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Dory and Pulse

Two tools for equalizing voices and removing groupthink in meetings
In the
, Reid and I discussed how Coda meetings are run, and we focused on two specific rituals: Dory and Pulse.

Originally, we started using these techniques at Coda to help with distributed team members (read more in my
). But overtime, it gradually became a core part of our culture.

Dory: Ranked Q&A to equalize your audience

If there's one meeting ritual used more than any other at Coda, it's what we call the "Dory." It's a simple ranked Q&A tool where everyone can add questions and upvote/downvote them. The name Dory was invented at Google and comes from Finding Nemo, i.e. the fish who "asks all the questions."

Here's a quick example of how it works (try
to add it in your own docs).

Add a question
When do we think we can ship?
Did we consider doing X instead of Y?
Can we have a party?
Will there be any scale issues?
There are no rows in this table

This ritual changes our meetings in a few key ways:
Equalizing the audience:
In Coda meetings, we run through topics in order of votes, regardless of the seniority or volume of the person, to equalize voices.
Discuss what matters:
We go through questions in order, with high confidence that we're discussing the topics of most interest to the room.
Well-formed questions:
We have a best practice to ask the person who suggested a question to read it out loud and offer any commentaryーthis maintains the "human" element of the interaction. I've found that questions come out more factual and more respectful if they are written first.
We use this tool quite oftenーnot only for Q&A, but also for selecting agenda topics, or even brainstorming a set of ideas.

Pulse: Remove groupthink to hear what your team

A second tool used frequently at Coda is a "pulse check" (try
to add to your own docs). This tool gets used in many different ways. In decision making meetings, it can be used as a way to quickly poll to see where everyone stands. In status meetings, I'll often use it to get a pulse on how everyone is feeling and draw out any latent concerns. In most cases, the table starts filtered so people can only see their own entry, and once everyone is done, the table is unfiltered for everyone.

Here's a quick example of how it worksーfeel free to uncheck the box and/or add your own row to see how it works.

Check to show everyone's pulse check (
submitted. Average pulse check of
Pulse Check
I am happy
I am sad
I feel meh
There are no rows in this table
Add your pulse check

Like the Dory, this ritual has a big impact on our meetings:
Avoid group think:
In going around a room to hear what everyone thinks, each person implicitly biases everyone who speaks after them. With the pulse check, reflection is done privately first, which leads to more honest and independent thinking.
Equalize hierarchy:
A private pulse check allows for everyone to express their opinion at once without influence from the vocal minority.
Contextualize feedback:
The pulse check clarifies the difference between "I really love this idea, and I'm asking tough questions to make it better" or "I really dislike this idea, and I'm asking tough questions to expose why.”
Draw out the latent concerns:
The pulse check tends to give people space to describe what's on their mind, and I often find that it affects the agenda.

Ask a Codan to describe our culture and they will likely talk about these two rituals.

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