The pointlessness of daily standups

Your standups are killing your velocity.

Maybe its naiveté or maybe just being on teams where, remarkably, nobody knew how to do an effective standup (myself included), but I've never seen their point. This is doubly true considering the parallel usage of tools like Jira or Trello coupled with the incessasant messaging that Slack allows.

What's the point of a daily standup anyway? If I'm going to decry something I'd better be sure I know what I'm talking about. I have an instinctive feeling what they're for, but for completeness let's look at how Atlassian's documentation (briefly) describes a standup:

[...] a stand-up is a daily meeting that involves the core team: product owners, developers, and the scrum master. This meeting’s flavor is unique to each team, but at Atlassian we use three simple questions to generate structure:

  • What did I work on yesterday?
  • What am I working on today?
  • What issues are blocking me? continues...

These questions highlight progress and help flag team blockers. Also, it strengthens the team when everyone shares the progress they’re contributing to the team. The daily reinforcement of sharing individual successes and plans keeps everyone excited about the team’s overall contribution to the organization.

Okay so, basically, the only unique point to standups is that they "keep everyone excited"?

...** * sighs heavily * **.

I've had this feeling that the industry likes to treat development teams like a bunch of idiot teenagers. Let me expand on that...

We're supposed to get excited and feel lucky about ping-pong tables, free snacks, birthdays off (with unlimited PTO, so altruism smashed), and now being able to see everyone's progress? Don't get me wrong. I'm not that cynical, but specifically that argument for daily standups strikes me as a carrot on a stick designed to be a veneer to micro-management.

Maybe some people do get excited about these things and maybe some people do get some benefit from them. I'd argue they're not using their tool suite to its full effectiveness, but okay, I'll let them have that. I would, however, like to mention the cost/benefit tradeoff for standups and then your team can make a decision on that calculus.

Let's put aside the unquantifiable "excitement factor" for a moment. We need to be able to deliver the points of:

  • what a team member worked on yesterday
  • what a team member is working on today
  • any blockers the team member is experiencing

...okay, I was going to write a paragraph or two about these points, but let me defer to Cervantes for a second:

Be brief in thy discourse, for what is prolix cannot be pleasing

The Wit and Wisdom of Don Quixote

So here's the counter-points:

  • Jira, Trello, Asana, the stickies on your wall, or reach out on Slack
  • Jira, Trello, Asana, the stickies on your wall, or reach out on Slack
  • They should be alerting the rest of the team immediately

The first two rebuttals need no clarification I hope. To the last point; let's be real, if you're being blocked by something and you're waiting for the next standup meeting to let the rest of the team know of a blocker, there are other communication issues in need of being addressed. Blockers need to be addressed immediately.

But "Wait a minute!", someone may say. "That will disrupt the team if people are reaching out due to blockers!" Disrupting the team? Do you mean similar to daily paroting of everybody's tasks from the day before as well as today as well as more-often-than-not tangents? That kind of disruptive?

I don't see the overall gain. I'd argue the loss of your focus more probable than the benefit of knowing what someone else is working on. Really. Think about it. How often are you getting valuable information from your standups (that you couldn't have otherwise gleaned from your board) versus losing context on your own work and--ultimately--zoning out of tangential conversations that should otherwise be, "taken offline"?

Do you want a more efficient team? Do you want longer blocks of focus to put towards your sprint's tasks?

Go async and kill your standups. They're pointless anyway.