This page is a collection of resources for running a peer group within a company. It's particularly focused on groups for senior individual track in technology (staff plus), but may be useful to others. It is a companion to my Staff Plus New York talk on peer groups and blog post, and is based on conversations with a number of people who run peer groups at different companies. I will periodically add more resources. Briefly, a peer group is a collection of your peers. In this case the groups are focused on staff plus engineers, helping members get better at their jobs. If you use these resources, please consider sharing your experiences in the form discussed below.
Guidelines for Forming a Staff Plus Peer Group
- Get the scope right: Not too big, not too small
- Self-organize: The group should be run by members of the group
- Provide Value: The group should be serving the purposes of the members.
Get The Scope Right
If the group is too big, there's no cohesion to the group. If it's too small, there's less energy, and less opportunity for perspective and help. For reference, my group started by inviting 60 people, have 50 people in a private slack channel, and about 10 people for any given zoom call.
Your peer group should be organized my the members of the peer group. This has been the case for all the successful peer groups I've heard about. At the same time, there were a number of examples of unsuccessful peer groups -- the most common symptom of those groups were that they were run by people outside the group.
The peer group should be serving the purposes of the members of the peer group. This will follow (in part) from the group being self-organizing. The most common value was having a safe place to share problems. This was a nearly universal value reported by successful peer groups, and was usually described as a sense of group therapy.
Other provided value includes: actually solving problems, identifying common problems, providing perspective into confusing behavior, as well as formal and informal professional development (mentoring, tech talks, ...)
Smaller Points and Suggestions for Peer Groups
The following list is less vetted than the previous section, but still seem useful. They have been useful to me.
- Give people a choice to belong
- We invite new people to join our group, but do not add them unless they specifically accept and ask to join. Everyone has actively chosen to join our community, helping to form a shared identity for the group.
- This extends to giving everyone a choice in how much to participate in the group. We have no formal leadership, and everyone can choose how much they want to participate. This gives everyone in the group an equal voice, further increasing the shared identity of the group.
- Have a private forum for people to talk and air their grievances.
- This is a follow on to the "Provide Value" item above. In order for people to comfortably talk and complain, they need a safe environment to do so. For us, that is our slack channel and our calls. Other groups have a public slack channel, but still have some private forum.
- Make it easy to join, participate, and contribute to the group
- External groups have to develop their own cultures and codes of conducts. Internal groups hopefully have a strong company culture to lean on. Use it and avoid reinventing.
An Incomplete List of Group Activities
- Informal discussions and get togethers
- Slack discussions
- Informal talks: someone gets up in front of a white board and answers questions on a topic (no prep)
- Formal talks: Prepared talk on a topic relevant to the group. Can be from people internal or external to the group
- Mentoring programs
Share Your Experiences
If you run or are involved in a peer group, please fill out this form and tell me about it. All responses will help improve this page. Additionally, there's an option to keep responses private.
Links on Peer Group and Learning Circles
- Forbes: 13 Tactics That Ensure Your Peer-To-Peer Group's Success
- Will Larson: Communities of learning
- Will Larson: Why not create a StaffEng Slack or Discord?
- Nice list of issues to try to avoid
- Stanford: What is Peer Learning and Why is it Important?
- Google re:Work -- Employee to Employee Learning
- Scott Triglia: How to Build and Scale a Staff+ Engineering Community
- Charity Majors: How To Run a Tech Leadership Skill Share
Post a Comment