Overlooked Benefits of Daily Standup Meetings

Over the years, we’ve heard countless stories from our users about how their daily standups are a waste of time and that the downsides outweigh the benefits.

These complaints aren’t without merit. Standup meetings frequently get off track, last too long, and disrupt developers who are just getting into a groove. So it’s understandable why so many folks view standups as “ineffective” and “unnecessary.”

However, from our experience, teams who lash out against standups usually fall into common pitfalls, such as:

With that being said, there are significant benefits of holding daily standups — and the problems can be eliminated once you find a way to hold effective standups that avoid the mistakes most teams make.

In this article, we’re going to discuss several benefits of daily standups that many folks tend to overlook:

1. Promotes Task-Specific Communication

2. Helps Developers Discover Workarounds for Problems They’re Having

3. Reduces the Number of Required Daily or Weekly Meetings

4. Lets Your Team Re-Adjust Priorities

5. Increases Employee Motivation and Morale

Note: Working to find a solution to our specific problem — running daily standups with a remote team — we ended up building an asynchronous standup tool that integrates with Slack, and we use it every day ourselves along with 60,000+ users. Geekbot lets teams hold standups that are (1) faster and (2) less disruptive. If you’re curious, learn more or sign up for a free 30 day trial.

1. Promotes Task-Specific Communication

Some of our clients have very naturally communicative teams — where Product Managers don’t have to pull teeth to get developers to talk with one another. Other clients that we’ve talked to have a team full of introverts who are more inclined to sit at their computer, code, and keep to themselves with headphones on.

Both types of teams and team members benefit from daily standups.

If your team is communicative throughout their workday, that’s great, but it’s often not a sufficient replacement for daily standups. You want your team to be communicative with task-specific information that is relevant to the sprint they’re in, and you want that information visible for the entire team. Daily standups give structure to communication because they’re hyper-focused on what developers have finished, what they’re currently working on, and whether they’re facing impediments.

On the other hand, if your team is naturally introverted, and developers are reticent to communicate about blockers that may come up, then standups are meant to promote those conversations. And their structure helps alleviate the stress a team member may have when talking in any other daily meeting. Your developers shouldn’t have to worry about what they’re going to say because the 3 standup questions work as a guide. 

2. Helps Developers Discover Workarounds for Problems They’re Having

Let’s say developer ‘A’ is supposed to be working on refactoring the code around the sign-up feature on a mobile app. But they keep running into issues which are making this relatively straightforward project last a few days. Unknown to developer A, they’re up against a tweak in the code that makes this job harder than it has to be.

Another developer on the team — developer ‘B’ — encountered the same problem last week when working on an adjacent task. That developer found a workaround, but it took them a good four hours.

Because these developers are currently working on different parts of the product, there isn’t any reason for them to communicate about this issue. Developer A is on a path now to relive the same 4-hour obstacle that developer B already worked through.

But in the daily standup, developer A would share their block, and developer B would see that, acknowledge they have a workaround, and schedule a time to sit down and collaborate.

(Note: Notice that in the daily standup, all developer B does is acknowledge the roadblock, and make plans to help developer A after the meeting. Neither developer should turn the standup meeting into an impromptu meeting room to discuss and solve developer A’s blocker.)

Some agile teams maintain that they can eliminate blocks or impediments with normal intra-office communication, but in practice, intra-office communication isn’t as efficient as a daily standup for a few specific reasons:

  1. Daily standups are more rigid and task-focused due to the standup questions that guide the meeting, whereas general team communication is naturally full of more “fluff”.
  2. Intra-office communication is often limited in scope. When developers talk to one another in an office, it’s not like everyone stops what they’re doing and listens. It’s usually 2 or 3 developers talking to one another in a mini-huddle, and not the entire agile development team. Daily standups are effective because the information is shared to all developers in an easy to digest platform. However, if run incorrectly, standup meetings become bloated with irrelevant information, take up a significant chunk of each day, and disrupt your team’s schedule.

Helping teams run more effective standups was one of our goals in making Geekbot, our asynchronous standup tool. With Geekbot, developers can quickly answer the standup questions, which are completely customizable, at any convenient time throughout the day in Slack (no more disruptive meetings that break your concentration just as you get into a flow, and no more attending meetings at odd times due to calendar issues or time zone differences).  

"What did you do since yesterday?"

Geekbot posts the answers to the standup questions in a dedicated public Slack channel:

Get notified within the Slack channel whenever your coworkers respond with a daily update.

In that same channel, other developers can respond, creating a thread. This allows the standup to proceed without getting stuck on one developer’s issue, while also letting developers get a solution to their problem:

You can reply to a response directly within a threaded conversation on Slack.

3. Reduces the Number of Required Daily or Weekly Meetings

Sometimes, development teams are hesitant to embrace daily standups because they see it as just another meeting or interruption that keeps them from doing real work.

But the daily standup, when done correctly, is a purposeful interruption — a short meeting that should reduce the number of catch-up meetings your team needs to hold throughout their workweek.

The daily standup is aimed at increasing communication and eliminating roadblocks. So, while standups can lead to more meetings — for example, when developers agree in a standup to meet after the standup to solve a blocker — these meetings are task-specific with a clear agenda.

Without effective standup meetings, we’ve seen (and experienced firsthand) late in the day, all hands on deck meetings that had to be called because of a miscommunication that is causing a bottleneck. Those are the kinds of meetings you want to avoid having to do whenever possible because they often aren’t productive. They are a last-resort attempt to understand why a sprint isn’t progressing as well as it could.

Or, even worse, these last-minute meetings can’t do anything to recoup the time that was already wasted when it was discovered multiple developers were working on the same task. Now you have a meeting that isn’t providing any solutions but instead just exists to get everyone to see the problem.

4. Lets Your Team Re-Adjust Priorities

When you’re working in sprints, change is built into the agile process. It’s why product backlog items are generally less detailed the further down the backlog you go — you don’t yet know how the results you get on Tuesday will impact Wednesday’s workload. Or how the findings of a retrospective will alter the design of your next sprint.

The key is to have a system in place that allows change to exist within a structured workflow — and that’s one of the overlooked benefits of standup meetings.

If you have a team of nine developers (the largest size Scrum recommends) working remotely or even working in the same office but at their own unique pace, then making sure all nine developers are working on the most value-driven task at the most appropriate time is critical for not wasting labor hours or working on solving problems that aren’t pertinent to whatever sprint you’re in.

Plus, a daily standup lets your development team catch any planning oversights, such as:

  • More than one developer working on the same task.
  • A task so critical that everyone assumed someone else was working on it but no one was.

Finally, you can re-adjust priorities to reduce delays due to codependency. Let’s say you need a developer to alter the speed of an email pop up on a specific landing page, and incorporate a new design by your design team, but that developer is waiting on another developer to finish work they’re doing with the design team. These developers aren’t working on the same task, but both tasks are dependent on working with the design team. Standups get this kind of information out in front of the team, so now the developer knows to switch up their tasks while waiting on the design team to be free.

With daily scrum meetings, developers and Product Managers are on the same page of what’s being worked on. This way, if a change is needed, the Product Manager can plan it at the beginning of the day, which helps reduce any unproductive labor hours.

5. Increases Employee Motivation and Morale

Developers are often working on small parts of a large project. And, in our experience, most developers genuinely love the work they do. They can log into a problem and work on it with such passion that they need to set timers to remind themselves to take a break, stretch their arms, and look away from the screen for a few minutes.

A daily standup serves a similar purpose. Having a clearly defined workflow helps prevent burn out, and having a public forum that lets developers share their updates helps increase motivation.

For example, when a developer shares what they’re working on today in a daily standup, they’re giving their workday structure and purpose. A daily standup is in the sweet spot: it’s not as intimidating as a strong deadline, but it’s more helpful than working without a stopping point in sight.

The goal isn’t to micromanage or passively bully developers into turning in “impressive” daily scrum updates. We put “impressive” in quotes because there shouldn’t be a grading system on standup updates. If a developer honestly answers the three questions, then that’s a good stand up. Remember, what developers present in the standup isn’t indicative of employee merit or material for performance reviews, but an update on the task.

Developers who update the team on their tasks reap several benefits:

  • It helps a developer feel less alone in the work they’re doing. This is especially true if a developer is up against a significant, time-consuming project. Providing daily status updates allows the project to feel less daunting because a daily standup is designed to show progress (or to solicit assistance if needed).
  • It lets the developer put an official end on a task. There is something satisfying about checking off a task in a public forum — and it’s not related to bragging. By being able to announce that they finished a task the previous day, developers can feel good that their contribution was recognized. Just imagine if the daily standup only asked about what you’re doing today — that would have the opposite effect, and it would drain morale and motivation because suddenly, the hard work you did yesterday is scrapped from the record.

Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Standup Meetings and How to Avoid Common Pitfalls

Daily stand up meetings, when held correctly, can give your team significant benefits. The information shared in standups can lead to valuable follow-up meetings where developers work together to overcome a blocker. Standups can increase communication, motivation, and morale.

The issue is when standup meetings become bloated with irrelevant information, take up a significant chunk of each day, and disrupt your team’s schedule.

But those aren’t reasons to not have standups — instead, those are reasons to look for a solution to help make your daily standups effective.

That’s what we did when we realized we needed a tool that helps our team hold standups that give us the benefits, without the complications. After trial and error, we finally realized the answer for us: an asynchronous stand up tool that integrated with our team’s Slack channel.

If you want to see how asynchronous daily standups can help your team reap the rewards without the complications, then check out our guide to getting started with Geekbot.

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