Is your daily standup worth the time it takes?
A daily standup is typically a short daily meeting where the engineering team meets with their product owner or scrum master to discuss the status of tasks that are currently in progress, help alleviate blockers, and change the backlog as needed. This meeting is an integral part of many agile teams’ days.
In the Scrum methodology (where the Standup is referred to as the “Daily Scrum”), each team member should answer these three questions:
- What did I do yesterday?
- What will I do today?
- Is there anything blocking my work?
This seems like a productive way for the team to interact daily, but in my experience, daily standups have ranged from productive to agonizing. Here are some pros and cons of the daily standup:
When done well, there can be a lot of benefits to having a daily standup.
When I worked in an office, every morning at 9:30 a.m., we would meet (near the coffee pot) for our standup. Everyone would actually “stand up” and talk about their plans for the day. The content wasn’t always useful, but there was some benefit to starting each day the same way.
Team face time
Sometimes, it’s hard to get everyone together for a face-to-face meeting, and having a standing engagement can help. Ideally, the daily standup should help build team cohesiveness and improve communication between the members.
Can eliminate other meetings
In a perfect world, you have your daily standup in lieu of other meetings. The team knows everyone’s progress and blockers, so there’s no need to schedule additional meetings. Sometimes this works, especially from the product owner or scrum master’s perspective. They don’t have to track down each Engineer individually.
Can help eliminate blockers
Since one of the main points of the daily standup is to discuss blockers, the hope is that those blockers can be eliminated as well. I’ve seen engineers stuck on a bug or feature get advice from other team members in the standup, which makes it a quick and easy way to get work flowing again.
For many teams, daily standups can turn into a daily grind.
Harder for remote teams
Even though it seems like remote teams could benefit more from a daily sync, in my experience, the opposite has been true — and even more so for teams working across a large time zone range. While there was some benefit to hearing what team members ending their day had completed, daily standups seem more useful when they’re held at the same point in everyone’s workday.
It is another meeting
Engineers are notorious for wanting to avoid meetings, and the daily standup is obviously a meeting that you have to show up to every day. Particularly when held over video conferencing, it can easily become another meeting to dread — especially when you are already in the middle of something else.
Everyone needs to participate
For a daily standup to be most useful, the whole team needs to be there and put some thought into the information that they’re sharing. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some people schedule over the standup, show up late, or answer their questions with one-word answers.
It’s easy to run over time
In Scrum, the daily standup is usually time-boxed to 15 minutes or less. However, in my experience, it was not uncommon for the standup to creep to 30 minutes and then end up in a follow-up meeting later that day (the opposite of what the standup is supposed to accomplish).
So, with the pros and cons in mind, is it worth keeping the daily standup on the calendar? In my opinion, it all boils down to one question:
Does the team find it useful?
If the answer is yes, then keep doing what you’re doing.
If the answer is no, ditch it! (Or at least change some variables about it: length, frequency, etc.)
While the decision to have a daily standup should be up to your engineering team and product owner, here are a few things that I think are important to keep in mind:
Make sure that you’re not holding a daily standup because you do Scrum and the daily scrum is an important part of Scrum, so if the team doesn’t like it, too bad. Zealotry is one of the product management mistakes that can ruin team morale.
Respect your time
If the meeting is scheduled for 15 minutes, it should end after 15 minutes. (This is true of almost all meetings.) Don’t let your standup creep up to being a 30-minute or hour affair. If you’re holding your meeting in person, actually standing up for your standup can help keep it shorter.
Consider asynchronous standups
When working with remote teams, I’ve found varying success with asynchronous standups. These can be done in many ways, including emails or Slack applications, but the idea is that each person does their part in the standup when they come online, and other team members review as needed. This loses the face-to-face benefits but can still help with communication and blockers.
Make sure your team is a team
Finally, I’ve found that when you have a high-functioning team that respects one another, you need a daily standup less. The team already has their communication worked out, and they’re already a cohesive unit that works together to let each other know about their progress and blockers. Of course, building a team like this can take years, and some groups of people will just never gel together — but if you achieve it, work gets done without the need for extra meetings.