Low-hanging fruit and the “Cedar Point Thumbs Up”

I’ve participated in a lot of releases. Some go smoothly, some do not. The ones that do have a common element… the team takes the time to confirm that when you ask a question or give a “go-ahead” message, you also receive a “message received” response.

Release checklists are helpful as a visual aid to see progress. Even so, when moving between items, mis-steps can happen. One person can give a go-ahead message, but the next person doesn’t hear it, causing delay. Or, someone moves to the next step without hearing that the previous step was completed, creating conflict or breakage.

It may feel painful to take the extra time, but there is value in verbally confirming a message was received. So, it might sound like this:

“Step one has begun.”

“Got it. Waiting for step one to complete.”

“Step one is complete. You can proceed with step two.”

“Okay, starting on step two.”

You get the idea. Over the past few days, we’ve had lower-risk items go uncompleted simply because we didn’t take the time to acknowledge that a message was received. It may have sounded like a one-way communication, like a meeting request, but without confirmation that everyone heard the message, the next step didn’t take place. In a very simple case, I asked if the team wanted a meeting. The team assumed the meeting was required, and simply waited for the meeting invite. I really, really meant that the meeting would only be scheduled if you wanted it. So, I didn’t schedule the meeting. Looks like some on the team wanted the meeting, so I’m bummed that we had confusion on whether or not to have the meeting.

Sometimes, we call this a “sound off,” or “Cedar Point thumbs up*.” This means that everyone gives a verbal acknowledgement (or email, slack, text), even if the message is a positive acknowledgement. “Shall we move to the next feature?” “Yep, I’m ready.” “Go ahead.” “Move it, already!!”

Yes, it can create a lot of email chatter, but having a response from everyone helps those requesting input understand the urgency and state of affairs. This helps in planning for all of us.

So, please, speak your mind. Give your team mates that feedback, and let them know you heard him or her. Trust me, it will be appreciated!

* For those of you not in Michigan or Ohio, Cedar Point is a theme park most of us have frequented in our youth… it’s the closest example of a group of people doing safety checks as people board the rides. They all give a thumbs up when their area has been checked, and the ride operator only starts the ride once all thumbs are up.


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