Zapier keeps the work flowing with asynchronous stand-ups

"At Zapier, we've figured out a way to do stand-ups in a timely manner. To cut to the chase, we've delegated most of the work to trusty Slack-bot called Geekbot."

Scott Williams, Senior Engineering Manager

Senior Engineering Manager Scott Williams leads a geographically dispersed team at Zapier: the remote-first company that automatically moves information between web apps so that employees can focus on their most important work.

Remote teams can struggle to keep meetings succinct

Even though Zapier is based in California, the company’s 250 team-members are located across the United States — and 23 other countries — leaving Scott with the challenge of making stand-ups work across timezones.

Bear in mind: the typical stand-up is already a testing format for teams who rarely share the same room. And you can see why Scott was struggling to hit the mark of ’15-minute meetings’ — or less.

Team discussions often overshot as rambling got in the way of updates. To make matters worse: no-one could ever remember what was said — while everyone was exhausted by the end of every meeting.

“All you need to say is, ‘can you repeat that’ a few times and your 15-minute stand-up has morphed into a 30-minute deep-dive from which everyone is searching for an excuse to escape” Scott said.

“Holding stand-ups in the first part of the day, you can imagine the impact on morale before work has even begun.”

Add to this the difficulty of working across timezones and you can see how a stand-up quickly becomes more of a distraction than a must-have: for Zapier, you could say the meetings were actually detrimental to the teams’ output, especially for those working remotely.

Geekbot runs asynchronously and removes the timezone barrier

Scott recalls, “In our Strategic Apps group at Zapier, we had to figure out a way to do stand-ups in a timely manner. We needed to make them minimally disruptive while not transferring the burden to anyone else.”

To cut to the chase, Scott delegated most of the managerial overhead to Geekbot, which he now uses to run recurring meetings, like stand-ups, asynchronously.

So — how do stand-ups now work in Zapier’s remote-focused culture? The team combines Geekbot with Slack’s ‘threaded response’ feature, which allows individuals to hold targeted conversations in a side-channel while the rest of the team gets on with work. No more wasted time; much more focus than was previously possible during synchronous stand-ups.

Geekbot’s customizable schedule also gives the developers the freedom to report whenever they have a spare moment. Meaning if they have a pressing task to complete, they can put off their daily update until a quieter time.

The newly-asynchronous nature has turned the stand-ups from chaos into calm, boosting overall productivity while returning a work-life balance to a largely remote workforce.

Reframe your workflows by letting Geekbot take the strain

Many team leads, including Scott himself, consider Geekbot as a trusty sidekick in reframing the way their colleagues work. They say the bot helps them see the bigger picture, the entrenched struggles, and what can be done to create harmony across the workplace.

And as Geekbot logs tasks and blockers over time, Scott can easily track how his efforts — combined with this simple tool — have boosted team productivity across the board.