This is a topic I’ve kept going back and forth on. Do I like daily stand-ups or not? They feel old fashion, the team didn’t like doing them, and really, in the era of instant communication, with chat programs like Teams, Slack, or Discord, is there a need for a daily stand-up? So lets explore the good and the bad of daily stand-ups.
My experience with Scrum-style stand-ups are quick meetings to get the entire team on the same page. They go around the room answering three (and only three) questions, “what did you do yesterday?” “what are you doing today?”, and “what is blocking your work?” Everything else, including trying to solve the blockers, is done outside of the meeting. The team strives for fifteen minutes or less. It is a rapid-fire ritual that leads to the first concern. If you are just identifying and not solving any problems, how does this help?
The other big concern I’ve had with daily stand-ups comes from modern communication methods. Scrum was originally in a paper in 1986 and later formalized into the methodology we know in 1995. The need for a daily stand-up back then, when there were limited internet options, was much greater and an important part of the day. As mentioned in the opener, these days there is a plethora of group messaging options. So now in the communication era, why do we need a single time during the day to tell each other what is blocking our progress? Why can’t we do that when problems arise?
If you answered all of these questions like I did, then you came to the conclusion that a daily stand-up was outdated and useless; a relic from a quarter century ago. Then the pandemic hit and the business world ended up relying exclusively on the internet communication channels and after two and a half years of exclusively talking through Slack and Teams, I miss the stand-ups and I have a new found respect for what they help.
See, just because a team can communicate their problems instantly over group chats, doesn’t mean they always will. I’ve seen reasons for this ranging from feeling silly asking for help, to asking others in private messages, to being so focused on their work that they forget that they need to stop and communicate. There have been team members go days without checking slack just because they were deep into the weeds of code and forgot to turn it on. Some members are just more comfortable with different members and ping each other privately for help. But if that other member can’t help or is too busy the blocker sits there unresolved; even if other members could have helped. Finally, a lot of people are sheepish asking for assistance, but it seems especially true when they have to ask it alone.
So a stand-up in reality isn’t just to communicate, but also for the team to hold themselves accountable for their progress and for their communication. Do you want to rely on stand-ups to take the pulse of your team? No, probably not. Even that is best left to a weekly meeting, comments on tickets, and regular metrics. Are stand-ups annoying for the team? Yes, it jars them out of what they were working on and forces them to talk to each other, as well as think about their priorities. I don’t think that is such a bad thing.
Overall, whether daily stand-ups work for your team or not depends on what problems you are trying to solve. The point here is to not just think of stand-ups as a way to transfer information, but as a way to the team to take stock of their day, work, and progress.