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Standups Will Never be Good

Posted on:June 30, 2023 at 12:25 PM

Let’s talk about scum daily standup meetings in context of resource gathering. Each person is giving their update to the manager. So at any time there are probably at most two people gaining from the conversation. So this problem of distraction goes up exponentially with meeting size. There are sometimes exceptions, but I’ve found this is the rule.

I was once on a team that had good retros with open candor and a willingness on all parts to experiment and evaluate our processes and workflows. One insightful engineer spoke up saying, “in all my years I’ve never had a really good standup meeting”. We thought for a bit and decided to experiment with dropping standup meetings and feel out what was lost if anything.

The interesting thing was we did end up meeting with most the team most days. The difference was it was targeted discussion involving the right people. Eventually we reinstated a weekly all team standup to report up progress to manager and product (unfortunately open experimentation was localized in this company).

Companies typically have several meetings that follow the pattern of being bored/distracted most of the time. Almost always it’s a status meeting. None is as detrimental as the daily standup because it’s “daily”, but if you can, try to avoid these meetings and have someone take notes on the part you’re interested in so you don’t miss out. Or have them record the meeting so you can scrub through it later. Or, if your culture will allow, let the meeting owner know it’s not a meeting that should happen. Explore what would be lost if it was cancelled and find other creative ways to fill that gap.