Do we need Standup in Tech? Why?
The context of this blogpost is Engineering teams in the tech companies.
Many engineering teams are doing the dailies. Often, the teams are doing it only because it is the best practice in the industry. We also all been there on questioning this daily meeting. What values does it bring? Why do not need it? And actually, sometimes it makes sense not to have them. Let’s dig a little deeper into that.
A Standup is a tool. Every tool helps to solve a problem, and we need to understand which one. For example, the tool umbrella helps us to stay dry, when there is the rain. If it does not rain, the umbrella is not needed. You need to know which problems you are trying to solve by doing the Standup and when to use it.
Here are some of the problems it may solve. Below there are some questions to help you to assess if your team has that particular case.
What is good Standup? There is a great blog post dedicated to that It’s Not Just Standing Up: Patterns for Daily Standup Meetings. Here I will focus on the reasoning. I’m not going into any other implementation details, should this Standup be face to face or offline in Slack.
Focus around the team goal
Nowadays, many things are happening. It is easy for a person to lose focus and get lost in the implementation details. For the team, it is more often the case than we would want to believe. In this case, the team needs a way to remind about the goal and stay focused.
Ask yourself if your team keep the focus on the common goal as one entity? Is something slowing down the team to reach it? Is the team working on the most important things?
The tool could be the Standup with focus on checking if daily actions are moving to reach the goal. This feedback loop tells the team if the current approach is good enough early. It helps to make adjustments also soon.
Watch out when the team forgets about team health and creates more and more tech-debt. The narrow focus is also not healthy. The team needs to balance its focus.
Similar tools help also. Quick progress check-ins, progress reviews or any other type of get-together activities help. Planning sessions are a slower feedback tool since usually happening every week. Find your balance on how often you need to do it.
The Standup may help people to engage. Imagine you have a football team and focus on togetherness to reach a common goal. Does your team feel connected, involved and functions together as a football team? Is your team new? Is it going through more significant changes? The team needs to put effort to keep connected.
Watch out if the Standup is the only tool which the team together. Do other team bonding activities. Standup could only help a little on the topic. It cannot be a primary tool to have a connected group.
Other tools have more impact. After-work team activities, team lunches, team dinners, game nights, cooking classes help better.
Feedback on team behaviour adjustments
Feedback comes from the team members and observers outside of the team. Time-wise, it happens rarely. Often team manager needs to request it. It is easier when information comes to the manager.
Did your team agree to change behaviour recently? Standup here is the reoccurring tool to share information. If you miss it, feel free to ping the team about it. It is a reminder that change is important.
Be cautious on how you are asking and do not go crazy about it. Leave time and space to the team to change. At the same time, the team needs to know this agreed change is happening.
Use as alternative methods mentoring or coaching sessions. You can do it for the whole team or each team member.
Ability to react to new team impediments
When something is stopping to reach the goal, the team addresses the same issue moment. In reality, it does not happen, and team spots it on next retrospective or when the problem is too big not to notice.
How does the team discover new impediments? Do you need to ask if something is slowing down? Does the team do the retrospectives? The Standup can help the team to readjust itself around the blockers.
It does not mean that the team has to wait until the daily to talk about the issue. Do it when the problem occurs. The time missed is a development waste - #5. Waist in Lean Software development
When the team needs more coordination
When the group requires coordination, team member calls the meeting between involved members. It is the perfect case, and it works with more straightforward cases. Is your team about to do a big release? Is your team aligned on the way of working? Is your daily work different every day?
How exactly those alignments happening, depends on Tuckman stage is the team is. Tuckman’s stages of group development - Wikipedia. For example, for new teams, the manager needs to coordinate and mentor the team. It can during standup. In this case, keep coordination short, up to 1 minute, and keep it on a high level. Discuss the details in followups, or dedicated catchup.
Review the cases for your team
It may seem that Standup is some sort of silver bullet. It is not. Check the alternative solutions first. There is always a solution to a particular problem with a more significant impact.
Standup is a helper on the list of the problems, and with focus on a particular problem, it can solve the issue. In some cases, you may arrive at the team state that you will not need a Standup at all.
When doing the Standup, keep it real. If your meeting is like Potemkin village - Wikipedia change it, experiment or stop doing it. After some time the team will rediscover again why it did exist in the first place.
If you are not doing the Standup, make sure you are not missing out.
Make sure you know the existing issues within the team. Use one-on-ones, retros, questionaries to understand them. Collect the information from the whole team to see if you have problems to address. Do not rely on only your own opinion. To get more realistic observations, ask and discuss it with your team members.
Check if offline Standup can solve the problems your team is addressing. It is asynchronous non-blocking communication. Listing the pros and cons of it are worth another blogpost. For now, I would recommend doing the exercise of thought about it and if you think it is worth it - try it out.
Always know why you are doing Standup or not doing it. It helps to keep it real within the team. It helps for anyone going through the pace “why in the world, we are doing those dailies?” Or “why in these team there is no Standup?”
Every team is different; it is in a different stage and has different needs. Only you, as a team member or team manager, can assess and come up with the best suggestion for improvement.
Standup can help with many things, can have a focus on several things and also can be obsolete. We can solve a single problem in many different ways. Your team members suggest and decide on how to do something. Do it together and pick the right tool to crack your issues.