Are One-on-Ones Good in an Agile World

When my last company transistioned from Waterfall/Iterative to Agile, we debated whether we should get rid of 1-on-1 meetings with individual performers. Since we were encouraging teams to become self-managing, there was an argument to be made that we should encourage each team to replace the role of the 1-on-1 meeting with ‘Management.’ However, we chose not to and I think that was a good idea. Here is why

  • Things will not go as planned during your roll-out. Something alwasy goes sideways and not everything can be fixed within the team dynamic. There was a lot of encouragement to work through as many team issues within the team but some were intra-team or intra-group and needed to be dealt with in a different manner.
  • Allowed individuals to speak freely in a ‘safe’ environment without any team dynamics. These are typically “Am I crazy for thinking this” moments. They may have received encouragement to deal with a team dynamic gone awry but it gave them a place to work through the issue before diving in.
  • Agile and especially self-managed teams was a new concept to us all and we had to work our way through the process.
  • Teams are all well and good but some things are personal and not the team’s business. This allowed the team members an alternate channel to bring issues that were not team related. Regular meetings with Management allowed it to not be a scary thing. It was a perfectly normal communication channel.
  • While the focus is on the team in Agile, personal development is really the team member’s role and a 1-on-1 allows management to mentor the individual outside of the team. Again encouraging a healthy communication channel with each individual is always a good thing even in an egalitarian team environment.