Are daily standups inefficient?

Daily standup meetings are a ritual usually followed by scrum and agile teams. According to sources, 81% of scrum teams hold daily standups. Agile and non-agile teams too.

While they are considered an important part, they are overlooked. Daily standups can be a waste of time for the team when not done correctly. They aren’t worth it if they are unable to provide value and align the team on the same page.

Let’s dive further to explore it in detail and various formats that you may consider.

What are daily standups?

Daily standups are brief meetings where team members share updates about their progress and discuss blockers. The aim is to sync teams with the projects and it usually last for 15 minutes or less.

The motive behind these meetings is to promote productivity and efficiency among team members.

Where do they go wrong?

These daily standups are progressive. However, when it takes the wrong direction, it can cause trouble. Below are a few signs of the same:

When it is stretched for too long

A few of the reasons why standup meetings last for more than 15 minutes are:

  • These meetings are overly detailed. 
  • These meetings include gossip and meaningless discussions. 
  • The team size is large which takes longer time to listen to everyone’s updates and blockers. 

When things are discussed unrelated to other members' work

Another factor behind inefficient standups is unrelated things discussed in the meetings. This not only leads to a lack of focus but also lowers participation in discussions. It dilutes the meeting’s purpose and gives less time for addressing real issues. Hence, impacting the overall team’s progress and performance.

When it becomes monotonous

This is one of the common pitfalls of daily standups. When tasks or updates remain unchanged for an extended period, they become repetitive. They stop adding value to these meetings and hence, team members start finding it boring. This lowers the opportunities to address challenges and collaboration among team members.

When managers consider it to be an opportunity to micromanage their team

Daily standups may lose their essence when engineering leaders start micromanaging their teams. This can be detrimental to the team’s productivity when managers closely monitor and scrutinize their progress. Further, this can disrupt the flow of work as well as decrease their problem-solving skills.

When trying to solve a problem or challenges in standups

Standup meetings are meant to be brief and straight to the point. When engineering leaders start taking up the challenges, they aren’t fulfilling the motive of effective standups. Solving a problem should be taken in the follow-up meeting. These meetings are for daily updates, progress, and discussion of blockers.

But, are they really a waste of time?

If done correctly, daily standups aren’t a waste of time. Accountability and transparency are two aspects of standup meetings. When engineering leaders stick to the right format for these meetings, they will be efficient and straightforward.

Effective daily standups are short. It should be interactive and track the progress of the team members without controlling every aspect of it. Further, this can result in:

Improves communication

Daily standups act as a vital communication tool within agile and scrum teams. When engineering leaders ask three standard standup questions ( We will discuss them in the next section), it helps in conveying need-to-know information quickly as well as distilling updates into clear brief standards.

Align projects with people and sprint goals

Daily standups help in staying clear with sprint goals, what has been accomplished, and what needs to be addressed. This helps in gaining visibility into each other progress and also focuses on the team’s common goals and sprint objectives.

Address blockers and blind spots:

It doesn’t mean that the engineering leaders need to take up the problems during the daily standups. Rather, they need to be aware of and acknowledge the challenges they are facing.

Since it is the first step to address blockers and blind spots.

Fosters accountability:

Standup meetings give a sense of accountability and ownership to team members. It is because they share their progress and commitments with other members. Hence, it encourages them to meet their obligations and deliver results on time.

Time management:

Standup meetings allow team members to discuss their tasks and work on them according to their priorities. This helps them to set a clear daily focus, stay on track, and adapt to changing circumstances smoothly.

Different standup meeting formats to try

There are various daily standup formats you can try to not make them monotonous and ineffective. A few of them include:

Scrum standard questions

This is a well-known standup format where three questions are asked during the daily scrum or daily standup meetings. These include:

What did you do yesterday?

This question encourages team members to share what tasks they have completed the previous day. It gives them a sense of accomplishment and an update on how much progress has been made.

What will you do today?

This question allows team members to outline their plans and tasks for the current workday. This lets them prioritize their work according to scrum planning and align with other individuals.

Any blockers or impediments preventing you from doing your work?

Team members can discuss the blockers and challenges they are facing while doing a specific task. This allows the team to address the blindspots early and ensure the team stays on track.

Such types of meetings can be a good starting point for new agile and scrum teams. As it helps in creating small, achievable goals that can be shared with everyone.However, ensure that it doesn’t turn out to be another dreaded status update. It may also not be suitable for large teams as it can be time-consuming and unproductive.

Walk the board format

This standup format focuses on managing the work, not the people. The question asked during these meetings is simple - “What can we finish today?

”This helps the team to not give needless status updates to prove they are working.

In this format, all you have to do is:

  • Review WIP (Work in progress) on scrum board.
  • Start from ‘What is the closest to getting done?’ to ‘What has just been started?’ (Go from right to left) 

It is a visual progress tracking. Hence, it lets team members understand the tasks better and prioritize tasks accordingly.

However, it may considered to be a rigid format and may not always work for remote teams.

Traffic light standup

This format focuses on the emotional state of the team members. It helps in keeping a check on how they feel about their work.

In this format, you have to ask individuals whether they are feeling red, yellow, or green (representing traffic light colors).

Red

Red means that they are feeling blocked, distracted, overwhelmed, or exhausted. The reason may vary from person to person. It gives you an idea to focus on them first and have a one-on-one meeting. Ensure that you prioritize these individuals as they may resign from the organization or be mentally unavailable.

Yellow

Yellow is somewhere between they are present yet not able to focus fully. They are probably facing some minor issues or delays which need to be addressed early. Hence, it could signify that they are looking for help or collaboration.

Green

Green signifies that team members are feeling happy, energized, and confident at their workplace. The reasons may vary such as working as per sprint planning, aligning well with their team, or no blockages.

Although it may not work as a daily standup you can combine it with other standup formats. Ensure that you don’t use it as a team therapy. Rather, to understand the team’s mental well-being and the blockers they are facing, if any.

Asynchronous standup

Also known as ‘Async standups’ or ‘Written standups’. Here, the team members communicate their updates in written form. Such as using email, slack, or Microsoft Teams.

This allows them to provide updates at a time that is convenient for them. It is also best suited for remote teams across various time zones.As information and updates are written, it becomes easily searchable and accessible.However, asynchronous standups can be ineffective in some cases. This could be when meetings require a high level of collaboration and problem-solving or where quick feedback and immediate adaptation are critical.

‘Wins and blockers’ standup format

With this format, two things are in focus. It includes:

Important progress updates or accomplishments as a team

Team members share their wins, progress made, or any other positive developments since the last meeting. This encourages them to celebrate their achievements and improve their morale. It also allows members to acknowledge each other work and contributions.

Blockers or challenges preventing from moving toward the goal

Team members share the obstacles or challenges they are facing while moving forward. It can include anything that is hindering their performance. Such as technical difficulties, unable to understand any task, or due to any other team member. It allows prompt resolution and addressing blockers.

These two aspects help in identifying the blind spots earlier as well as building a positive environment for team members.

However, this format may not be able to give a clear picture of the tasks the team is currently working on.

Remember to choose what suits you the best. For example, if your team is short and new, you can go for scrum standard questions. And when your team is growing, you can choose other formats or customize them accordingly.

How Typo can help you?

To make your task easier, you can sign up for Typo, an intelligent engineering platform focusing on developers’ productivity and well-being. 

  • With their ‘Work log’ feature, you can take note of your team members’ tasks and progress. It also allows you to check who is overworked and feeling burnout. 
  • The ‘Sprint management’ feature allows you to track the team’s progress daily. With this, the important tasks are prioritized and new work is added only after that.
Typo can help you

These two above-mentioned features not only gain visibility in your team members' work but also act as an upgrade to traditional standup meetings.Book your demo today!

Conclusion

Daily standups are a vital part of the organization. They aren’t inefficient and a waste of time if you know the motive behind them.

Ensure that you don’t follow old-age best practices blindly. Customize these standup meetings according to your team size, preference, and other aspects.

After all, the best results come from what is thoughtful and deliberate. Not what is easy and familiar.