Meetings

Rethinking your team’s standup? Here are 3 new approaches to try out

How teams at Adobe, Wellthy, and Informed K12 run their daily stand-up meetings using Check-ins

May 19, 2021

Standups are meant to speed up your team, not slow it down.


If you’ve ever skipped a standup to get time back in your day, spotted teammates multi-tasking or zoning out, listened to the same repeat updates (over and over and over), or left feeling more confused than when you got there, chances are, it’s time to rethink your team’s approach to standups.

Good news: we found fresh ideas from Adobe, Wellthy, and Informed K12 to help you get started.

These three teams are pushing the boundaries of daily standup meetings. They’ve each adopted a hybrid model, which combines two formats — written updates and face-to-face meetings — in some capacity. With a hybrid approach, teams benefit from the flexibility and transparency of written updates paired with the connection and collaboration that more facetime inherently provides.

Each team’s approach is different and offers a fresh take on the daily standup meeting meant to help breathe new life into yours too.

When done right, your standup meeting can help you strengthen culture, improve engagement, and increase your team’s effectiveness and overall output.

Adobe: Daily written updates paired with weekly video standups

Cadence and format

  • Written updates: Daily
  • Meeting: Weekly

Written updates

  • Daily status updates that keep everyone aligned, informed, and accountable
  • Help individuals plan for their day and report on their work
  • Help individuals spot areas for collaboration
  • Give visibility into how everyone is doing so the manager can better support their team

Meeting

  • A space to come together as a team once per week
  • Bond with a team-building question
  • Work through blockers, action items, and other flags from that week’s Check-ins

Staying connected across timezones and continents

Across the US and India, Kristen Toole and the Adobe Content Experiences & Innovation team rely on standups to stay connected and aligned. Kristen is based in San Jose, California. The rest of the team, made up of designers and a content strategist, is based in the company’s Bangalore and Noida, India offices.

They started using Range Check-ins before the pandemic as a way to eliminate daily standups, which were difficult to coordinate across timezones. After COVID-19 hit and the team went fully remote, they started using Meetings as a way to make their time together over video more engaging and effective too.

Building visibility and alignment on a daily basis

At Adobe, team members share their daily Check-ins each morning when they sign on for the day. Each Check-in is structured in three parts: what they’ve accomplished, what they’re focused on that day, and how they’re doing. In addition to sharing their own Check-in, teammates are expected to read and react to each others’ updates — this has helped Kristen’s team spot moments to collaborate with each other that may have been missed before.

“[Before we started using Check-ins], I was swimming in status reports that I didn’t have time to read, which were completely siloed,” says Kristen. “It was impossible for teammates to see what they could pitch in and help with. What I’m seeing now is totally different and part of our culture. People are seeing items in Check-ins, seeing they’re working on similar things, and inviting each other to collaborate. It’s no longer top-down; now the benefits are organic.”

Connecting and collaborating over video each week

In addition to daily Check-ins, Kristen’s entire team comes together weekly for a video standup. Since status updates are covered by Check-ins, their video standup can focus more on collaboration and connection.

The context from everyone’s Check-ins helps augment these discussions. Because folks have better visibility into each other’s day-to-day, they’re more proactive about reaching out and collaborating, or offering support when a teammate needs it.

They also build 15 minutes into the agenda to answer team-building icebreaker questions, which helps folks bond, while also building trust and psychological safety.

“It’s everyone’s favorite part of the meeting, and that’s why we give it time. Other people might do that for a few months and then say, ‘OK, we’re a team now, we’ll skip that and be all business.’ We said no, this is crucial to who we are as a team. People still talk about what were their favorite questions.”

Kristen’s team uses Meetings to facilitate their weekly video standup. With Meetings, you can set recurring topics, add topics during the meeting as things come up, and use the spinner tool to facilitate a smoother, more engaging discussion. The spinner randomly determines who speaks next to get more people talking throughout the session. (Research shows if someone speaks at the beginning of a meeting, they’re more likely to stay engaged throughout.)

“It’s become so much easier to create an agenda, and we’re constantly actioning things,” says Kristen. “Capturing notes has now changed from a passive thing to an active thing. And engagement is so much higher in these meetings.”

Learn more about how Adobe uses Range to foster team culture

Wellthy: Check-ins as pre-reading for the team’s daily standup

Cadence and format

  • Written updates: Daily
  • Meeting: Daily

Written updates

  • Written daily updates that help the team prepare for standup
  • Provide helpful context into in-flight work so everyone’s on the same page
  • Help individuals prepare for what they’ll surface during the meeting
  • Make in-person time more effective

Meeting

  • A space to see each other and connect daily
  • Bond with a team-building question
  • Address blockers and items flagged in people’s Check-ins

Standups that integrate seamlessly into the team’s workflow

Wellthy helps families with care coordination, providing personalized support for people as they navigate the system when caring for aging or chronically ill loved ones. It’s offered at many companies as a benefit, supporting employees at progressive workplaces like Cisco, Facebook, and Salesforce.

The team at Wellthy has over 200 people, fully remote, and CTO Kevin Roche leads the technical teams. Standups play a key role in how they move work forward, and they’ve always approached them a little differently.

“We had established a culture early on of taking a moment to plan your day in the morning, then publishing it through Slack,” says Kevin. “It gave people a sense of what‘s getting done.” They found Range easy to fit into this workflow, with reminders and nudges that helped remind people to publish their Check-ins.

“The engineers wanted an easier way to pop things in from GitHub or have a calendar integration, and the non-engineering teams are heavy Asana users. So when we started to look for a tool with better integrations, we thought Range was really attractive. We tested Range for a little while, really liked it, and switched over.”

Using written updates to prep for standup meetings

Kevin and his team use Check-ins each morning to provide context and prepare for their daily stand-up meeting, which happens over video.

“It helps people structure what they’re going to say and prepare for the meeting. It also helps as we’re in different time zones, and we can see when people post in our engineering Slack channel, so we have the benefit of communicating asynchronously as our default. If for whatever reason someone can’t make the standup, they still know what’s happening.”

With Check-ins, teams report on what they’re planning to do for the day, what they’ve done. With a click, they can add their work to their items, such as docs, calendar items, pull requests from GitHub, or Asana boards. “The integrations match up really well with all the tools we use,” he says, “and the Chrome extension makes things much easier. Teams really appreciate how simple it is to add work items to their Check-ins.”

Bringing the team together to connect and address blockers

Because status updates are already covered in Range, Wellthy’s standups can be more effective and more engaging for the whole team. Instead of going over every single update each time, Kevin’s team the video standup to address flags and blockers, and spend some time bonding as a team.

“We answer a question of the day. The facilitator either brings their own question or we use the daily Range question,” Kevin continues. ”We really instituted this when we went remote. There was a strong desire to see each other every day and talk about something that wasn’t just work-related — we require video on — so once a day we’re going to create that connection.”

“Then we have a standing agenda item for pulling in blockers from people’s Check-ins so we can discuss them.” At the end of the standup, Range Meetings automatically share the notes and actions with everyone that took part in the meeting.

“I think the biggest game changer for us is the Meetings functionality. A lot of companies really don’t think through the structure of their meetings or have an official way of managing the agenda, taking notes, and assigning actions. Having a simple tool that everyone agrees on and that can facilitate best practices like opening the meeting with an opening round makes all the difference. People who join Wellthy remark at how well run our meetings are.”
Learn more about how Wellthy uses Range to run better standups and meetings

Informed K12: Written updates cover the work so that meetings can focus on connection

Cadence and format

  • Written updates: Daily
  • Meeting: Daily

Written updates

  • Daily status updates to give visibility into in-flight work and how folks are feeling
  • Help developers plan for their day and build accountability
  • Allow standup meeting to be shorter and more holistic in nature

Meeting

  • A daily space to come together and connect
  • Help the manager check in on how everyone is doing and better support the team
  • Work through issues as they come up, rather than just a round-robin of updates

Finding ways to better support the team

When Ethan Schlenker joined Informed K12, a startup focused on helping school district administrators operate efficiently and gain insight into their most critical school business processes, he wanted to establish practices to best support his six-person engineering team. As the lead manager for the entire engineering team, he needed to know how work was moving forward and how his team was doing. At the same time, Ethan was especially conscious of avoiding processes that felt like micromanagement.

“Developers can be kind of persnickety about what you’re asking them to do, how you’re keeping track of things,” Ethan explains. “Coding is creative work, and I’m always wary as a manager of things that might help me out, but are detrimental to the team’s process. I want to make sure I’m respecting their space and not making them feel micromanaged. But with Range, everyone picked it up pretty easily. It gave people a shared to-do list where they could see what was going on, and everyone felt that value quickly.”

Using Check-ins to cover status updates and improve visibility

While some teams use Check-ins to replace their standups, Ethan wanted the daily Check-in to augment his team’s daily meeting. He found the Informed K12 office culture really strong, and meeting-lite. They held a daily standup for 30 minutes, and as they shifted to working remotely, that standup was the one time to see each other.

Each day, team members create a Check-in which captures what they plan to do and what they’ve done and attach their work through integrations — such as pull requests or docs — along with relevant context and any blockers. People can also report on their mood with a green, yellow, red system and an emoji — which offers helpful context into how the team is doing on a daily basis. Ethan also uses the Team Directory to understand how other teams’ or individuals’ projects are progressing. Rather than having to chase down an update, he can just take a look at their Check-ins.

“It makes it really easy to see what people are working on, how they’re connecting and following up with each other without having to chase those updates down. It’s been great, and a real pleasure to have this part of my manager life taken care of.”

Coming together to connect and build remote team culture

Because status updates are covered in each person’s daily Check-in, Informed K12’s video standup can be much more about connection, something Ethan says the team found they needed after going fully remote due to COVID-19.

“Range does a really nice job of taking that accountability piece and making it something that doesn’t necessarily have to happen in the standup,” he says. “That’s been particularly useful during shelter-in-place. We know at least once a day we’ll come together as a team, see each other’s faces, connect, crack some jokes. In general, you want standups to be functional — this is what I did, this is what I’m going to do — and not talking about this funny thing that happened.”

“Range makes sure we have the functional part covered,” he continues. “It helps developers have a plan for their day and gives visibility into what’s happening. That also helps our standup meeting be more holistic in nature. We can have really good short morning meetings with the team where we don’t have to get too much into the perfunctory accountability stuff — it’s all captured in Range for everyone to see. As a manager, I can use that time to talk to my team and make sure everyone is doing OK. I don’t have to hound anybody to make sure they are putting their information into Range — the team has really taken to it."

Being able to sense the wellbeing of the team and strengthen team culture every day is a key factor that Ethan thinks sets Range apart from other tools.

“What Range does so well is introduce thematic daily questions that focus on how the team works. So we’re able to talk about feedback for a week. A lot of those questions actually lead to interesting conversations on the team, whether that’s people finding out who likes horror movies and who doesn’t or really meaningful ones around different working styles. And having them come from an outside place as opposed to me the manager saying ‘Let’s talk about feedback and everyone going, ‘Oh, OK, yeah.’”

Learn more about how Informed K12 uses Range to enhance their standups

Try out Range with your team

Like Adobe, Wellthy, and Informed K12, many teams (especially remote ones) have found success in taking a hybrid approach to standups that combines written updates with face-to-face ones.

Every team and org is different. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to standups, we hope these examples can serve as inspiration, a starting point to get you thinking about new ways to make your standup meeting more effective (https://www.range.co/resources/standup-meetings).

Try out Check-ins with your team


Rethinking your team’s standup? Here are 3 new approaches to try out
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