“Do food”

This is about the pattern “Do Food”, that is found in Linda Rising and Mary Lynn Mann’s excellent book Fearless Change.

Our small team had to prepare weekly reports. We hated this job and the wasted meeting time it took each week.

Someone told me that the next meeting was our team lead’s birthday, so I bought chocolate chip cookies…

It was as though we’d been living in a cave and someone had turned on the lights. People smiled…The meeting was fun. We joked about…the task we all hated. We finished early. All this from a few cookies.

— Fearless Change p.132

Food can have a transformative power that is described in the above story, and research has shown that human societies use food and the practice of eating together to help create tighter relationships. Think of all the times that we eat together with people inside and outside of work. Similarly, having something to eat in a planning meeting, review, or retrospective can have a positive effect on your team.

Rising and Mann go on to mention that food is not always appropriate due to the organisational culture of a company, or the nature of a meeting, and that you should also be mindful of peoples’ allergies and intolerances. There may also be a constraint due to the cost of food, and suggest ways to compensate.

I like the “Do food” pattern a lot. The photo at the top of the post is from an end of iteration review and retrospective session on a project that had a budget for food, and I can attest to the benefits that having a decent selection of food can have. We always tried to be varied, having some healthier options available, and also catered for our colleague James’ gluten intolerance.

Here’s a few more examples of other food selections we had during that project:

Super foods – smoothies, blueberries, strawberries, biscuits and nuts

Fruit, gluten-free rice cakes, oat cakes, samosas, pistachios.

Cherry Ripes and Caramello Koalas, fruit, brownies, seeds.

Grapes, muesli bars, sausage rolls, smoothies

Mince pies and Xmas crackers

Homemade. The team each made a plate.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that elaborate either. The sessions would usually last 2-3 hours, so for a shorter meeting a simple packet of biscuits might do the job, nicely. You can also do something else, such as have the meeting outside on a nice day, as the hook to energise people.

In conclusion, I’ve got a lot of time for the “Do Food” pattern. So much so, that one of the images on my Projects’ Little Helper business cards, that show people helping each other do things, has a retro photo from the Flickr Commons, of some people doing food!

Do you “Do food”? Got any food stories to share?

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