Standup meeting (n): a short meeting meant for keeping teams aligned and quickly resolving issues.
Synonyms: daily scrum, stand-up, a daily huddle, morning roll-call, quick sync.
The “daily standup” has become so visibly central to how developers work that its influence has even started to spread through entire companies. These 15-minute planning meetings shape not just the work itself, but the way teams interact and function.
Yet many share the quiet feeling that it often falls short of expectations — to help teams move work forward efficiently.
If you feel this tension, you're not alone. While many standups go according to plan, many instances of this daily ritual go off the rails and become inefficient time sucks. The meeting that's supposed to provide clarity and assistance instead leaves you feeling frustrated, confused, and disconnected from your team.
In some ways, the standup meeting itself has become a blocker. And when they start to break down, it mostly goes unspoken. This type of process issue usually isn’t addressed unless there’s some external force that requires the team to reassess how they work together.
One such force has come from the COVID pandemic. Many companies have shifted to remote work. As a result, the shortcomings of old processes have been placed in sharp relief, often making the bad parts worse. This can be especially true for standups.
People are currently unable to physically stand up in the same room for a meeting — which can change the dynamic. And hosting meetings over video often takes more time, are less engaging, and can be mentally taxing.
There are also fewer opportunities to collect an ambient layer of non-verbal communication that comes from being in an office. People are required to be more intentional about how they interact.
So, how exactly does the standup erode?
And how can teams make them better?
To answer these questions, we’ll take a look at the past, present, and future of the standup meeting. We’ll also explore some specific tactics you can put in practice to capture the impact the meeting should have. Whether you're in an office, remote, or some combination of the two. There are a ton of ways for you to breathe new life and value into your standups. And it may look very different than the one you have now.
Standups are not like other meetings.
- They’re meant for small, focused groups
- They last no longer than 15 minutes
- If more time is need, you likely need to:
- a) Break your team’s workstream into smaller buckets and
- b) have the smaller buckets run their own short daily briefings
- They’re for sharing concise summaries, not collaboration
- They’re for addressing specific problems areas and blockers
- They have an organized but not draconian structure
- Observers (“fly on the wall”) from other teams are welcome to listen in (transparency)
- They are about empowering individual contributors
- They’re a reliable source of support
- They’re laser focused on active and recently completed work
Like other meetings, they bring people together—a single team usually—to discuss, plan, and move projects along. There are agenda items and facilitators as well. But, while other meetings can be quite formal information dumps in large gatherings, this one is about keeping a small group abreast of the issues and sharing short-term progress.
They're not for deep dives on specific tasks, creative brainstorming, tracking work hours, or lengthy process discussions.
Yet, many teams start to use them for these reasons, making them a standup in name, not philosophy. Just like scope creep, they experience meeting creep, where a meeting starts to expand beyond its intended purpose. This leads to daily standup meetings that don't live up to their core value: to triage and get aligned quickly.
Not addressing these types of bad habits impacts productivity, and in turn, team effectiveness. The result: progress slows as people become less engaged and more out of sync.
Ineffective standups can happen regardless of whether you're new to the standup meeting format or have been doing them for years. There can be different reasons for this, but a consistent one we hear about involves team leaders who lose sight of the fact that these huddles are foremost about supporting individual contributors (IC).
At the end of the day, an ineffective standup fails because it fails them. If individuals fail, then so too does the larger team and the organization.
The more you move away from the original intention, the more unfocused and unproductive your standup becomes. This erosion often doesn’t happen at once.
As a dependable daily meeting, a standup is a tempting place to cover other information, that, while interesting, isn't relevant to the goal of the meeting. Once this happens, it can also have a domino effect on other meetings. Soon you're using standups for company updates and 1:1s for planning.
For example, consider the phrase take it offline—meaning pick up a topic of discussion in a smaller group after the meeting has concluded. It’s useful on occasion and a common practice for standups.
But what this shouldn't lead to is more time spent getting aligned outside of the meeting because something wasn't clear, someone over talked, or a request for help wasn't voiced—it defeats the purpose of the standup. It also costs teams precious time and resources.
And with remote work being embraced as a long-term option, even "offlining" becomes harder to scale and maintain.
Put it this way: a majority of the modern workforce dislikes meetings because they lack clarity of purpose, focus, and meaningful outcomes. Standups were originally designed with these objectives in mind.
To understand why this meeting format originally became a mainstay, and is still a powerful tool for productivity, let’s look at how it came about and what problem it solved so effectively.
A Brief History
Early to Mid-Twentieth Century
From the Roman forums of antiquity to the factory floors of the early 1900s in the United States, meetings have played an essential role in reinforcing collective identity. This “hive” mentality instills a sense of shared purpose that directly impacts work ethic, problem solving, and production.
Meetings around shared traumas led to the unionization of the modern workforce and prepared major social movements to break down seemingly insurmountable barriers. At different points in human history, groups used meetings to share knowledge and illicit support, often in dangerous circumstances. All in service of the idea that human beings are stronger when we work together than when we go it alone — i.e. more than the sum of our parts.
The daily standup was a return to this simple idea — a need to share knowledge and skills to consistently produce positive outcomes. Whether that’s 20th century nurses quickly checking in before shift changes or software engineers working on a multifaceted project with many dependencies and too many silos.
Meetings are often formed to solve a specific set of problems. But they also have a pesky tendency to outlive their usefulness if not adjusted for the times.
The Daily Standup: a rebuke of bureaucratic posturing
“Certainly a great many meetings waste a great deal of everyone’s time and seem to be held for historical rather than practical reasons; many long-established committees are little more than memorials to dead problems.”
This quote is from a 1976 piece in the Harvard Business Review by management writer, Sir Antony Jay. The article highlights a host of reasons for why people meet, how it helps with accomplishing goals, and the indispensable position such rituals hold for social bonding and trust.
He then points out that no meeting — whether short and held daily for an intimate group or for the entire company once a month — should be kept around for the purpose of appearing busy or exercising power.
As the human population boomed between WWII and the end of the century, the rise of innovative technologies like the personal computer saw the introduction of entirely new industries and millions of jobs. This decades-long event was a catalyst for new organizational structures to keep people informed and give rule to potential chaos. The middle manager was born.
These thousands of new employees would report their output during meetings in very structured and tedious ways that took time and was only useful to a select few.
Seeing that speed would be the biggest advantage over competitors in creating new software products, a select group of individuals came up with a new philosophy of work called Agile that championed smaller groups and aggressive knowledge sharing to catch and remedy problems faster.
Speeding up the process
Agile is an umbrella philosophy under which many frameworks exist.
Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka first introduced the idea behind SCRUM ("commercial new product development”) in 1986. A term that was known only to rugby fans at the time, the two Japanese businessmen used principles borrowed from the sport to optimize the software development process.
“The ball gets passed within the team as it moves as a unit up the field.”
It was a fresh take on how to accelerate productivity at a time when demand and competition were high in a young tech sector. What they outlined was a system designed to tear down process hurdles and make teams faster, thereby more competitive.
“That absolute alignment of purpose and trust is something that creates greatness.” —Jeff Sutherland
It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that James Coplien suggested the daily standup meeting in the well-regarded Borland QuatroPro for Windows study. It was then redefined for the Scrum framework by Jeff Sutherland, which he expanded upon later in multiple books including Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time.
Sutherland’s view was that daily standup didn’t work in practice around the turn of the century because it was being used as a time for passive status updates, which did little for productivity. Instead, he advocated for it to be used as a way for “the team to quickly confer on how to move toward victory.”
His approach to the standup meeting was about activation. Similar models to Scrum like Kanban — an Agile method developed at Microsoft in 2004 inspired by lean manufacturing practices — also employed the daily meeting (“daily Kanban”) to keep teams in sync and accountable to one another.
The daily standup originally gained traction because it helped teams streamline bulky processes for working together, leading to some of the highest-productivity companies in the world.
The daily standup gets its name from the literal act of standing. It was meant as a physical deterrent to long meetings, and a way for people to be engaged. However, the name isn’t inclusive for employees with physical disabilities.
More than a meeting about efficiency, the standup is also a vehicle for individuals to feel like part of a team. This encourages them to be vulnerable and open about issues related to work, which helps surface problems so they can be addressed. It’s not a stretch to view this as a form of ableism. "Standing up" has little to do with the actual efficacy of this type of meeting.
Standups continued to grow in popularity, along with the use of Agile frameworks, and now over 70% of development teams — and more recently marketing, project management, and product teams — use some form of the short synchronous (in-person) chat on a regular cadence.
Despite this popularity, it's not uncommon for teams to struggle with making the standup work for their unique situations — whether co-located or remote. The COVID-19 pandemic has only added a layer of complexity, forcing many professionals around the globe to work from home.
Now more than ever, a chance to briefly connect with teammates often is crucial for getting anything done.
The challenge, however, comes with trying to squeeze a "traditional" standup format into a digital scenario that it wasn’t designed for originally. There are plenty of reasons why this doesn’t work—not least of which being that people have lost sight of its purpose.
Revisiting the fundamentals can help you discover where you can make adjustments to fit any scenario. Check out the post below for some practical tips on making the standup work.9 practical tips to make your next standup meeting way better
Let’s take a look at what approaches work well for standups and practices that should be avoided.
What works & what doesn’t
Why do you actually need a standup?
If your answer is “other teams have one,” then we need to talk.
Let’s get personal for a second. You probably start your day by going through a host of morning rituals: making the bed, brewing a cup of coffee, and choosing what you’ll wear. You do this not because someone else said you had to (required it of you), but because these actions help you get from point A to B to C in the morning. Your rituals are intrinsic, justified, and provide value that’s for your benefit.
This is exactly what your daily or recurring standup meeting should offer to everyone on your team every time. Whether that benefit is feeling supported when someone is blocked or just keeping up with the challenges others face. Its purpose is to make the life of individuals easier, get the team into a flow, and help projects progress faster.
A good standup meeting should have:
- A purpose
- Questions that guide sharing
- A convenient way to meet real-time
- Readily available support for issues
Foremost, every good meeting should have a solid, unambiguous purpose before anyone sits down in a conference room, stands up in front of their desk, or hops on a Zoom call. To be clear, having a purpose is different than having an agenda. The agenda is a list of topics. Your purpose, especially for ongoing meetings, justifies bringing multiple people together for an allotted period of time in service of a meaningful outcome.
We’ve spoken to teams who feel their manager does a standup to showcase to leadership the team is busy. Others report standups that are booked early in the day as a way to force the team to begin working at the same (early) time. How exactly do these two reasons help the individuals on your team? The answer: they don't.
A more fitting purpose for your standup is to bring your cross-functional team together for them to share any developments about their work and surface any blockers that have come up since the previous session. It’s also about accountability to the project and one another. It’s a meeting that’s in direct service of moving toward completion quickly and without hiccups. Everyone who participates in the standup should understand this.
If you’ve been to a standup meeting before, you’re likely familiar with some form of these three questions:
- What did you get done?
- What will you work on?
- What’s standing in your way?
Questions like these are core to the standup (see the brief history above) because they help steer the meeting and encourage the sharing of concise, relevant information between team members.
The ones from the above list are widely used because they reduce oversharing. Each can be answered in one or two sentences, allowing enough time for others to speak without the meeting running over.
There’s no exact order, phrasing, or number of questions you ‘must’ ask for your standup. Remember, it’s not a draconian set of rules meant to belabor a meeting or keep a team in check. Like vegetarianism or IDEO’s approach to Design Thinking, it’s an outline to fill in based on what makes the most sense for you.
For example, at Range we use a variation of the first two questions in our asynchronous Check-in feature. We can also raise flags in Check-ins that notify the team about issues and blockers. People are encouraged to share the right amount of context to help people understand the state of the work, but to keep it succinct. Just like questions in a meeting, it takes practice to get right.
Experiment: With alignment top of mind for your standup meetings, try switching up the order of your questions on occasion or swapping out a question for another that encourages succinct sharing.
How you approach these questions will directly affect how much your team gets out of the meeting and how they feel about the work ahead of them.5 ways to transform your standup into the feel-good meeting your team deserves
There are ways to capture the value of the standup meeting without physically standing around or being face-to-face. While the Agile manifesto does point out that this is the “most efficient and effective method of conveying information”, it doesn't mean it's the only way to do so. Especially if doing it this way just isn’t an option — e.g. during a pandemic.
Depending on how your team operates, you may need to consider ditching or at least adjusting the traditional office-based practices in favor of efficiency.
How you go about this will be determined by the size of your team, how they’re distributed across locations and time zones, and each individual’s preferred schedule. While this might seem complicated at first, walking through the options with your team can help gain alignment on what’s needed.
Let’s say you’re fifteen people spread across three different time zones working on two parallel projects. Squeezing everyone into one fifteen-minute session is not only a logistical nightmare, it likely won’t serve everyone attending equally. But information does need to be shared.
Take a moment to revisit the purpose. Once everyone is clear, there are a few ways to retool your standup to be more dynamic.
One option is to go mostly asynchronous with your standup using software (such as Range) and reducing the number of real-time meetings. Our teams reserve in-person meetings as opportunities to have meaningful conversations about moving work forward in collaboration sessions, rather than as a place to review status updates. It saves a lot (a lot) of time and keeps the team in sync, even if they are working in other time zones. So we’ve preserved the goal of standups by building it into our software.
More and more teams are using tools like Range to do asynchronous standups, often in Slack or Microsoft Teams. While this might seem radical, because there’s no standing involved, most teams shift to this model smoothly.
You might also consider breaking the team into two 10-minute meetings. That way everyone can attend the meeting that’s relevant to their work. No one should have to attend more than one to get what they need.
It’s worth repeating that standup meetings are not All Hands meetings. They are not about hashing things out or reporting on metrics. That’s why it’s important that you keep the purpose in mind and think actively about how best the standup can serve individual contributors (IC). Leave the other stuff to other formats.
A support system (for ICs)
The number one outcome for every standup meeting should be making sure that everyone on your team can share progress and get support to unblock themselves.
Everything else is secondary.
“Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.” — Agile Manifesto Principles
The standup creates a permission structure to talk openly about what's getting in the way of progress, what’s been completed recently, and what each contributor intends to work on next.
This permission structure is doubly important for those who may feel uncomfortable sharing something that can be read as a ‘negative’ for fear of repercussions. Vulnerability plays a huge role in this type of workplace interaction.
Building up vulnerability is a major plus because it empowers your team to share with candor and without reservation. This type of openness is a crucial feature in making sure that “mistakes” don’t get buried.
“As emotional beings, it’s common for our ability to ask questions, point out potential mistakes, and share observations to take a hit overtime. We grow more and more concerned with how we are perceived by others and, as a result, speak up less and less.” — from the article An Introduction to psychological safety
It’s something we all could pay a little more attention to.
This also means that new and innovative ideas that could speed up a project or take it in a surprising direction also gets surfaced. Maybe someone on your team has experience at a previous company with an issue that is brought up, but doesn’t share for fear of appearing pretentious or alienating others—particularly if the person experiencing a blocker is in a leadership role. Creating a supportive and safe environment where it’s acceptable for anyone to engage freely helps solve this problem.
And research from Google and others has shown that open teams are often the most successful and effective ones. Without support for voicing concerns and getting help, a culture of reclusion spawns where things go unattended and productivity and morale suffers as a result.
Fostering camaraderie is a constant exercise in the art and science of building trust.
Perhaps a less obvious benefit of the standup meeting is that it helps teams identify as a team. People are naturally social beings. Teamwork is built on trust, and in order to sustain that trust, we need to have regular interactions, called belonging cues. Without it, teamwork starts to break down.
As a daily ritual, the standup can play a very important role in strengthening the crucial bonds that drive success.
Research also shows that solving problems together and working toward a common goal reinforces a group’s identity and motivates contributors, leading to improved job performance.
One way to bolster camaraderie is to build super quick icebreakers into your standup or create a rapid fire round where everyone shares something about their morning and what they’re excited about that day. You could even play a lightning fast game. The point is to offer opportunities for colleagues to strengthen bonds. These bonds are closely tied to work ethic and success.
While the social ritual component of standups can have a really positive effect on the team, it can often take on the characteristics of your larger company culture—for better and for worse. It’s important to watch out for cues that negative behaviors are seeping into your standup meetings, and act on removing them from how you run your standup.
Which brings us to the bad.
“Often there is one person who feels powerful in the meeting, and they will keep feeding the zombie with the coworker’s brains just to preserve that feeling.” — Scott Berkun
We all have likely encountered micromanagers in some way, shape, and form. In every instance, teams and projects are worse off for it. It should come as no surprise then that these micromanaging tendencies spill over into meetings, including the standup. The actions of these types of managers — which can stem from a lack of trust, a need to control, or low self-esteem — are the opposite of the principles that fuel effective standups: trust, self-regulation, and openness.
Too often, the need for managers to be the center of attention and feel like they're running the show can derail this daily sync from providing the opportunity for others to speak up and solve problems.
You can read more about micromanaging and how it can hold a team back below, and how managers can counter it below.5 reasons your micromanaging boss is micromanaging you and how to work toward greater autonomy
Long status updates
A significant part of the standup meeting is getting a chance to inform others about where you are on a project and what’s coming up next. Sharing this kind of brief update can instill confidence in the team’s work and add structure to the day.
Yet, the desire to dive deep into what someone has uncovered, especially when there’s passion involved, is tempting. But, the standup meeting is not the right forum for long-winded updates about process and the journeys behind decisions.
Here’s a breakdown of a 15-minute standup timeline model (8 contributors):
- Start with a icebreaker: 3 minutes (max)
- Report on any project updates: 5 minutes (not everyone will have an update)
- Issue tracking and resolution: 5 minutes
- Assigning action items: 2 minutes
- Note: it’s highly encouraged that you have your team write down their updates and share them asynchronously before the meeting.
The goal, even with sharing information, is to keep the meeting short and be a gauge on their work. The monthly all hands, one-on-ones, and other forums are much better times to broadcast exciting findings. If it feels necessary for an attendee to share detailed context, chances are there may be a lack of clarity on why something is being worked on in the first place.
It's a relatively ubiquitous opinion that meeting culture is out of control. We talk about it a lot and so do many others. While some leaders and executives spend upwards of 23 hours on average a week sitting in a conference room, it’s surprising that their drag on productivity isn’t discussed more.
Workdays are riddled with odd blocks of time between meetings that prevent people from getting into a zone of deep focus or a ‘flow’ of uninterrupted work. Not only is this disruptive, it creates an environment where people feel a loss of control and find it harder to get a handle on work.
Starting the day with a standup meeting is a popular practice and can work well for some teams. There may be plenty of reasons why your team isn’t one of them.
For one thing, they could live across three different time zones and keep different schedules that help each of them do their best work.
Some colleagues thrive in the evening and others are quite happy to start at 5 AM. Some managers may have children, and still others have roommates or family members they have to tend to throughout the day. The landscape has changed dramatically since the days of being confined to one geolocation and in one office.
Teams are truly global now. Shifting how you measure success away from the number of hours worked and when to the results they reproduce is a critical component of setting yourself up for success.
Being flexible, in this case, is allowing the time for everyone to find what works best for them and working backwards to make sure tools for the team like the standup doesn’t get in the way.
As highlighted above, you daily sync can be done in written form and supplemented with a video check-in if necessary. Or there could be a time that works for everyone. Be open to this not looking like how you’ve seen it done before. The point is to find solutions that add to productivity and speed up the process.
Anti-patterns are responses by managers to perceived issues on their team that are often ineffective and can be highly counterproductive.
Using the standup meeting as a way to enforce inflexible work schedules, keeping physical tabs on work-in-progress with a whiteboard, or doing a roll-call to give an air of busyness are all examples of anti-patterns. These patterns often oppress others on the team and make them feel powerless in their work and at the company. They stymie progress, erode team effectiveness, and should be corrected ASAP and ideally avoided altogether.
Everyone is capable of this behavior — serial micromanagers or otherwise. They’re particularly harmful when they seep into standup meetings.
The standup is predicated on trust and openness, which is the opposite behavior that anti-patterns tend to inspire. If they’ve already seeped into your culture, it's likely taking a toll on your team and often will go unmentioned. It’s a root cause of one of the most critical problems facing tech workers today: burnout.
To address anti-patterns, it will take some active work, and some hard questions will need to be answered.3 anti-patterns to avoid in your standup culture at all costs
Battling Standup Fatigue & Burnout
Sometimes, the most counterproductive aspects of standup meetings, and company culture in general, is the underlying negative tension about attending the meeting that no one feels ‘safe’ to bring up. So it remains invisible. This is at the expense of a loss of team trust, the erosion of cohesiveness, and an overall reduction in productivity.
One of the biggest offenders? Workplace tradition. Carrying on with bureaucratic practices simply because it is how your organization, team or manager has always done it. Nevermind that your work context may have changed or life events (we are people with lives, after all) require a creative solution to a new problem.
This is incredibly relevant to the standup meeting, which is often viewed as a rigid exercise that is essential to creating quality products. The reality is that the standup meeting is meant to change over time. For the simple reason that needs change over time.
Sometimes this means ditching the synchronous standup meeting entirely in favor of something else if it no longer feels useful. Other times it means making structural adjustments to reflect the evolution of everyone’s workstreams and work situation.
The challenge is maintaining purpose. The most direct way to do this is through being intentional about change and supporting the team. Like ditching the whiteboard.
Many may not want to hear this, but all the cool bells and whistles associated with the standup meeting can get in the way of fulfilling its purpose.
From Improvement Boards aka Kanban Boards to sticky notes and card walls in Scrum—these have all become measures of traditional standup meetings. Even when the changing dynamics of the workforce (people not necessarily in the same office) make these more of a burden to tend to rather than an activity that empowers ICs.
Some of these traditions may work wonders for your purposes. In which case, carry on! But keep in mind that sometimes opposition on the team to a practice that delays progress may go unnamed.
If you’ve cultivated a culture of openness or empowered your team to take ownership of processes, then someone will say when something isn’t working. If you have not nurtured such an environment, then may be silently hurting your team.
The Standup We All Deserve
Are standup meetings a waste of time?
The version of the “standup” that offers the most value doesn't necessarily happen face-to-face. In the late 90s and early-2000s, there were fewer reasons to doubt the efficiency of meeting in person — everyone was in the office and work was generally more siloed with little sharing necessary for things to get done.
In addition, there were few tools to support an alternative, more dynamic process for catching up.
Now, as cross-functional teams have become more globalized and productivity apps that support remote teams fill the market, there’s less of a need to host this transactional meeting live.
Are face-to-face meetings still invaluable to psychological safety and innovation? Absolutely. Feeding off one another’s energy and actively responding to comments on the spot are pivotal ingredients for successful collaboration and building trust. It simply might be better for your team to reserve this synchronous time for specific collaboration sessions.
In reviewing the purpose of the standup and what it helps you achieve, the benefits of sharing updates asynchronously are hard to ignore. It’s less costly to run (theoretically less team hours), there’s a “paper trail” of what’s happening on the team for reference, it’s convenient for everyone’s schedule, and it’s easier to centralize documents in one place with consistency and reliability — if the right practices are put in place.
A benefit for managers specifically is that it eases the burden on your schedule. The standup is the meeting where folks raise their hand to point out a problem that’s holding them up and to share progress. Depending on how large or small the team is, you may schedule follow up meetings with each team member to try to keep the meeting short. This means more time on your calendar getting the details so you can help.
Doing this async keeps your calendar a little clearer, and provides you an opportunity to dig into the details in more specifics. It also encourages your team to be self-managers and accountable for sharing their work and what they need help with.
Regardless of what route you take, we want to get you off on the right foot. Here’s a list of useful do’s and don'ts for running your standup in a synchronous fashion or asynchronous one.
Taking topics offline
- DO: Encourage attendees to connect if someone has insight about a roadblock that could help resolve the issue. If the offline discussion is useful for the wider team, enlist the person who was blocked to share what they learned in their next update. Remind them to keep it brief. You don’t want to spend a ton of time on details unless they’re relevant. If members of the team want to collaborate on the topic, then encourage them to set up a video collaboration session.
- DON’T: Take topics offline if it’ll bring the whole team into alignment. Ask contributors to reserve offlining and real-time video calls for follow up on topics related to blockers and sharing additional information. AND KEEP IT SHORT. The purpose is to spend less time meeting and more time getting into your flow.
- DO: Foster a culture of vulnerability and trust. Something we talk a lot about at Range is psychological safety: a belief that one can share ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes without fear of humiliation or reprisal. Open and vulnerable teams tend to be stronger and more effective ones.
- DON’T: Make the update about appealing to the team leader and their needs or promote a culture where sharing blockers or noble failures is met with contempt. Doing so is one of the fastest ways to ensure a breakdown in alignment.
- DO: Empower your team to voluntarily share information about projects and progress. This team management style of self-regulation inspires ownership, persistence, and innovation. It may also reduce the negative impact of micromanaging.
- DON’T: Pressure people to speak, share, or explain details about their progress during the standup meeting or asynchronously. The truth is, not everyone will have a meaningful update every session. That’s okay. Make sure everyone knows that they’re equally accountable for keeping the team up to date as the team lead, and the best way to do that is to share as soon as relevant updates become available.
“The cost of misalignment is higher than the cost of a daily standup so make sure your alternative is reliable.” — Jason Yip
- DO: Offer a set of standard questions as a template for what to expect and what to prepare.
- DON’T: Be so strict that you prevent important information from being shared with the team because someone deemed it not related to the questions being asked. The three questions mentioned above are a framework, not a rule.
Supporting Remote Teams
- DO: Keep your team energized and excited about the work being done by making sure they’re kept in the loop. This helps everyone feel safe and like a part of the team. Consider asynchronous ways for them to share progress and give them a point person to allow them to quickly catch up on what happened in the most recent meeting if they missed it.
- DON’T: Make remote team members spread across multiple locations and time zones feel like an inconvenience or an imposition due to planning around their schedule. The standup meeting is about supporting them as much as it is about any other employee. Again, asynchronous check-ins are a great solution here.
While a majority of developer teams use some form of the standup meeting, more and more non-technical teams are turning to this nifty short meeting format to get themselves aligned in the morning before work. Not surprising, since teams with more effective communication are 50% more likely to have less turnover and 75% of people rate teamwork and collaboration as very important.
Standups in a Changing Work Landscape
Work is changing. People are coming to the realization that we don’t have to continue practices we started doing 10, 20, or 100 years ago if they are no longer conducive to productivity.The Guide to Windowed Work
Encouraging people to change a beloved tradition, however, is often met with a fair bit of stubbornness and resistance. But once we get over the hurdle of holding onto the past, future opportunities for streamlining processes, building consensus quicker, and ultimately achieving greater success as a team open up to us.
The tools are at our disposal. We just need the will to make the transition.
The standup, for example, has been an indispensable tool for developers since the early 2000s. It’s not only a way to speed up the release of products with fewer bugs, the ritual has also become a part of their identity as a developer (if they practice Agile at least).
Asking them to let go and try a new approach, though similar in its intent and output, can be tough. Routines die hard, and new habits can be hard to establish. The way we overcome this is by revisiting the core purpose of the standup time and again. It was never meant to be a ritual that was set in stone. It’s simply a means for a fast end. A tool for bolstering production.
With this in mind, procedural components of the standup including literally standing around in a circle or hosting the meeting in the morning, are often easy to let go.
Switching the update portion of the meeting — where the team answers a set of standard questions — to an async online tool that allows them to provide status updates wherever and whenever makes the most sense, is usually seen as a relatively light lift. Of course, getting folks to actively look at it daily will take time, but will be worth it in the end.
Similarly, reserving actual video meetings to go over blockers is a great way to optimize the standup experience.
We’re in a phase of work where the same openness and experimentation that led to the creation of the standup meeting can also yield a new tool and style of problem solving that’s specially built for the needs of today.
You don’t have to abandon your standup meeting at this very moment if you’re not ready. It’s better to be thoughtful and intentional about what takes its place. Yet, getting the process started and thinking through what your teams actual needs are, will help you stay ahead of the curve and beat the competition.
After all, it’s the sole driver for having a standup in the first place.
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