Thursday, January 07, 2010

Hill Street Programmers

Our programming group has a ten minute meeting every morning. It is an informal time when we take turns telling what we worked on the previous day, what we are going to be working on this day and what problems (if any) that we've run into that have stopped our progress. They are called Stand Up Meetings because by standing up, we don't get comfortable and go on too long. After all, there are usually eight of us in the meeting and we have to finish in ten minutes.

These meetings keep us on our toes. You want to have some accomplishment to tell about in the morning and you want to know what you're going to be working on that day. And by listing any roadblocks you've run into, someone else in the meeting may have an idea that can help. Our supervisor usually ends the meeting by saying something like, "OK, let's get to work. I hope you all have a good day."

Today it struck me how similar these meetings are to the "roll call" or briefing scene in the old 80's TV show Hill Street Blues. It was always the first scene in the show and everyone would be given their assignments for the day. And in the early years, Sergeant Esterhaus (played by the late Michael Conrad), who ran the briefing, would always end the scene with the line, "Let's be careful out there." That would work for us, too. It doesn't take much for one programmer to cause the daily build of our software to fail and cause a headache for everyone.

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