· 6 min read ·
Looking at the featured image you might think that we are going to discuss standup comedy in this blog. Please bounce off this page if that’s what you are thinking. Ok let’s get down to business now.
A recurring session for people working together to succinctly discuss the progress that has been made on a project. The idea is that the meeting is short and focusses only on the important issues - so everyone can just stand for the course of the meeting.
One of the most common standups is the daily standup conducted by the engineering team.
The goal of the daily standup is to due a quick checkin to make sure that:
There are two types of standups. Let’s look at each.
In this type of standup everyone answers the following questions related to their work.
You are not expected to speak for a long time. Each member takes less than a minute to answer these questions for their work.
The goal of these questions in threefold:
If you have a blocker that needs a deep dive then you “parking lot” the issue. This means that a smaller group of people who can help unblock you stay back after the standup to further discuss the issue. If the issues still persist even after this then a longer meeting is scheduled to deep dive further. In the meantime you can start working on something else to maintain the efficiency of the team.
Walk the board
This one means walking across your physical or digital board together as a team. Anyone from the team can do it. A great way is to get a different team member to lead this exercise each day. This is an organic way of getting everyone in the team to understand the entire project.
The goal of both these types of is the same. The big difference lies in how they achieve it. Round Robin focusses on individuals and supporting them to complete their tasks. On the other hand, walk the board focuses on how the project as a whole is moving along and what blockers exist for it.
I would recommend Round Robin if the team is new and inexperienced. And walk the board if the majority of the team is experienced.
Standups work because they are scheduled for a fixed amount of time. Usually 5 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the team. The idea behind keeping the short is to make sure everyone only shares what’s needed.
You need to maintain a regular cadence for your standup meetings. You can have daily or weekly standups depending on the needs of your team. Two things to keep in mind while deciding the frequency of the standup:
Ask your team. You don’t have to do a daily standup if the work that your team is doing takes longer to show meaningful progress.
The location of the meeting should be accessible to everyone. This might sound like an obvious thing but sometimes its not. I have been in situations where I have had to run from one building to another to attend standups wondering Why!!! 🤦 🏃🏻 .
Location of the standup should check the following boxes:
What if the entire team or part of it remote? It is a common scenario these days. We will discuss remote standup in a separate section in detail.
Standup agendas should remain constant as much as possible. You can tweak the agenda after a period of time based on whether its working or not. But not something that should be changed everyday or every week.
The agenda for standups revolves around the three questions:
If your standup follows walk the board model then your agenda is to identify project blockers.
Everyone invited should attend the standup everyday. If they are not able to then they should send their update to the team before the standup. I’m not a big fan of “optional” invites to standups but sometimes it’s the only way to juggle multiple meetings.
Standups are not documentation heavy. However you need to keep track of blockers that surface in them. Make sure that the right people get together to solve the issue after the standup. Keep track of any action items that need to come out of these meetings so that they don’t fall between the tracks.
The size of a standup meeting should not be more than 10 people. Otherwise it will become too long and cumbersome like a regular meeting. But what do you do if you have a large team? In those cases try and break down the team into smaller logical groups that can work independently . The engineering manager, scrum master or product manager can be the common link and track the project as a whole.
The concept of Standup sounds great in theory. Just like any other framework or concept you would have come across 🤪 . But in the real world you will often find yourself at a crossroads between the concept and its application.
Let’s look at some of the issues that are bound to crop up:
In today’s reality most of us have attended remote meetings and remote standups are probably more common than offline standups. (I wonder now if it should it still be called a standup or a sitdown? 🤪 )
There are a lot of templates out there to run and log a remote standup meeting. It is great if the person responsible for running the meeting keeps a record of the notes for further action. Whiteboards are a great way to log issues surfaced in a remote meeting. I have personally used Trello and Figjam. However every team is different and feel free to explore a few templates to find something that suits you.
You could give everyone a few minutes at the start of the meeting to write down their thoughts on any blockers, what went well etc and then go through them during the meeting. Make sure to move issues into the parking lot and follow up on when they will be discussed.
If your team is committed to adhering to the true character of what a standup stands for then it will work. Otherwise your standup will start looking like those long never ending meetings that are a huge drain on your company resources.