How we discuss engineering improvements at Glean
Team Glean's Gwen talks us through Engineering's regular 'Entmoot' and how it could help your dev team work smarter2 min read Published: 9 Sep 2021
What is Entmoot?
Entmoot is a rare gathering and meeting of Ents. However, at Glean, Entmoot is not so rare and neither is it Ents that meet. At Glean, Entmoot is a once weekly meeting where we discuss topics ranging from unit tests, AWS security, software patterns, to how we use Slack and PRs.
The term Entmoot is taken from Lord of The Rings. There’s a bit of a Lord of the Rings theme in Glean Engineering with Treebeard being the person that looks after the production logs for the day.
How Entmoot came about
Originally, we had a weekly meeting focused on a rotation of testing, architecture, security, devops and maintainability. Eventually, after a couple of rounds, some of the sessions were quiet and we were keeping separate backlogs for each so we decided to roll them all into one session.
The Entmoot was born!
How to facilitate an Entmoot
- Create an Entmoot board. We use Jamboard but other tools that are whiteboard-esque will work.
- Remind people in the days ahead that Entmoot will be running. We use a Slackbot to remind people to add topics to the board on the day of Entmoot.
- When it’s time (for us, 16:00 on a Wednesday), start the Entmoot.
- Ask for a note-taker and stay silent until someone has volunteered. If you notice the same people volunteering, ask for someone else to volunteer.
- Pick up a card from ‘Upcoming’ and move it to ‘Discussion in Progress’
- Start a five minute timer.
- Ask or guess who owns the topic. The topic owner will introduce the card and start the conversation where people will discuss a solution.
- If the topic runs over the five minute timer, stop the conversation and ask if people would like to continue the conversation. Either continue the conversation and set another 5 minute timer, ask that another meeting is scheduled with interested parties to continue the conversation, or end the conversation.
- When the conversation has ended, move the card to 'Discussion Complete'. Confirm the action taken from the topic and ask the note taker if they have the action. Each topic will have an action, even if it is ‘do nothing’.
- Once all topics have been covered, end Entmoot. Entmoot is scheduled for an hour. However, it rarely runs for the full hour (it's usually a 20-40 minute session).
What we've learned from running Entmoot
Timers are so important! We originally didn’t have a timer and because we have a couple of different repos, occasionally we were stuck talking about a topic that not everyone was interested in for 20 minutes. Adding the timer and suggesting people take it into another meeting ensured that Entmoots kept their pace.
Notetakers are vital. We make most of our technical and process decisions in Entmoot and so adding notes to our #eng-announcements channel means no-one misses important information if they are on holiday (and, Entmoot is an optional meeting). Notetakers should always add an action to the end of each card.
How can you run your own Entmoot?
It’s really easy to run with just a Jamboard, a facilitator and interested Engineers. Set up your first Entmoot with a Jamboard, see what the interest is like and if you find it beneficial, keep running them! We’ve found it a lovely, easy way to discuss improvements.
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