse board and the dialogue between the participants.
- The individuals are not assigned their tasks by the project manager or a planner.
- The activities are not hidden in an IT system.
- There are no individual “swim lanes” in the activity window.
- Pulse meetings are not coordination of the individuals’ work, where the participants tell the project manager about problems and delays they are working with.
Smart people that conducts pulse meetings
The team plans and develops solutions for their tasks themselves. Steve Jobs once said that it is not reasonable to hire smart people and then tell them how to solve the tasks we give them. Agile management assumes that the development team can work independently. It is the participants in a team that together plan and manage the work through the daily Pulse meetings.
Pulse meetings aim to maintain a dynamic dialogue within the team and between different teams. The fact that teams work independently does not mean that they work in isolation from the surroundings. The team is part of a business where all parts are expected to pull in the same direction and work together to achieve common goals. If a development team encounters problems that are outside their mandate or experience to solve, the problem is escalated to the management’s pulse meetings. The decision on how to proceed in the project should be taken within a few hours.
An Internet search on “Pulse meeting” will show you pictures where a manager stands in front of the pulse board with the project team as spectators. It is not the right way to conduct a Pulse meeting. It is the smart people who work with the Pulse board and interact with each other. The project manager can place himself on the outskirts and ensure that decisions and problems are documented.
The pulse meeting agenda
Pulse Meetings should make it possible for the team to have a common understanding of the actual situation and through joint discussions decide on the next step in the process. This gives us the following general pulse meeting agenda that can be applied in projects or other teams:
- What has been completed since the last Pulse meeting?
Allow everyone to in some words describes what they have completed or will soon achieve. Finished activities are moved from “In progress” to “Done” and ticked off in the activity plan by the person who did the work.
- Have any problems or unexpected events occurred?
Problems are written on a post-it note and placed in the “Inbox”. The problem is documented in the problem log. Activities that can remedy the problem are identified and added to the activity plans.
- What is the next step? The team discusses and selects the most important activities from the activity plans and writes them on post-it notes that are placed in “To Do”.
- Who does what? Let everyone tell what he or she will do. The participants choose activities from “To Do”, sign and date the post-it note and move the note to “In Progress”.
When the Pulse meetings are conducted correctly according to the Pulse meeting agenda, they are much appreciated by the participants. If Pulse meetings are not perceived as something positive, they are probably performed incorrectly.
Conducting a Pulse meeting is like riding a bike, it´s easy once you’ve learned it.
The network of pulse meetings
Parmatur Pulse is a model for agile governance of strategy and development and it contains several different types of Pulse meetings. The management teams have their Pulse meetings where strategies are formulated and problems are handled. The operational development teams have their Pulse meetings. All Pulse meetings take place in a large Pulse room to create transparency throughout the business.
A project in Parmatur Pulse has a limited size so that it is possible to work in one or more teams. How to divide major development efforts into manageable projects is described in the book Agile Multi-Project Management. More about principles behind Pulse can be find in the new book The Principle of Agile Management: How to rebuild your business.