Overcoming Late Culture

Shridharan Muthu

Founder & CTO at Diagon Technologies



No matter where you go, someone is bound to not show up on time. We discovered this to be quite a universal thing, and likewise, one we wanted to do our best to eliminate as we moved towards more agile methodologies.

Actions taken

  • We explored multiple ideas of how we were going to tackle this issue. Ideas for late arrivals spanned from dancing for 15 seconds without music to reciting a tongue twister to the traditional bring coffee for the team at the next meeting.
  • What we finally settled on was a money jar and whoever came in late owed a dollar. This was only done for important meetings like standups at 10 a.m. for example, where you have that one person who worked on unblocking 2 or 3 people show up late. We were using this method as a way to show people that not showing up in a timely manner impacts others.
  • People started to get creative and throw in more than a dollar or even gift cards. The first time we actually filled the jar, we took the team out to ice-cream and took a picture to document the outing on the wiki page.

Lessons learned

  • Overtime, the money in the jar got lower and lower and we only did that outing twice over the course of two years.
  • This whole experience was perfect. Without it, we would still have people coming in late and things wouldn't be as visible for everyone. A clear example of this would be if an API and services developer were waiting on a tester to mention how much progress has been made and/or whether or not they're blocked on anything. I think once the culture sets in however, people understand the important meetings they have to show up to and they become more vigilant of that.
  • If you are late and can not call, the better option is to let the team know you will be late, but give them updates on what was done yesterday and what will get done today.
  • Even though people come in on average 20-30 minutes late, they make sure to dial into the meeting and are available for unblocking someone else. When people give out money, there is of course the paying money aspect, but also the shame of coming in late. That is not something we aim to do, because we are all friends and work together. However, with this new methodology, the message of being there and unblocking everyone else by saying your status gets communicated a lot better.
  • It all sounds like punishment, but it's not really. You can look at it from the alternative aspect of using the first person who comes in as a reward system. This is something we looked at and decided against because there were a lot more people consistently coming in on time. It was a ratio decision and could also have resulted in a lot of work and preparation for buying rewards if we had done it the other way around.
  • Making someone dance or say a tongue twister, where you continue doing it over time, doesn't actually allow you to see the fun in it. The times we actually went out for ice-cream was a very valuable time. The team bonded better and made jokes. This also provided opportunity within the team to work better together.
  • I think this is one of those things that really depends on the company culture. If you are really agile and do not follow too much of a micromanagement system, but you still want everyone in the team to know what everyone else is doing, then it still is applicable no matter the size of the company. The culture is the big aspect here, if you do not have the right culture where people are going to take it the wrong way and not be okay with it, then you are going to need to work on something else.

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Shridharan Muthu

Founder & CTO at Diagon Technologies

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