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Three common myths about daily standups (and how to avoid them)

Was that a yawn? How to reinvigorate your daily standup by combining async status updates with video

July 20, 2021

If the first thing that comes to mind when you think of your team’s daily standup meeting is “who’s working on what” — it may be time to rethink your approach.

The daily standup is a powerful tool used by teams to connect, align, and move projects forward. It’s meant to be short and sweet. Fifteen minutes to come together each morning to set the team up for success that day.

Somewhere along the way though, most daily standups have morphed into something unwieldy and ineffective. In large part, this is because the daily standup meeting hasn’t changed much over time. Teams today operate much differently than they did 10, 5, or even 2 years ago — so why do we expect the same old standup approach to be just as effective as it was “way back when”. With the shift to more remote and hybrid work — our ways of working have changed even more drastically, but our standups have not.

In this article, we’ll cover some common myths around the daily standup and how to start reimagining yours to make it the effective, unblocking meeting it’s meant to be.

Myth-busting the daily standup meeting

Myth: They need to happen in-person every morning.

Reality: Standups don’t have to look the same for every team. With a shift to remote work culture, and teams spread across multiple time zones, finding a time that works for everyone (and doesn’t cut into individual focus time or other responsibilities at home) can be nearly impossible. Plus, new apps and tools make it easier than ever to cover elements of the daily standup asynchronously instead.

Myth: The point of the daily standup is to share status updates.

Reality: “What you did yesterday and what you’re planning to do today” are important, but when standups focus only on those updates, oftentimes people leave with more questions than answers. To be a more effective use of people’s time, standups should focus on resolving surfacing blockers and issues and finding ways to move work forward – not just surfacing “who’s working on what”.

Myth: The round-robin approach works best.

Reality: Was that a yawn? So often, standups fall into the trap of becoming rote status updates geared toward reporting work to the manager, rather than helping ICs. If you feel like you’re sharing just for the sake of sharing, or that the updates you’re hearing are only relevant to a handful of people in the room, your standup is no longer serving its intended purpose.

Plus, round-robin updates often create the need for extra meetings and more follow-ups. When a barrage of updates is shared every time, it can be hard to remember what was said, who said what, and what you’re supposed to do next. Without a strong written record, you end up having to follow up with folks anyway — creating more work than what you started with.

A new approach to the daily standup meeting

So how do you take back your team’s daily standup to make it the effective, unblocking meeting it was meant to be in the first place?

Many successful teams are trying out a new approach that combines the efficiency of asynchronous status updates with the connection and collaboration of video (or in-person) meetings. It takes into account remote and hybrid teams, and helps preserve the original purpose of the standup by shifting status updates out of the meeting itself.

What it looks like in action

Here are a few different options for how teams might combine async status updates with video standups.

  • Folks share async status updates (and read others) first, and then attend a daily video meeting after they’ve prepped with the written context. In the meeting, the team reviews flagged items and answers a team-building question to connect on a more personal level.
  • The team uses daily async updates to keep a pulse on in-flight work, with a twice-weekly collaboration meeting to discuss projects and get help on blockers over video.
  • Team members share async status updates each morning, and then attend a Monday kickoff meeting or Friday recap to review the week over video.
  • Team members share async status updates each morning, and then hold video meetings for backlog review and planning.

Shift status updates out of your daily standup

Moving status updates out of standups helps free up more time to work through what actually matters together. Teams can prep for standup by sharing and reading each other’s status updates, and then use facetime to connect and work through blockers together.

This approach has a number of other benefits too:

It reduces time spent in meetings: When you move status updates to an async format, you can decrease the length or frequency with which you hold face-to-face standup meetings.

It helps drive projects forward: When folks share status updates beforehand, it means everyone on the team has the same amount of context and alignment before you come together. Meeting time can then be used to tackle blockers and move work forward–rather than simply sharing round-robin updates that may or may not be relevant.

It boosts team transparency: When you cover status updates asynchronously, everything is written so it’s easy to find and reference information — even after the standup is over. It gives everyone on the team a clear picture of who’s working on what (with more context than a 30-second round-robin update allows for) and gives managers visibility into how projects are moving forward without having to hound folks for details.

It fosters accountability and autonomy: Planning your day each morning is a powerful way to set yourself up for success — and async status updates help you do just that. Developing the habit of planning your day, deciding where you’re going to focus, and sharing updates asynchronously helps folks build autonomy, purpose, and a sense of accomplishment as they check things off their list.

Helps everyone feel prepared. Not everyone on your team may be comfortable speaking up in meetings. Async status updates give everyone an equal voice and allow individuals a way to prepare before coming together. When you give folks the ability to read and share status updates beforehand, they’re less likely to be caught off guard or feel singled out by questions that come up during a meeting.

Make video meetings way more engaging. Face-to-face time is valuable and should be treated as such. When folks are stuck in standups that don’t feel relevant or engaging, it’s easy to start multi-tasking, zoning out, or just plain not showing up. Moving status updates to an async format helps ensure that when your team comes together, time can be used to collaborate and connect on projects that are important to the entire group. It can also free up time for lightweight team bonding to help build stronger connections on remote or hybrid teams.

Enhance your video standup with context, connection, and team-building

When status updates are covered beforehand, time together can be used to tackle blockers, move work forward, and actually bond as a team.

Here’s a sample agenda of how your video standup might look when async updates are covered before the meeting.

Video Standup Sample Agenda

Download: Video Standup Sample Agenda

P.S. If you use Zoom, it’s even easier

If your team uses Zoom, we’ve made it easier than ever to incorporate the ideas and best practices outlined here into your day-to-day workflow.

Give the Range app for Zoom a try

Daily standups don’t have to be a struggle. If the meeting meant to unblock and tackle has morphed into 30 minutes of  “who’s working on what” — you’ve got an opportunity to make it more engaging and effective.

Three common myths about daily standups (and how to avoid them)
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