Let's Get Rid of The Daily Standup

Anyone who’s ever worked in an agile environment knows the drill: the daily standup huddle. Originally conceived as a quick and efficient way to keep teams aligned, standups can sometimes morph into productivity vampires, sucking the energy out of your morning with lengthy discussions and tangential rabbit holes.

I recently found myself on the receiving end of this phenomenon. A series of scheduling conflicts forced me to miss several standups in a row. Thankfully, my work is relatively siloed, and no project meltdowns ensued. However, I did feel a noticeable disconnect. I was out of the loop on what the team was working on, and they weren’t exactly clued into mine. This experience got me rethinking the true value of standups, and whether there might be a better way to achieve the same goals.

Rethinking Standups

As any developer working in an “agile” team can attest to, standups always have been a double-edged sword. They offer the potential for quick, focused updates, but all too often, they devolve into hour-long meetings filled with off-topic chatter. Picture this: a 20-minute standup balloons into an information dump marathon, derailing your focus and leaving you feeling sluggish before lunch. Especially for remote or hybrid teams, these mid-morning meetings can wreak havoc on pre-lunch productivity.

Sidenote: While standups are a core tenet of Agile, a rigid adherence to any methodology can stifle creativity and hinder efficiency. The key lies in being able to be extremely flexible when adopting any methodology. Unpacking this idea further deserves an entire blog post for another day!

Crafting Efficiency Through Written Communication

There’s a growing movement towards asynchronous communication in the workplace, and for good reason. This approach prioritizes written communication, allowing for thoughtful updates and increased flexibility. Here are some ways to ditch the live standup and embrace the power of async:

  • Asynchronous Standup Reports: Leverage digital tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or project management software. Team members can post daily or weekly updates in a dedicated channel, outlining their progress, plans, and any roadblocks they’re facing. This asynchronous approach allows for timezone flexibility and lets everyone digest the information at their own pace.
  • Enhanced Documentation: Encourage the team to utilize shared documents like Google Docs or Confluence pages. Here, team members can delve deeper into their tasks, challenges, and insights in a structured manner. This creates a living document that provides a richer and more detailed project history than fleeting standup conversations.
  • Weekly Digests: Compile a weekly newsletter or digest summarizing the team’s achievements, upcoming goals, and key discussions or decisions. This broader perspective allows for deeper engagement with the material and fosters a sense of shared purpose.

The shift towards written communication offers several advantages. It maximizes productivity by respecting individual work styles and accommodating diverse work environments.

But the benefits extend beyond just efficiency. Written communication creates a record of the team’s journey. This archive of progress, challenges, and solutions becomes a valuable resource for future projects and decision-making. Another huge potential of this backlog of information is that it could serve as an invaluable onboarding resource for new team members.

Final Thoughts

My brief hiatus from standups served as a wake-up call. While it didn’t derail any projects, it did highlight the importance of these daily huddles in fostering team alignment. However, there’s always room for improvement. As the world of work continues to evolve, exploring asynchronous alternatives can help us create a system that keeps everyone informed without sacrificing precious time.