It's Not Just Standing Up: Patterns of Daily Stand-up Meetings
April 12, 2007 9:01 PM   Subscribe

It's Not Just Standing Up: Patterns of Daily Stand-up Meetings. A look at an alternative to the daily sit-down team meeting.
posted by Burhanistan (23 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

Scrum, bleh. I can't think of one good reason to have status meetings every single day and I can think of many not to. I don't care if they are standing up, sitting down or lying on the floor. I don't want to have to communicate my damn status to my team first thing in the morning. I've read lots of papers on this stuff but I've never actually known anyone who's done it in a professional setting. Has anyone here worked with this process?
posted by octothorpe at 9:14 PM on April 12, 2007

octothorpe: Yeah, school was/is basically a lot of status checks. It blows.
posted by phrontist at 9:21 PM on April 12, 2007

I suppose this is relevant to some people, but I always feel like a paragon of restraint when someone suggests that project X needs daily status meetings and I don't stab them in the eye with a biro.

Okay okay... I'm probably thinking of one particular person who desparately wants stabbing, and loves status meetings
posted by pompomtom at 9:25 PM on April 12, 2007

I've been working in a software development shop that's been using a lot of so-called agile processes over the past five or six years. We started off with XP (uh, "Extreme" Programming) and have heavily modified the processes to suit us.

One of the processes is the stand-up meeting. Some teams have abandoned the stand-up, while others continue to have them and have had them for the life of their project.

Truthfully, it's 15 minutes of my day that I feel I can do better things with, and I'll often push to abandon the daily meeting if I'm on a new team. My feelings are that if the activities of other people in the project room are important to me (and they usually are), then I should already know what's going on. Same thing for obstacles - if someone is having a problem that he/she can't solve, then the rest of us should already know about it.

Our teams are largely self-managed, and whether or not they have daily stand-ups is left up to them. Some teams thrive on it, and make it an important part of their day. I prefer more of an ongoing conversation in the project room, but I can understand how some people might want to have a designated "organizational time".
posted by flipper at 9:33 PM on April 12, 2007

I think it's a neat article. I would prefer short status meetings where every is at least awake and standing. Usually it is a too hot or too cold meeting room surrounded by zombies.

But I have never worked at a company that hasn't managed to take a great, neat idea and grind it into a grisly, hateful, "That deserves a stabbing" experience.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 9:37 PM on April 12, 2007

I want to live in a world where we don't need methodologies because everyone is interested and involved in what they're doing, and we're all tolerant of some failure here and there.

My sense is that if you are having problems with your daily stand-up meetings, your product has worse problems. My experience has been that projects where everyone loves what they're doing and are good at it too don't need any help whatsoever.

Naive, I know, but that's how I feel, and I'll do my best to continue living in that world as I have been.
posted by thethirdman at 9:37 PM on April 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

Meetings just for the sake of meetings don't appeal to me at all.

As I see it, meetings should happen when there is some real need to communicate ideas to a group; for everything else, informal one-on-one communication is sufficient.
posted by smably at 9:46 PM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I actually go days without seeing my teammates; we all hide in our private offices and communicate through IRC, email and bugzilla. We all know what we're supposed to be doing and ask for help in the chat room if we need it. I think that for us, a daily morning meeting would involve a dozen very grumpy pre-caffeinated engineers saying things to the effect of, "I'm doing fine, stop asking" and "are we done yet?"

Seriously, I can't believe that status reports at a daily granularity are really useful. I spent all day the other day finding a bug that involved a single misplaced parenthesis. Not very interesting. We type our weekly status into a wiki page for the team every Friday. That's more than enough. Heck, our weekly meetings usually take 10 minutes if they aren't canceled.
posted by octothorpe at 9:53 PM on April 12, 2007

Dear God, that sounds painful and demoralizing. I would bet that the people who find these meetings energizing aren't the ones doing most of the actual work.
posted by treepour at 10:28 PM on April 12, 2007

"open plan," toys in the office, the infantilization of programmers continues.

how long before companies are asking people to wear diapers and calling it "streamlining elimination procedures" or something? Anything to avoid treating people like grown-ups, apparently.

After the last person has spoken, the team may not immediately realise that the meeting is over. The gradual realisation that it's time to walk away doesn't end the meeting on a high note and may contribute to Low Energy.


Signal the End of the stand-up with a throwaway phrase (e.g., "Well, enjoy your lunch everyone." [Gibbs, 2006, Signal]) or some other action.

This in particular is GENIUS.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:49 PM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Our daily 'standups' take place at the end of the day and involve booking a meeting room, organising a conference call with staff in at least one other country (often two, sometimes three), setting up a webex 'virtual' meeting room, and booking a projector so that the project manager can show is all his lovely, lovel Excel spreadsheet.

We then all have to account for each hour of our time that day, and what each hour the following day will be spent on. We then sit and watch as the project manager enters this all into Excel, normally breaking a bunch of macros in the process, so we get to watch the project manager trying to fix macros he doesn't understand. This generally takes half an hour to an hour, every single day.

We call this 'agile'.
posted by influx at 12:37 AM on April 13, 2007

octothorpe : I'm currently running a software development team using the scrum methodology. Our daily scrums go about 15 minutes at most (including obligatory discussion of local sport team's performance (GO PENS!) )--we review progress of our current goals, impediments, and new tasks. Having everyone together makes it simple to coordinate a response to anything that requires immediate attention. And those outside the development team (both the biz dev manager and CEO normally attend) consider the transparency provided by the daily scrum invaluable. I consider the daily scrums well worth our time and effort (which, honestly, is little). Of course, YMMV.
posted by sexymofo at 2:46 AM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

sexymofo: If it works for you that's great. Most of the programmers that I know are far too obstinate to follow much of any process, even one as supposedly lightweight as Scrum. Also, I'm not sure how we'd time such a thing since our teams are spread our over many time zones and even within each site people wander in at random times of the day. The likelihood that everyone in a team would actually be in one place at one time is pretty low.
posted by octothorpe at 5:40 AM on April 13, 2007

octothorpe: The team I'm managing is geographically spread out but we're all in the western hemisphere, which helps a lot. (We conference call but don't bother with netmeeting or webex.) One of our team-members is a full-time student and usually isn't available--he proxies through me, tho.

Another big plus in my case is the team has pretty much control on how we implement scrum. If we have consensus that something isn't working out, we can change it. That a big difference from other jobs where the development methodology is thrust upon teams without concern for the temperament of the team-members (such as it seems with influx's experience).

But I agree with most of the agile-evangelists that the most important factor of a successful software development project is the quality of the people on the team. Given great developers, no matter what method is used--even waterfall--can be successful.
posted by sexymofo at 6:46 AM on April 13, 2007

Most projects I've been on have quick, informal daily status meetings when we're coming down to the wire (e.g. the last three weeks or so before a code freeze). In that case, they're actually pretty useful -- it makes all of us feel less jumpy about the schedule and helps us make good decisions about feature triage.
posted by xthlc at 6:46 AM on April 13, 2007

I stand when working at my computer, which is 6-10 hours a day. The first month or so was tough but after that it's natural. Sitting too long is not good for a lot of reasons, and standing has a lot of benefits.
posted by stbalbach at 7:05 AM on April 13, 2007

I do the standing computer usage sometimes too. One of the desks in my office is at bar height (higher than the doorknob), and the fucker's built in with the cabinetry, so my co-workers and I all use it occasionally. It's really good as a change of pace.

Ironically, the only time we're all in the office is when we have our weekly meetings, which our boss occasionally skips! We suckers have to show up though, because for the two hours after our meeting time, we have to cover for the help desk people so they can have their meeting. Goddamn meetings.
posted by blasdelf at 7:42 AM on April 13, 2007

In some of the agencies where I work (as a freelancer), there are many, many daily deliverables that seriously benefit from morning status meetings. It's not a matter of meeting every day on one big project that's due several weeks out; it's a matter of getting the new list of things due that day or the next, most of which were essentially assigned by clients via voice mails overnight. So, yeah, daily status meetings can be pretty useful so everybody knows what's going on. (For example: everyone will know that I'm going to be busy working on some huge thing for 5pm, so nobody will expect me to take on their trivial nonsense, etc.

Regardless, they're still usually very annoying (latecomers, derails, etc), but overall the pros outweigh the cons.

I'm sure that can't apply to every company.

/haven't rtfa
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:02 AM on April 13, 2007

I am not a programmer, I am a middle-school teacher, but this sounds like a great idea to me.

I agree that meetings can be terrible, tedious things, but this process seems designed to eliminate tedium and actually get down to the important issues.

And I really like the idea of making daily committments to your team.

I can imagine several reasons why people would think this is a bad idea:

a) you don't like some/all of your coworkers. This seems like a major impediment to working as a team. Meetings that actually facilitated effective communication could probably be helpful.

b) the way you work is individually oriented, not team-oriented. Maybe this works for some people, but I feel I am always more effective when I am more collaborative.

I think that a clueless boss could really, really ruin a process like this (we could never do it where I work), but on the other hand if your boss is mildly cluesless maybe this could encourage them to be less so.
posted by mai at 9:27 AM on April 13, 2007

Once you tease apart the notion of a "morning" meeting from a "stand-up" meeting, I find a daily scrum invaluable. (Mine is at 2pm and coordinates 3 timezones).

Of course, sometimes it is necessary to institute the three-sentence rule (last 24hrs, next 24hrs, blockers) as teams grow in size OR when it starts to feel like a "justify your existence" meeting. It's the furthest thing from.

I look it at it like instrumentation in code - checking regularly that parts are moving smoothly doesn't cost much and allows you to act (immediately or not) when balancing is required. If you never gather the data, or gather it at a low granularity (weekly, never) you can't make good decisions when it's time to figure out how to/whether to fix something that went wrong in the past and won't be seen again until the parties involved check in again.

I don't understand the urge to "not need methodologies." No matter how happy and dedicated a team is, we still are at odds with some aspect of our environment (time, resources, the unforseen and unforseeable) so there will be hurdles to overcome and sacrifices to be made. Making active decisions (sometimes not to act) based on consistently sampled data seems like nothing more than good scientific method.
posted by abulafa at 9:35 AM on April 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

I've just left a development gig where for over two years every morning has started with a stand where each developer answered:

1) what are you working on today
2) what did you complete yesterday
3) what (if anything) is blocking you.

They also used scrum and that experience was the most productive and least stressful development environment that I've worked in. The new job starts Monday and I'm hoping that it begins with a stand.
posted by jperkins at 3:45 PM on April 13, 2007

This was a great read for me, Burhanistan. Thank you. Half the beauty of this article was that there really was no "prescribed way"....just thoughts for how this might work for nearly any team that had work to accomplish. It totally avoided a boss-centered tone, and even a facilitator tone. It was appropriately focussed on what needs to be done, and how well that was going (in all that implies). The really interesting thing to me is how this "method" just oozes win-win...not boss centered, but participant centered with a very clear focus on what needs to get done in the next eight hours or so, and how all involved might help to eliminate barriers in the accomplishment of whatever it is we do that someone chooses to pay us for.

Course I have always been grateful for getting paid much of anything for what I love to do. Like the farmer in Homunculus's PERFECT link, it is really about how we all feel at the end of a very bad day.
posted by Penny Wise at 7:31 PM on April 13, 2007

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