profile

Remotely Interesting

Standups are outdated. Do this instead...

Published 7 months agoΒ β€’Β 9 min read

Hey there, We're back after a 3-month hiatus. Hope you are well and apologies for my absence! While the media has been busy proclaiming "remote work is dead", my business has been growing like crazy. Haven't had a single free moment to write over these last couple of months πŸ˜…

Today, I'm back with the much-requested topic of why standups are outdated. This is a two-part issue. First, we'll discuss why standups suck and what you can do instead. Then, in the next issue, I'll dive into one of the specific async approaches I use with the companies I work with. Let's get started...


​
When I ask people about their experience with daily standups, the most common answers are:

"I just give my update, then zone out. Feels like a total waste of time."
"There's always that one person that talks forever and puts us over the allotted time."
"I'm not getting any value out of them 99% of the time, but I'm still forced to attend for the 1% chance something useful comes out of it."

When the majority negatively respond to such a prevalent activity, it's no longer possible to look past the dust and decay. What was once a useful tool has now become just another dreaded meeting. The standard daily standup is outdated and ineffective, but where do we go from here?

TLDR below πŸ‘‡ | Read this on the web | Subscribe​

History

Daily standups started in 1993 and were popularized via the Agile Manifesto in 2001. In the last 30 years, the technology sector exploded, the workforce globalized, and remote work took off like a rocket ship. Yet, despite so many changes, daily standups have remained stubbornly the same.

This has caused what was once a useful mechanism to turn into a hated tool that regularly goes on too long, occurs too frequently, and includes people who shouldn't be there. It's become something that wastes everyone's time with no benefit.

This is largely due to the fact that standups were designed based on the 6th Agile principle, "Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication." While this may have been true 30 years ago, technology has come a long way since then. This method was designed for a time of in-person office work where virtual communications involved beepers and dial-up internet.

The Agile creators who wrote that principle were not thinking of face-to-face conversations as Zoom calls. They didn't know about messaging tools like Slack or collaborative documentation like Google Docs. The possibility of teams spread across multiple time zones never occurred to them. Problems like Zoom fatigue and meeting overload weren't on their radar. The way we work, the tools we have available, and the issues we are attempting to solve are entirely different today.

When we use outdated methods to solve today's problems, we work against ourselves, which impedes all progress. And, as we know, anytime we attempt to replicate what worked in the office remotely, we end up degrading the remote work experience and decreasing productivity. It's a different medium that requires a different approach.

​

Why Daily Standups Are Ineffective

People for daily standups will say they are great for everything from status updates, blocker resolution, team alignment, and socialization. I argue this is way too much to handle effectively in what's supposed to be a 15-minute meeting. Also, the notion that a synchronous meeting is the best method to cover most of those items is ill-conceived.

If we go back to best practices, we know synchronous is best used for speed and relationship-building.

Speed because you can get an answer instantly since everyone is there and available. Connection because people connect best when they're creating experiences together. Everything else is typically best done asynchronously.

So let's break down the purpose of daily standups to see where it fits in with best practices for our new ways of work:

  1. Status updates - This is information sharing which is best done async so there is an automatic log, information is clearly communicated, and it gives team members the flexibility to catch up in their own time.
  2. Blocker resolution - This one is tricky. You could argue that there is a need for speed for blocker resolution (which would be best done synchronously). However, if your team needs this daily, there are bigger issues at play.
  3. Team alignment - Another area best done async, which creates space for well-thought replies and resources to reference. Did you know only 30% of adults pick up on things best verbally? While synchronous might be best for addressing significant conflicts, async practices are best for everyday team alignment.
  4. Socialization - While this is typically best done synchronously, the time limit, forced nature, and work focus of daily standups make them far less effective than other options.

Daily standups are ineffective for remote teams because they use the wrong communication method for their purpose. All the common issues people experience with them, from the call going on too long to including people that shouldn't be there to wasting everyone's time, all stem back to this root problem.

Proponents of the Agile methodology will argue they're only ineffective without best practices. But even with best practices, daily standups are still not the best method and weren't designed for today's work.

When I recently posted my thoughts on standups, it spoke volumes to me that the people defending them in the comments were primarily people running them (not attendees). Makes you wonder, who are daily standups really serving?

​

Alternatives

If daily standups aren't the answer, what is? Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all solution, so it depends on the team. To start, ask your team what they like and dislike about your current standups. The best people to tell you how to fix it are the ones dealing with it.

Once you have feedback, consider experimenting in one of these three areas:

  1. Move parts of the standup async - If switching completely to async standups is too daunting, consider just switching the part where everyone provides their update. Then, you can instead use the synchronous time to address blockers and connect with the team.
  2. Reduce the frequency - Do you really need to meet daily? Unless you're in a micromanagement culture, meeting daily is probably unnecessary. Consider trying out reducing the frequency to once or twice a week. A small change like switching to Tuesday/Thursday standups eliminates 60% of the standup meetings from your team's calendar. That adds up to a significant chunk of time over a year. Consider whether this time is actually best spent on a standup call.
  3. Change it up as needed - What works for one project won't work for the next one. What worked for the original team might not be best for a team of new hires. As your team and work shift over time, it's important to regularly evaluate whether your approach is still working. Change is the only constant in life. Instead of getting stuck in a rut of one way of work, ride the tides of change and adjust as needed.

In our next issue, I'll dive into one of the alternatives that has been quite successful with a number of my client companies. However, it's important to start with what's mentioned above first to ease your team into the idea of changing something that has been stagnant for so long.

​

Conclusion

Saying daily standups are outdated now doesn't mean they were never useful. This analysis isn't to say whether they ever worked, just that they clearly aren't working anymore.

As dissatisfaction grows and more participants resort to tuning out during standups, the meeting's effectiveness will only continue to diminish. Standup organizers need to step up and stop ignoring the growing resentment from participants. It's time to acknowledge work has changed. We can no longer accept bad defaults as our norm.

​

TLDR

Daily standups are outdated and ineffective. They regularly:

β€’ Go on too long
β€’ Are too frequent
β€’ Include people that shouldn't be there
β€’ End up wasting everyone's time with no benefit.

It's time to acknowledge work has changed.

​(Share this on Twitter)​

​

Quote of the Week
​

twitter profile avatar
Marissa Goldberg
Twitter Logo
@mar15sa
10:7 PM β€’ Jun 12, 2023
8
Retweets
83
Likes
​

​
In Other News

​Friday Notes Keep Us on the Same Page​
"As the company grows, it is important to create scalable (1-to-many) opportunities for people to get to know the company’s leaders better."

"Friday Notes are straightforward messages meant to give employees a clearer view into what’s going on in the CEO’s mind and how he’s thinking about the state of the company."

​We Don't Do That Here​
"Setting culture is hard. It is hard when you are officially the boss or the leader. It is hard when you are just another person on the team trying to create an environment that welcomes all types of people. Setting boundaries for acceptable behavior can be scary, and it can have both personal and professional consequences."

​Fathers Gained Family Time in the Pandemic. Many Don’t Want to Give It Back.​
"Ryan McCarty, the Cincinnati branch director for the employment agency Robert Half, was away from home for 13 hours a day before the pandemic, including evening events and his 45-minute commute. Now he works from home, which he said has enabled him to be there for his two toddlers for meals, doctor visits and milestones. One took his first steps in the middle of a weekday morning. Mr. McCarty is there in a video of it, in a button-down shirt and sweatpants, having run out from his home office to witness it."

​

In Case You Missed It

​

​

​

​Read this to transform your remote work experience​
The Remotely Interesting newsletter is now two years old. With 35 articles to choose from, it might be hard to find what you're looking for. Check out our last issue for my specific recommendations targeting common remote work concerns.

​

Behind the Scenes

Interviewed on one of my favorite author's podcasts. Let me know your thoughts:

Named one of the top 50 remote work innovators:

​
​

​


​

Work Forward Society Updates

*The links in this section are only available if you’re a Work Forward Society member. Their support makes this work possible. If you're interested, join the waiting list to be notified when the community membership reopens.*

1. First course available! The first five lessons of the Remote Work Fundamentals course are now available! This is the pre-requisite knowledge before diving into the upcoming async work mini-courses. Make sure to check it out. It might surprise you.

2. Check out the new community roadmap! I shared what the plan is for the next courses, plus bonus features coming soon. Comment to let me know what you think.

3. In case you missed it, Eddie posted about a positive async work transition, Ryan shared a new Atlassian feature that supports async updates, Josh talked about how he got out of an ad hoc call, and Jeff discussed how he pushed back on return-to-office demands.

​


What did you think of this issue? What do you hope you'll see in the next one? Feel free to reply to this message or DM me on Twitter @mar15sa.

I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this. Hope you have a lovely day!

Marissa
​
Founder, Remote Work Prep​

P.S.

​

Remotely Interesting

9-5, Monday-Friday, in-person office work are all relics of the past. This thoughtful newsletter helps you reflect on your current way of life and create actionable steps for a more intentional future. Let's revolutionize how you live by changing how you work.

Read more from Remotely Interesting
Happy 2nd Birthday

Welcome back to another issue of Remotely Interesting! We recently celebrated the 2nd birthday of this newsletter 2 years 35 issues 0 to 2,399 subscribers Just want to take a moment to say thank you for all your support! I will forever appreciate the time you take to read, reply, and share my work. Every time I considered stopping, a kind comment came my way and kept me going. You all are the best! Here's to continuing the journey of revolutionizing how we live by changing how we work....

11 months agoΒ β€’Β 9 min read
Person thinking about resting, reading, working out, and taking care of themselves

Welcome back to another issue of Remotely Interesting! This week, we have something different. I'm kicking off a new series this year on uncommon but innovative benefits. In case you missed it, we did a series of Work Style interviews last year, profiling people with untraditional workdays. This latest series will be similar in that it will be occasional features over the next year with the goal of helping you see what unique benefits are out there and spark new ideas. This first benefit...

about 1 year agoΒ β€’Β 12 min read
Person cutting off an anchor from themselves

Hey there, quick note, thank you to everyone who registered to join the Work Forward Society, a community for people who want to end bad meetings and explore working async-first. Doors have closed to the founding membership. I was aiming to have 10 people join, but instead, we have 28 amazing founding members 🀯 If you want to be notified when the membership reopens, you can sign up for the waitlist here. When I ask people about the differences between remote and office work, they typically...

about 1 year agoΒ β€’Β 8 min read
Share this post